There are two kinds of anxiety – what I call conscious, or cortical anxiety, and subcortical or subconscious anxiety.
Cortical anxiety is easy to recognize – when we’re aware of the cause of anxiety: there’s a tiger in the room, a lost checkbook, out past curfew, driving in icy weather. Good: we know the cause and can develop a plan to deal with it.
But when we are stressed, or unhappy, or nervous, or afraid without a specific cause? That’s subcortical anxiety, and it’s harder to calm. It’s as though you drank six energy drinks at 11:30 pm and then tried to go to sleep, as you were due to give a major presentation at 7 the next morning. Chock full of caffeine, sugar, and other undoubtedly noxious chemicals, your body is ready to rock’n’roll.
I think this type of anxiety is largely due to un-matured reflexes from our earliest weeks of life, and it’s more and more common, among children and adults alike. Fortunately, we now know how to directly address this – along with, you know, a glass of wine, deep breathing, meditation, exercise class, etc.
If you’ve got this, you’re on a never-ending unconscious alert. We are cautious as we do specific exercises that teach the lower brain to relax. Those who overdo them on the first try may have their blood pressure drop a bit, as the adrenalin and cortisol drops from the cancel-the-alert call. Before they leave, I make sure that people aren’t so unstressed that they can still drive safely!
The really cool part is, that they can then repeat the exercises as they need, on their own.