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A Sigh of Relief: Is Worry Driven by Mood or Logic?

By: Bridgette W. Gottwald, LPC, NCC

Did you know that anxiety holds your deepest yearnings and that worry is driven by mood, not logic? This blog will discuss the anatomy of calm, which might turn everything you know about anxiety inside out! 

Often times people think that anxiety is all in their heads, but actually, it exists mostly within the body – more accurately, within the nervous system. What people tend to forget is that our nervous systems are unified. The brain and the body are in constant communication with one another. Our psychological states have an influence on how we become anxious in the first place, how we control it and how we ultimately can release it. Anxiety is how we respond when we feel as if our bodies are under threat – whether it’s conscious or subconscious. Threats come from both the external world and arise from memories in which a person becomes “triggered.” Threat is our response to the uncertainty of survival. We go a long way to make meaning of the agitated psychologic state of anxiety that we all dread. Usually with anxiety, there is a whole package of other negative emotions that come along with it. 

Many times, people struggle in separating the worry from the physical disturbance, however it is possible. According to Psychology Today, worry is a personal narrative that we create in a state of threat to justify why we feel bad. Anxiety also functions as a portal of intervention. It is possible to “re-educate the nervous system with cues of safety.” Although removing the threat is a good idea as well, it’s not what the mind and body need – the need is for cues of safety. The most effective way to do this is through breathing tactics – exhaling slowly in particular. The ability to extend exhalation gives us the ability to regulate our state of being as well as speak – anxiety can be tamed with language. 

The following questions are helpful in asking oneself or another anxious person as you try to navigate your way out of this state: 

  • What puts a smile on your face? 
  • Was there a time when you felt safe, comfortable and secure?
  • Was there a time you enjoyed getting up in the morning? Tell me about that. 
  • What can I control in this very moment? 
  • What is one small step that I can take in order to feel better? 
  • Who can I reach out to in order to help me? 
  • How might I take advantage of my support system? 

The function of these questions is to shift one’s psychological state. When you shift your psychological state, you restore your access to your whole self. Memory and higher capacities are available. When you are being more present and living within the moment, you might notice your problem solving skills improving. Psychology Today refers to the social engagement system as a “portal to gaining back our human heritage.”

When we are always perceiving constant threats, it “imposes a high cost” upon our physiology, which interrupts the homeostatic mechanism that allows us to grow and flourish. Not only do these threats affect our health negatively, but they also get in the way of relating to others. Next time you are in an anxious place, think of using resources such as restoration and repair that are within yourself already as opposed to looking to coping mechanisms that are external ways of dealing with the undesirable feelings. 

Reference: 

Porges, S. (2021). A sigh of relief. Psychology Today. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/202109/sigh-relief

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