nervous system

A herbalist's diary: is anxiety our natural state?

Have you ever watched a nature documentary and thought "geez, can't this fish just catch a damn break?!". For a lot of the animal kingdom, predator or pray, being on the look out for potential threats is their natural way of being. They don't have therapy rooms and spas to escape to from the day to day stress of nature. They don't have antidepressants or counseling to help them through the death of a relative. When is an animal free of anxiety?

I used to think being an animal looks like such a lovely way to live. How relaxing to wallow in the mud like a hippopotamus or roll in the dirt like a lion. But that freedom and fun comes at the price of long-standing anxiety. We like to fantasise that we are sophisticated humans with technology that protects us from the stress we felt in the wilderness. But the reality is that we still feel this stress every day. We are still on the look out for threats. They just come in different forms. 

Which made me wonder, is it actually ok for us to be in a constant state of anxiety? After all, animals seem to be. Then it dawned on me. They experience both things; anxiety and relaxation.

The thing is, animals are very good at being present. They relax at every opportunity they get, and they are anxious whenever that's needed. Humans don't seem to be so good at switching between these two states. We seem to get stuck in anxiety. Have you ever been on a (relatively) harmless escalator* in reality but in a terrifying job interview in your mind? Or in a (relatively) harmless lift** but wondering if the kids are eating choking hazards at nursery?

We must remember to catch ourselves when anxiety strikes in these otherwise harmless scenarios. Trust that we will get the rush of adrenaline at just the right moment and stop wasting it on the (relatively) harmless escalator or lift ride instead. It reassures me to see that we're not the only things in the animal kingdom suffering with anxiety attacks. Perhaps long-term acute stress is something we've evolved to be able to deal with. Hopefully I can stop worrying and worrying now...

*I don't want to scare you with the tiny number of people that die on escalators so I won't.

**Or all the people killed in lifts which fall down the shaft after a spy/baddie cuts the wires...

What are your favourite tips for getting yourself out of pointless anxiety? Leave a comment below.