First let me say that this blog has been easy, but extremely emotional, to write.
The Caveman Effect, as I like to call it, was my most effective method for overcoming anxiety. It gave me the kick up the bum I needed to become aware of my non-serving mind-set patterns and gain confidence in my inner self.
I want to share it with you because it changed my life.
How, you ask?
It showed me the way that the human brain is wired is extremely old fashioned and, for someone with anxiety, it can malfunction very easily unless it is upgraded. You see, people without anxiety, in my opinion, naturally upgrade overtime. Their inner confidence usually means that non-serving thoughts are easily dismissed.
So how did I learn about The Caveman Effect? It started by realising that I had anxiety.
Five years ago, I started working for an exciting event company in the UK. It was a well paid and exciting job that I fell into with ease mid-way through university. I thought all my prayers had been answered: I was in a job that I loved, getting an amazing salary and I was still studying.
Dream come true, right?
Well, to start with, it was. It was everything I could have wanted. For the first six months it was easy, all I had to do was speak to people, persuade them to come to the events, sit in an office for two hours a week doing the marketing and then go to the event to socialise.
Again, sounds perfect, right?
Six months passed and, as the initial excitement wore off, I started to feel a different emotion, an emotion I had never felt before—anxiety. I felt extremely nervous whenever I had to go into a social setting. I was shaking and I felt generally unwell. As the main role of the job was to be social, I was very, very uncomfortable for 90% of the time.
This went on for another 8-9 months and I started to drink heavily at the events to cover up my feelings. In hindsight, this was the worst thing I could have done. It escalated quicker and quicker, mainly because I wasn’t trying to deal with the problem, I was merely trying to mask it.
On many occasions, I would be physically sick at the events due to these feelings, even when I didn’t drink. There were times when I actually felt like running away. Sometimes I would go home until the end of the night and return only to close down the event.
Enough was enough. I had been in the job a year and now hated it, I hated myself and it was affecting my life in every way. I needed to find out what was wrong with me.
A doctor diagnosed me with anxiety. It was no surprise, but it was now time for me to start hitting it head on and look into how I could help myself. I often wondered why my anxiety hit so hard in social situations, whether it was going into a bar, restaurant or a business meeting.
I knew that I wanted to run from social situations, I knew I felt dizzy and physically sick; so I started to search in books, online and within. I knew my palms got sweaty, I got a dry throat and I even shook a little. These were the symptoms that I searched.
After a lot of reading, cross referenced with Google searches, I found out that the feelings I was experiencing were all because of our fight or flight mode passed down from our caveman/woman ancestors.
The reason our brain uses the fight or flight mode in social situations is because of prehistoric stranger danger. If a stranger or an animal rocked up to visit a caveman, they would most likely try kill him and steal his possessions and food to prolong their own life.
Our brains are still wired in the same way today, they haven’t modernised as the world has. So now your brain goes into flight or fight mode when you enter a social situation. For example, when going into a bar or a meeting, your brain releases a bad chemical called cortisol into your body. Cortisol makes you feel unhappy and anxious. You then feel your adrenaline pumping around your body because it thinks you are in a deadly situation (which, obviously, you’re not) so it gets extra cautious and puts non-serving stories into your head to warn you away, ‘am I getting a dirty look’ or ‘someone is speaking about me’, etc.
Your brain is actively looking for negative stimuli and that makes you anxious. It’s clearly not a life or death situation, so you have to re-wire your brain to naturally understand that you are safe.
The Caveman Effect showed me that my mind had not modernised for thousands of years and unless I made the effort to upgrade it, this would affect me forever. It’s like a 1998 Nokia 5110 phone system working on a 2015 IPhone 6, it would be completely unfit for purpose.
I started to look into meditation, mind-set hacks and how I could change my diet to help my brain upgrade.
Meditation is great for gaining fresh clarity on your thoughts. It helped me to better understand my mind and generally made me happier and more confident. Meditation helped me focus on reflection, visualisation and awareness. These three things are great ways to upgrade the way your brain works and see life in all its glory.
Here they are:
Visualisation is mental imagery, it is a technique I use to visualise how I want my day to go. How I will be successful and how I am going to live positively. It has been proven to be extraordinarily successful in producing a specific outcome.
Awareness works great for me; when a thought arises I am aware of how it makes me feel and, if it is negative or non serving, I can quickly and positively turn it into a nice thought. Awareness, to me, is the ability to perceive or to be conscious of events, thoughts and emotions.
I reflect in order to learn something, I learn from the negative thoughts I had the day before so the next time that particular situation arises my brain naturally knows how to deal with it.
Focus on these three things with daily meditation and you will start to see a huge positive increase in the way your brain works.
Another major tip I can give is to simply smile when entering a social situation and speak a lot when you first enter. Doing this releases endorphins, oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine. These four chemicals are released by your brain to help you to feel happy emotions.
To conclude, I hope this blog makes it clear to people who have anxiety and people who don’t, that there are simple steps to take to upgrade your mind. By taking time out of your day to focus on being aware, visualising and reflecting, we can start to see life as it really is. A safer world where, unless you’re in a dangerous place, you don’t have to think like a caveman. I hope this helps to ease your anxiousness in social situations and shed some light on the reasons behind it.
Author: John Mojsa
Apprentice Editor: Jessica Chardoulias; Editor: Caitlin Oriel
Image: AnnDeeF/Deviant Art