It’s been over two years since Trisha summoned up the courage to walk away from a toxic relationship. Her friends mean well, but the constant questions about whether she has starting dating again (or why in God’s name not) are a major source of anxiety for her. Even her bestie, Claire, lost her temper yesterday. “Why can’t you just get over it?” she snapped before walking away.

Nobody wants Trisha to “get over it” more than Trisha. She really wants to move forward. Even downloaded a couple of the dating apps everyone recommends. But then there was yesterday in the checkout line when that guy started getting a little flirty. Her heart skipped a beat in a good way, but instantly she felt herself tense up and her pulse sped up. It was like she felt when she knew Jerry had a bad day at work and would arrive in a couple minutes. She doesn’t even know this guy’s name or anything about him, so how could she feel this way?

There are things about our behavior we struggle to understand. We find ourselves in situations and react in ways we just can’t explain. We talk about our gut feelings, but we’re not sure where they come from.

Actually, they don’t come from the gut. What you’re feeling is the effect of some complex chemistry triggered by your brain. Our brain’s first job is ensuring our survival. It remembers situations we were in and how it responded. That way, it will know what to do when it sees us encountering similar situations.

We attribute our moods to what we experience in life. The boss snaps at us, and we’re tense the rest of the day. Someone says something nice about the way we look, and we feel like we’re walking a little lighter. A couple starts arguing at the next table, and our heart quickens. Yet how we feel is less about those specific situations, and more about the way our brain instantly generates chemicals in response.

For example, when we’re in an uncomfortable situation — such as when Trisha made eye contact with the guy in the checkout line — our brain senses a threat to our well-being. It reacts the same way it would to a hungry grizzly bear moving toward us. Our brain wants to make sure we escape, so it starts to pump chemicals called adrenaline and cortisol through our bodies. They increase the flow of blood to our extremities so we can run away and sharpen our senses so we can ignore everything other than the perceived threat.

We like to think we’re in control of our emotions, but most of our reactions are completely instinctual. When the boss gives you bad news, you don’t choose to feel that sick sensation in your stomach. The brain reaches and immediate decisions and its chemicals go to work before you have a chance to contemplate the most appropriate way to respond.

What’s important to understand is those chemicals don’t exist to make us react in uncontrollable ways. Instead, they make it possible for the brain to regulate emotions. From the moment we wake up in the morning until we fall asleep that night, our brain is working to adjust the mix of chemicals to protect us and help us remain at ease. When something gets out of whack, we may feel anxious or depressed. Most often, our brains try to help us feel better by changing the mix of chemicals.

Sometimes, though, the brain becomes so overwhelmed by what we encounter that we don’t bounce back as quickly as we should. That’s when we may find ourselves feeling anxious or depressed for extended periods. We may be experiencing so much stress that our brains find it difficult to moderate our emotions. At times like this, we may need some help to get us through the rough spots. For many people, counseling can help. Others may also need medication to help them smooth out changes in their moods.

The point is what you’ve been feeling probably isn’t completely within your control, and that’s not your fault. A great way to determine whether your moods are an ordinary reaction or something more is to talk with one of our counselors. When you describe how you’re feeling, a counselor can dig deeper to discover the source and help you come up with strategies for dealing with the situations that trigger bad feelings.

We all feel anxious or depressed sometimes. When those feelings become overwhelming, interfere with day to day life, or you’re not sure you can control them, reach out for help from a professional who can help you understand what’s going on and what to do about it.

Reach out to us, and we can help. Take just one step today by calling 317-790-9396 or emailing

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