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Anxiety - Mind, Body & Solution

We have all seen the TV shows where the man thinks he is having a heart attack and some wise and helpful onlooker finds a brown paper bag from nowhere and calmly explains, ‘He is having and anxiety attack’, and promptly covers the man’s mouth with the paper bag and encourages him to breathe in and out into the bag. For many people they don’t reach the stage of over oxygenating in a panic attack, but there seems to be a rise in people experiencing anxiety and its symptoms. Post lockdown, cost of living crisis, rising pressures at work – all may be contributors. The key thing is though, how we help ourselves and those that we live and work with to manage it.

Gone are the days of ‘man-up’ or ‘put on your big girl pants’. We need a much wiser understanding of worry and anxiety. We need a wiser understanding to help ourselves and those we live with and lead or we can do ourselves and others damage. We are in danger of papering over the cracks and therefore only delaying a problem until later when it is likely to be much bigger. We need to understand anxiety through mind, body & solution. The following key questions can be helpful to us and others when dealing with anxiety.

  1. What is happening to our mind when we feel anxious?

  2. What is happening to our body when we feel anxious?

  3. What 3 simple steps help reduce the worry level?

  • Acknowledge the emotion

  • Remind yourself of a time when it has been ok

  • Look at the concerns and address them


The best explanation of what is happening in our mind comes from the work of Steve Peters in his brilliant books Chimp Paradox and Path through the jungle. He simplifies the brain parts that we process things down to firstly a computer; the Parietal part of our brain that has all our stored experiences in. Secondly, he explains that the emotional centre of our brain, our Limbic system where the Amygdala sits at the core, is like an agitated chimp. It is on the lookout for danger so that it can keep us safe. Lastly, our frontal lobe, where we process things logically as our human. So, when we process things, we go first to our stored experiences, our computer, and ask if we have any experience of this situation and how did it feel? This then passes to our chimp and if there is a negative experience of this, it is now on high alert. If there is no previous or similar experience the chimp will process the current situation for threat of safety. Lastly, 20 times slower than the computer and 4 times slower than the chimp, the human, logical part of the brain, catches up. So, if the chimp perceives something as a threat, it tells us to either fight, flight or freeze to avoid the danger. This will then result in an emotional reaction, and depending on our level of perceived threat and our emotional control and how we have best learnt to deal with such things, will depend on how we react.


Feeling high levels of anxiety can be very worrying for us. In my experience in coaching, when people understand what is happening to them physically and well as mentally, it can reassure them but also help them to make decisions to manage the anxiety. Physiologically, there are some hormonal reactions in us that can be helpful to understand. Here they are in simple terms.

Our ears, eyes and nose send information to the brain that it sees, hears and smells. If the amygdala detects things are scary in any of these, it sends a message to the Hypothalamus to wake up the Pituitary gland. This sends hormones to the Adrenal gland to release the hormone Cortisol. Cortisol then travels through the blood and tells other body parts to react to the stress eg heart, lungs. This can then result in an increased heart rate and breathing rate to prepare the body for the fight, flight or freeze response.

It is all good to know these things. But what can you do to manage this and regain a sense of control over your body. I have found the following helpful.

  • Exercise. A simple walk or body movement can help release other hormones to help feel calmer.

  • Thankfulness. Thinking of things to be thankful for can release DHEA & DHEAs which counteracts Cortisol

  • Quietness. Taking time to just slow down your thinking. Spending moments in a calm space, maybe outdoors in the countryside, just spending tome being quiet.

  • Breathing. Slowing this down. A simple exercise of in for 5 seconds, hold for 5 seconds and out slowly for 5 seconds and repeat 5 times can help bring calm as it slows the heart rate down.


It is our thinking that leads to feelings and then actions. If we can reframe our thinking it can lead to different feelings. This is the key to changing some emotions and therefore reducing anxiety.

Steve Peters, in the Chimp Paradox and Path through the jungle, explains three key things that help manage the chimp.

a) acknowledge the emotion that we are feeling

b) remind ourselves of a time it has been ok.

c) ‘Box in the chimp’ which is letting your chimp tell you the worries and you then addressing them.

Sometimes we find it hard to identify our emotions. This is where books like Atlas of the heart by Brene Brown and her list of emotions can be helpful. Another starting point is to notice what our body is feeling physically. Then ask ourselves what emotion is triggering this feeling.

Our emotional brain, or chimp, is selective in what it remembers. It will often remember the bad experiences or examples that match the storyline that it is telling itself. So, it is important to recall moments that disprove the worry or put it in a more positive light. For example, if you are anxious about talking to a large group of people, remember some moments when you have spoken to people and it has gone ok.

The third part is the risk reduction. The chimp will have a list of worries. So, take time to go through them and then remind the chimp of what you can do to reduce the chance of the big worry happening. This is a bit like using the Google Yellow Man on google maps and plotting out what you could do. If you are nervous about going to speak to someone, imagine what responses you might get and then plan how you might respond.

Taking this forward

So, next time that you feel anxious, remember that the cortisol hormone is being released. Take some steps to lower it by going for a quiet little walk and remind yourself of 5 things to be thankful for. Then take some steps to change your thinking by 1) acknowledge the emotion, 2) remind yourself of a time when it has been ok and you have managed things and 3) address the concerns that your chimp has to help address and reduce the threat.

And if someone else you know has some anxiety then take them through the same steps. Let them know what is happening physiologically. Take them for a little walk and ask them what things are going well for them. Ask them what emotion they are feeling and ask them when they have dealt with things like this before? Ask them what their fear is and what can they be in control of now?

Taking these simple steps might just help attack the anxiety.

Can we help you?

We hope this blog has been helpful and if you would like some more targeted support to explore anxiety emotions and gain better insight, then Everyday Leader is here to help you. Our clients find their coaching empowering, as we help them gain a full perspective and find a way forward. If you have a challenge and you would like our support, then do get in contact with us. Give us a call on 01449 710438 or email if you would like us to help you explore this and empower you.


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