Understanding your emotions can help you manage your anxiety

Understanding your emotions can help you manage your anxiety

Anxiety is one of the most common of the “negative” emotions.

Anxiety is also one of the most common of all emotions; and at times, it’s perfectly normal and appropriate.

But there’s no doubt anxiety can become unhealthy and overwhelming; and there’s also no doubt there are things we can do to manage anxiety.

So, if you’d like to enjoy more happiness and more “positive” emotions then read on …

via PopSci by Wendy Suzuki

The stress that causes anxiety is not going away, but we do have the capacity to “optimize” our response to it. Researchers including Alia Crum, a Stanford psychology professor, have shown it’s possible to approach stress as a challenge and an opportunity for performance and growth.

At the neurobiological level, what Crum and others are suggesting is part of a wider area of research and framing of the brain known as emotion regulation—the processes that help us manage all emotional responses, especially anxiety.

What does emotion regulation mean?

One expert on emotion regulation, James J. Gross, another psychology professor at Stanford University, defines emotion regulation as “the processes by which individuals influence which emotions they have, when they have them, and how they experience and express them.” He also points out that regulation is a set of processes that exist on a “continuum from conscious, effortful and controlled regulation to unconscious, effortless, and automatic regulation.”

What does this mean in practice? The bottom line is this: Though anxiety might originate as some form of attention-getting signal to avoid danger, it doesn’t necessarily have to cause discomfort, distraction, or otherwise interfere with our natural drive toward well-being and balance. We can learn to use awareness to reframe a situation, remove the perception of danger, and reappraise it as an opportunity to overcome a challenge and create new responses. We have multiple options for managing both the attention to the signal and the anxiety (the feelings), and if it gets to that point, the response itself. Our brain is a wondrous thing!

Our brain-body systems are in a constant drive toward homeostasis, that state of equilibrium between arousal and relaxation. Every system—from the nervous system to the digestive—is interacting and exchanging signals in order to respond to a stressor and then re-gain homeostasis. This is true of our emotional system as well. Our negative emotions arise to draw our attention to something that may be dangerous, and then make some sort of change or adaptation to feel better. In other words, they have a positive purpose. It is the same with anxiety: it’s the brain-body’s way of telling us to pay attention. Our built-in system for managing our negative emotions, of processing, responding to, and coping with negative emotions in particular, so we can maintain or return to homeostasis is called emotion regulation…

… keep reading the full & original article HERE