Anxiety is a state that many of us experience from time to time. Feeling tense, uncertain and, perhaps, fearful at the thought of sitting an exam, going into hospital, attending an interview or starting a new job are amongst many instances of anxiety. Worrying about feeling uncomfortable, appearing foolish or how successful you will be. In turn, these worries can affect your appetite, sleep, concentration. When things work out, the anxiety will go away.
Short-term anxiety can be useful as feeling nervous before an exam can help performance when feeling more alert...
The natural 'fight or flight' reflex
Fear is a natural emotion that is a precursor to the ‘fight or flight’ reflex.
When feeling under threat, fear triggers the release of adrenalin. Adrenalin causes your heart to beat faster to carry blood where most needed. One breathes faster to provide the extra oxygen required for energy. The body sweats to prevent overheating. The mouth may feel dry, as the digestive system slows down to allow more blood to be sent to the muscles. Senses become heightened and the brain becomes more alert.
These changes enable the body to take action to protect you in a dangerous situation either by running away or fighting. It is known as the 'fight or flight' reflex.
Once the danger has passed, other hormones are released, which may cause shakes as the muscles start to relax. This response is useful for protecting against physical dangers; for example, it can help you run away from wild animals, attackers, fires.
The fight response is not of benefit when sitting exams, public speaking, sitting a driving test, and other situations when there is no physical threat. When the effects of adrenaline subside more slowly the feelings of agitation may last longer.