In the prehistoric ages, from 2.5 million years to about 900 BCE, anxiety had a strong purpose for humans. We depended on anxiety for survival. Experts may call this “fight or flight” mode. Let’s look into this deeper with an interesting character who we will call Caveman Bob.
Caveman Bob was a caveman, otherwise known as a Denisovan. Caveman Bob was spending a less relaxing evening inside his cave carving weapons. As he fashioned his weapons, he decides to gather more stone and red wood cedar. As he walks out from his cave entrance he sees before him a Deinotherium. A Deinotherium is the third largest known animal known to be on land. To keep it simple, a 14 foot long and 5 ton elephant. That’s a pretty fricken big elephant.
Shocked and bewildered by the sight of the elephant outside his home’s entrance, Bob feels his heart begin to race as adrenaline is released. Thanks to “Flight or Fight” mode Bob’s “freaking out” instincts kick into gear and pay off. He has two options. Either kill the elephant or run like hell. Even though the now extinct Deinotherum’s were herbivores, Bob chooses to run like hell back into his cave as quickly as possible. Bob’s worries are over until he is attacked and killed the next day while trying to hunt a Siber-Tooth Tiger ends up as food instead. Sort of sad for Caveman Bob.
In today’s modern world, we don’t so much about Deinotherium’s and Saber-Tooth Tigers. Instead, we worry about several other things and for longer periods of time. Our worries of survival instincts may consist of anything from paying the electricity bill, the death of a family member or close friend, to stressful relationships, whether or not the Lakers will win, pesky roommates and neighbors, or your mother-in-law coming to visit. These stress triggers release chemicals called neurochemicals in the brain. Meanwhile, the bloodstream receives a sometimes less than pleasant dose of endorphins so freely given by the sympathetic nervous system. Heart palpitations, shakiness, nausea, tension headaches, and body aches may take over. Feelings of depression and thoughts of suicide may also occur.
Anxiety can be conquered by proper diet, exercise, hydration, adequate amounts of sleep, and relaxation. Deep breathing helps combat anxiety by lowering blood pressure while exercise releases endorphins. Not all of us can run from giant prehistoric elephants but most of us can run while pretending to be chased by prehistoric creatures. If you have a great imagination, that might even be fun. Please don’t try to hunt tigers to release anxiety as Caveman Bob has already proved to us that this sport may cause death.