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From Lizard to Wizard!

Updated: May 14, 2021

These days it is easy to feel anxious, stress or even border line depressed. Therefore, our next few articles will be dedicated to the brain. Say hello to your reptilian brain! The reptilian brain is the oldest part of our brain and controls the body's vital functions such as heart rate, breathing, body temperature and balance. Our reptilian brain includes the main structures found in a reptile's brain: the brainstem and the cerebellum. The reptilian brain is reliable but tends to be somewhat rigid and compulsive. So, if your breathing changes during certain situations, you can be sure your reptilian brain is asserting itself.

Anxiety can come from many sources. Those include fear of the unknown, desire for control, an overworked nervous system. If we can identify the root of what we’re feeling and become aware of our anxiety or stress, we can start to break apart the actual level of threat we’re facing. For example: Driving to work or keeping up with schoolwork does not have the same stakes—nor does it require the same intensity—as responding to a family member having to go to the emergency room.

If I’m feeling anxious about school work and reacting to that experience as if a love one has just been taken to the ER, I can learn to recognize that anxiety, rather than the experience itself, is what’s shaping how I’m feeling and behaving. If I can recognize that, then I can create just the smallest bit of space from the feeling. Maybe enough to take a breath and tend to myself.

Be aware of your lizard friend; your reptilian brain. Note when your breathing changes when your chest tightens or when your palms get sweaty. I believe the first piece of managing anxiety—or at least a good place to begin—is to become aware of the physiological changes in your body and to develop an understanding of it.

Simply recognizing your anxiety as anxiety is a good first step: “Aha I see you my lizard friend/Anxiety,” I say when I find myself anxious or stress about my schoolwork. “Anxiety now is the time to rest,” I tell myself when I am kept awake in the middle of the night by a busy brain, my chest tight with tension.

Until next time; have a mindful life!

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