Anxiety might be described as a problem of the age – except that it’s been around for all of the time that the human race has existed. Nowadays it’s just that we have a whole industry of help geared towards anxiety, since the distress caused is beyond many people’s ability to cope.
KEEPING YOUR TEMPERATURE DOWN
As you probably know, every car has an important piece of equipment in it called a thermostat. It is there to ensure that the car’s engine never exceeds a certain temperature. If it gets too hot, the thermostat kicks in, using whatever means it has at its disposal to cool the engine.
If the thermostat goes wrong, then the engine can get hotter and hotter, until damage occurs.
People have a similar system inside them, as do many animals. When you get too hot, you may sweat, take clothes off, douse yourself in water, or go and lie down, in order to reduce the pressure on your system. You would think it crazy if you saw a person do the opposite. Imagine someone who, when they got too hot, deliberately put on layers of extra hot clothes, refused to drink water, and refused to rest.
OUR MENTAL THERMOSTATS
Humans have similar systems to control emotional temperature. The only problem is, they have a lot of behavioural quirks which aren’t always suitable for the situation. Natural human responses to mental temperature overload can include:
fits of anger
fits of shouting
fits of crying
running and hiding
So you need not feel guilty if historically you have used one of these natural forms of response. Your body type has been using these techniques for millennia.
HELPFUL WAYS TO LOWER MENTAL TEMPERATURE
However, these natural ways of responding can come with consequences. Anger, shouting and hiding can cause alienation and loneliness; self-harm harms. (Crying has fewer drawbacks, and can be a very positive thing, especially in reconciling inner biology to change events.)
Many humans, though, have sought out other ways to reduce emotional temperature, at the same time avoiding negative consequences.
As a starter pack, here are 5 activities which can reduce anxiety without negative consequences:
A change of scene
Easy, focused activity
Meditation helps the mind by detaching it from its heat-generating activity. This can be via a mantra (a recited phrase which instantly calms by providing an alternative focus). Or it can be via training the mind to focus on the interests of others, and on wider perspectives. The intense heat of self-obsession is dispersed, and calm is often the result. (So much so that many people fall asleep.)
Physical exercise, in a sense, transfers the mental heat into bodily activity. It is as though the anxiety lets itself out through the physical exertion. It also redirects the body’s focus to an activity with a start, a middle and an end, which is like untangling a knot. The end of exercise often feels a lot more trouble-free.
A CHANGE OF SCENE
Our minds work on mental cues (reminders in our environment). So a change of scene is an excellent way of clearing the mind of current problems and bathing it in the cool of something fresh. It is why we have lunch hours at work, for instance.
A calm conversation, with a friend or a counsellor, can dramatically reduce the temperature via our speech systems. Speech is a serial system – in other words, it asks us to focus our troubles into a single stream of balanced and careful talk. This reduces overload (and therefore emotional temperature) by forcing us to match our mental process to our sitting body’s capability.
A simply, easy, focused activity works wonders to reduce emotional temperature because it gives us something to do which restores our sense of capability, and gives our perception a stream which does not overload us.
When we get anxious (emotionally hot), human beings have evolved to get angry, shout, cry, self-harm, and run-and-hide.
Fortunately, we have also developed some alternative ways to master ourselves and lower our emotional temperatures. These include meditation, exercise, a change of scene, conversation and simple activity. These work to reduce emotional temperature via your mind, body, environment, speech systems and attention systems.
Choose whichever way works for you.