The Science Behind Anxiety.

As an anxious person, I have come to understand that information is key, knowledge is power. I like to know as much information about something as possible, so my anxious brain can asses the “risks” and prepare me for what comes next. If you suffer from anxiety, I am sure you can relate to that train of thought more than you’d care to admit!

Since I have decided to dedicate this blog to mental health and my progress in regards understanding my anxiety more, I have been doing a lot of research. It occurred to me that I had never really took the time to look up the biological and psychological reasoning for anxiety. Don’t get me wrong, I know small amounts of information about it but I never really delved into the science behind it, until now.

And what I discovered, was strangely comforting.

First off, I want to make it clear that everyone one has their own issues and experience(s), that has led them to developing anxiety. However, the way anxiety works is always the same. It is a physiological result of your body reacting to stress. In short, your body is literally trying to protect you from danger by producing a fight-or-flight response.

The fight-or flight response is a reaction your body produces to protect yourself from perceived, impending danger. Back in the cave man days, this was really useful for fighting off wild animals etc. and essentially kicked our brains into survival mode. During this response, the brain releases a chemical in an area of the brain called the hypothalamus. During this time, chemicals like adrenaline and cortisol (stress hormones) are released into our blood streams. Blood rushes to the lower half of our body, our heart rate increases and our senses sharpen, keeping us incredibly alert to the potential dangers that surround us. So, ironically, stress doesn’t set out to kills us, it actually wants us to survive! But sometimes, it sure doesn’t feel that way.

The problem with anxiety in modern, western society, is that we aren’t avoiding dinosaurs or hunting for food daily to survive anymore, but our bodies still react the same way to perceived danger. Prolonged stress can often result in a list of physiological and psychological problems, such as irrational thoughts, irrational fear, headaches, stomach cramps etc. Anxiety affects the entire body if external and internal stressors aren’t dealt with. Anxiety doesn’t need to know specifically why you are stressed, it just reacts to stress accordingly.

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In regards to the anatomy of the brain, the stress hormones and stress regulatory systems at play are the prefrontal cortex, the amygdala and the hippocampus. The prefrontal cortex is the part of our brain that helps us with planning and contributes to personality development, it is the “higher thinking” part of our brain. The amygdala is located behind each ear and this part of the brain is responsible for survival instincts, emotional behavior and fear. When signaled, the amygdala will interact with the hippocampus, which will in-turn allow the brain to connect emotion to events, releasing stress hormones. Basically, anxiety trips your poor amygdala, which is trying to act like a house alarm by letting you know danger is near, when really there is nothing life threatening happening externally at all.

Your brain is literally “triggering” you. If you are in a situation similar to something stressful you experienced in the past, your memory has stored that as an unpleasant event. Which will fire up your amygdala, conjuring up all of the emotions and frightening memories you had in the past, as it prepares your body to deal with impending doom.

Neurologically speaking, your overactive amygdala wants the best for you but your prefrontal cortex is really fucking tired of it’s shit. All the while, your hippocampus is trying to regulate your stress hormones to calm you down but because your amygala is firing loads of warning signals, it can’t do it’s job properly. Too much cortisol (stress hormone) can actually create disfunction in how your brain stores and recalls memories. That’s right, anxiety isn’t just a bad mood, it’s literally something that chemically changes how your brain functions and reacts.

Isn’t it sort of nice to know that it’s not just you? This is how every anxious brain chemically reacts.

I discovered a lot of this mind-blowing information from the author Caroline Foran and her book Owning It, which I would highly recommend to anyone suffering with anxiety. (This is not sponsored, I just really like the book and am finding it very informative!) 

Thank you for taking the time our of your day to check out my blog. I hope you found this post useful. Make sure to check back next week, where I will be sharing more tips, thoughts and useful (hopefully!) information. Let’s break the stigma together!

You are not broken, you are not a freak and you are certainly not alone.

Ellie. xo

IRISH GIRL TRYING AMERICAN CANDY!

Let’s break the stigma.

It’s taken me a while to finally sit down and write this blog post. However, I decided that instead of trying to write the perfect post, I would just let the words flow from the heart.

