When you are under a threat, you normally react with what's called a fight or flight response. In this fight or flight response state, your body produces more adrenaline so that you can be more reactive. You become alert, you heart starts racing and your blood pressure increases. All these behaviors are perfectly normal and serve the purpose to protect us. But those changes in our physiology can cause discomfort if protracted for too long and if triggered too often. This discomfort can become anxiety, panic attacks or both.
Human have this unique skill: we often create our problems. When you have anxiety you normally are over-reacting to a threat (a stimulus) that most of the time is imaginary.
In other words, we tell our body to react as if we are under attack... but we are not under attack.
Val D'Orcia: where my grandfather used to live, Unesco World Heritage.
A Real Story
I want to share a real story about my grandfather.
My grandfather was living in a beautiful little hamlet, Castiglioncello del Trinoro, in Tuscany, Central Italy (see the pictures).
It was June the 15th, 1944 when the Nazis came to the hamlet. They were about to loose the war and they were going back to their country. But that day someone killed four of them near Castiglioncello.
The Nazis were furious, they were following a rule: for each Nazi they were killing 10 people.
This time was no exception. They rang a door, my friend's father opened and was shot. He died immediately.
They then decided to gather all the people they could, focusing on men. The hamlet was so small that they could find only 36 people to execute.
My grandfather was one of those.
The day after, the people were lined up in the main square, in front of the only church. The option was not between fight or flight. Local people had no chance with the Nazis. The choice apparently was between being executed or flying.
My grandfather was the only one that gave it a go. He jumped a 4 meter high wall, broke his leg but he made it. He had the strength to reach an hospital nearby.
Better, he thought he made it because the hospital was then bombed and he died killed by some airplane.
The other people survived, all of them. A local person could speak some rudimental German and explained the Nazis that the people they wanted to execute were all innocent peasants. They did not kill anybody. The Nazis spared them all.
This is life: you never know what's going to happen. It can be even worse than you expect. BUT it can be better. You simply don't know. Period.
This Is What You Can Do
Many of us have difficult periods in life, and I am not trying to diminish your problem by saying that since you're not in war you're not entitled to feel discomfort. You can feel unwell.
But I suggest the following, every time you are feeling anxious check whether you are in real danger or not, and if you are not in danger focus on what you can do and you normally do to feel better. Try to NOT focus on what makes you feel worse.
What makes you feel good?
What helps you relax?
What is that you enjoy in life?
Keep these questions in mind, look for reasons to feel better. Do behaviors that makes you feel better not worse.
Try, even if you don't succeed the first time, keep trying. Neuroscience shows that the simple act of trying something triggers the change in your brain. You might not see the change happening, but it is there latent and one day the change will appear.
Try to focus on the positive things in your life: your building your personal trench, you're laying the fundaments for a beautiful home.
A home where one day (sooner than expected) you'll celebrate one of the most important victory.
Thank you for reading.
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