Managing Anxiety and Why Women Worry More than Men.

DTS_Photography_Movie1small“The amygdala, once triggered, sends distress signals to the other key parts of your brain.”

During an argument this week, my frustrated man asked, “Why are you so negative? Why do you always want to talk about what bad things might happen?”

I did not have an answer for him.

And to prove him correct, I immediately mentally checked-out of our conversation and began worrying that I must be flawed somehow. Something must be wrong with me and my way of thinking to make me worry so much. Is it a childhood thing? I wasn’t breastfed, after all.

I’m just naturally pessimistic? Mercury is retrograde? I’m too old? Too young? The moon is full? Maybe it was the recent eclipse! Is it because I didn’t have enough fish oil this week? Too much B12?

Didn’t get enough sleep? Too much sleep, maybe? My chakras are unbalanced? I ate too much starch? My moon is in Taurus? I lost my keys, my cat ran away, the sun got in my eyes, my shoe came untied, and I was really missing my mom that day?

Oh my gawd! What if I have a brain tumor?!

Ladies, sound familiar?

Enter the Amygdala

“The job of the amygdala is to manage the storage of memories according to the strength of the emotional reaction associated with the memory.

The right amygdala, primarily responsible for action, is generally more active in men than in women. The left amygdala, on the other hand, is primarily responsible for storage of the details of traumatic memories and prompts more thought than action. This amygdala is more active than the right in women, and in persons of both genders who have anxiety disorders.

The amygdala, once triggered, sends distress signals to the other key parts of your brain.”

Ahaaaa! Well that certainly sheds some light on the situation, doesn’t it?

With this knowledge, you are already miles ahead of everyone else when it comes to managing anxiety/fear/worry.

Your Personal Toolkit

Anxiety related issues present themselves in nearly all the clients I see. For anyone (not just women) who is experiencing inappropriate anxiety, arm yourself with this amygdala knowledge and come up with your own personal worry/anxiety toolkit.

When the worries/fears begin to get out of control you will want to interrupt the anxiety pattern.

1. Say to yourself, “Stop. This is just the product of my overactive amygdala/brain.”
2. Do some bilateral stimulation—whether physically or audibly. Watch Melissa’s video below to learn how to do it and/or Youtube is full of great music to do this very thing if you listen with earbuds. Listen to it while reading, meditating, checking your emails, etc.
3. Don’t feed the fears by continuing to think in that anxious direction. Distract yourself with other, good, thoughts or activities. Have some ready to go. Make a list so you can have a ready, go-to distraction. Read them. Let yourself relax into the good feelings for a while.
4. Use Brene Brown‘s latest life hack out of her book, Rising Strong: Gently talk about the story you are making up in you own head and get feedback from the other person to clarify and learn what both of you are really feeling/thinking.
5. Consider reprogramming your habits easily with an effective therapy tool like BrainWorking Recursive Therapy (BWRT). It works completely and quickly. It’s my favorite tool—for myself and clients.

For Our Male Counterparts

…women tend to think that whatever bad thing that is happening now will continue forever. While they often think a good thing will disappear in a moment. We lack perspective since the worry part of our brain – the amygdala – is more active than in men. It can make us lose faith. ~The Queen’s Code, by Alison Armstrong

Yes, I can relate to the “make us lose faith” thing—much to the frustration of my sweet, patient man who is always kindly reassuring me. Thank God he is such a good man.

Gentlemen, this is very important!

Just listen. Don’t argue. Don’t try and stop us from getting “out of control.” Don’t take it personally. It is not personal—even when it seems that way.

Well actually, we do think it’s personally about you, and we will present it that way. But really, it is not. Please extend grace to us in these situations.

It’s our bloody amygdala!

Simply let us rant, cry, worry and complain—even if it seems to be directed squarely at you—then take us in your arms, let us cry/yell/sigh/etc. and then resolutely and with supreme confidence, say, “Baby, it’s all going to be alright.”

“One of the deepest feminine pleasures is when a man stands full, present, and unreactive in the midst of his woman’s emotional storms. When he stays present with her, and loves her through the layers of wildness and closure, then she feels his trustability, and she can relax.” ~ David Deida, The Way of the Superior Man

And when we whine (or yell), “No, it won’t be alright,” say it again. Hold us tight so we can feel your strength. Let us unwind in your arms.

An argument will be diverted and our amygdala will thank you.

So whether anxiety is a pattern for you or if you are simply experiencing some stress/anxiety because of a specific, temporary situation, experiment with these tools and let me know how you fare.

A version published at elephant journal.

Photo courtesy of Death to the Stock Photo.

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