Without going in to personal details, I can safely say that this month has been one of the hardest months I’ve ever had. I have taken a step back and have been doing a lot of self-reflection. I feel as though I have finally admitted to myself that something has to be done, in regards to my self-esteem and issues with anxiety. I have tried to put a band-aid on it for too long now and I have to take responsibility and do something about it. That’s not to say that I haven’t made progress with my mental health over the years. I certainly have, but I must admit that more can be done to improve my well-being, relationships and my life. This is sentiment is true for most people.

Sometimes we ignore ourselves because we don’t think we’re worthy of our own time. We push our feelings away like they are an annoying sibling. We act like a school-yard bully towards ourselves, taunting our minds with negative self talk and untrue statements.

Why do we keep telling ourselves that we aren’t good enough?

I’ve come to realise the importance of self-love and self-compassion.

Investing time in yourself is the greatest gift you can give yourself. Treating yourself with respect and care is so eye-opening, because we often forget to do it! We’ve been conditioned to think that praising oneself in anyway, is vanity or cockiness. Sadly, in Ireland this is especially true.

It is no secret that Ireland has massive problem with mental health. As a country, we have stigmatized mental health so much so, that many people fear coming forward about their struggles, out of embarrassment. Living in a small, rural town in Ireland, I can confirm that in my own local area alone, there have been a astonishing amount of suicides in recent years. A lot of it has to do with shame. Shame for feeling depressed, anxious and fearful to talk a about it because of the stigma. It’s harrowing to think of all the lives that potentially could have been saved, if only those people had someone to talk to or tools to help them through their mental turmoil.

I have been to my local GP twice in order to seek help for my anxiety and each time I was turned away, with no support. One of the doctors told me to simple “get over it”. The other, told me I should eat more meat and vegetables. A simplistic cure for an complex, cognitive behaviour. If only it were that easy.

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That is why I have decided to dedicate this blog to my mental health journey and the road to self-discovery. To contribute to breaking the stigma in Ireland, that is attached to mental health. I want to speak openly about my struggles with my issues with anxiety and mentally self-harming ways of thinking.

It is time to take the jacket off the book, to get to the true story within.

I want to finally be open with myself and others, about mental health and finding tools that work for me, so that I can share them with you all and hopefully help some people in the process too. I also want to help my loved ones understand why I feel this way and that it’s not just me being “stupid” or “over dramatic”. Mentally, it’s a hard place to be in and I don’t want to feel this way, just as much as they don’t want to see me this way.

I hope you will join me on this journey, share tips and advice and move towards a happier self. I am full of ideas for blog topics and I must admit, it is nice to feel inspired again. I’m sure it won’t be easy and I know this is cliché, but if I can help at least one person by sharing my thoughts, it will be worth it.

xoxo

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Getting my mojo back!

It’s Mental Health Awareness Month, so I’ve decide today that I will be open about some of my struggles recently. I’ve been finding it incredibly hard to find any kind of motivation, even in regards to the things I am passionate about. I have been making YouTube videos for over eight years now, and while it has been such a wonderful experience for me, it’s also been a constant struggle. A struggle to stay motivated and to stay true to myself.

I’ve come to terms with the fact I will never be a “big” YouTuber but the lack of change or channel growth can sometimes be incredibly disheartening. I’ve realised that I need to stop trying to fit in on YouTube, and online in general, for that matter. I need to start allowing myself to have fun again and stop desperately trying to fit the mold. It never works and it is never fun.

I have always felt like I need to be one thing, have one genre of content and focus solely on that. Although to me, that is just so boring. I get that it is great for continuity but, it’s just not me. I get bored easily and I like to express myself in different ways. So why hold back on that?

Life is too damn short to limit myself. 

Which is why I am no longer uploading videos on a tight schedule, I am uploading content, only when I feel inspired to share something with the world and when I have something to say. I have been having impromptu cosplay photo shoots (see photo above), recording videos when a light bulb of inspiration goes off in my mind, and in general, having fun being creative again.

Taking the pressure off myself to “keep up with the Joneses” is really sparking a new found passion within me. There is nothing more stifling than creating something, for the sake of it.

It’s time to get back to basics and just have fun.

Because its obvious when someone is passionate about something. That in itself, is inspiring.