Blog: insights from Dr. Keren Sofer

The Best (and Worst) Times to Address Anxiety

We are collectively experiencing unprecedented levels of stress as a society. A pandemic, social unrest, political strain, economic pressures. It has been relentless for nearly 8 months and most of my clients are longing for relief.

To arrive at much-needed relief, we must understand what is happening to us when we feel those distressing emotions. It starts in our brains. Our brains have been brilliantly designed as astute detectors of threat, ready to prepare our bodies for self-preservation. This all happens deep within the primitive recesses of our brains, out of view of our consciousness.

As our brains detect threat, it switches us to tunnel-vision – all we can focus on is the threat and getting back to safety again.

For most of us, it is at just those times that we are desperate for relief and we attempt to claw our way back to solid ground. In other words, we enter into a problem-solving mindset, which requires our most sophisticated thinking. The dilemma, however, is that our access to higher-level thinking is stymied. We literally cannot think in that way when our brains detect threat.

The result? Enormous frustration and dizziness from going in endless circles…while also still experiencing uncomfortable levels of anxiety in our bodies, thoughts, and emotions.

That’s why I tell clients that when it comes to coping with anxiety, stress, and overwhelm timing is everything. We have to calm our threatened brains before we can do the more cognitive work of problem-solving.

Check out this post, this post and this article in which I’m quoted for some ideas on how to soothe your brain when it is in threat-mode, so you can get to the problem-solving.