Defensive value of Anxiety

-“Doctor….I feel so anxious all day long—it is destroying me from inside.”

Thelma X. is an outstanding middle-aged lady that has been smartly juggling the demands of a successful criminal lawyer career and a beautiful family, married to another another lawyer who is so, so devoted to their couple that he does not mind rolling up his sleeves to fix dinner or breakfast for their two kids when she is late. She has all the blessings that a modern woman wants for her family but somehow…

Her dedication to her family and career makes her experience almost daily episodes of that most common of human emotions: Anxiety. Prodded by seemingly excessive uncertainty even in the most banal episodes of life, humans experience it when they have unusually intense and excessive emotional reactions to those common, and in certain circumstances exceptional, episodes of their treks through Life’s trails. Why would Mother Nature endow us with a biological response that seems deleterious? It is in fact an alert system that keeps us vigilant. Especially for all the women that are so heroically keeping our societies functioning on a daily basis by exposing themselves in the service and education sectors where there is always close contact with the public, without much ado.

Thank you to our dearest women for, yet again, showing us who has the Real Balls in society.

Note. This reproduction of Edouard Manet’s A Bar Girl at the Folies-Bergères done in 1882, at the height of La Belle Epoque in Paris, was taken from Wikimedia Commons.

In 1908, Robert Means Yerkes and John Dillingham Dodson published an article where they claimed that the best task performance occurs at an intermediate level of arousal, with sub-optimal responses at both the lower and higher ends of the Arousal Spectrum. This produces an inverted U curve, which means that the beneficial effects of Anxiety eventually peak and after reaching the top, they begin to progressively diminish. They also found this peak occurs at lower levels for easy tasks compared to the peaks for more difficult ones. The Yerkes – Dodson Law.

Anxiety is a necessary component of our biological shield to function better in our societies, much more critical now that the Post-Pandemic World has changed many paradigms of our daily existences at home, work, public spaces, institutions, etc. What can we do to counterbalance its untoward effect? We must activate another one of our inborn defense mechanisms: the Parasympathetic System. What our mothers and grandmothers intuitively taught us at home is based on sound scientific evidence. First of all, take a deep, deep breath. Then go out to take some fresh air to activate the Serotonin and Dopamine receptors in our brains. Remember them?

A moderate dose of Anxiety will keep us safe in these uncertain, unpredictable post-Pandemic times. Last week, a homeless woman burst into the front door of the Miami medical center where we have been working for the past ten years. She was shouting at the top of her lungs that she felt sick and that she needed immediate attention. The security guard smartly summoned the Manager On duty by radio and try to contain the patient. When the triage nurse told her that she would have to be rigorously evaluated before seeing a physician, she went wild. She dashed to the front desk and with some incredible acrobatics, she jumped across it, to the dismay of the on-duty clerks. She raced across the hallways until she reached an office and blocked the door. One of our assistants was alone preparing for a procedure, unmasked. This woman started to cough in our assistant’s face and, was finally reduced by the summoned police officers after a too long-ten minute-tense standoff. Handcuffed, she was tested with a PCR, which was positive; our assistant has been testing negative so far. Who could have imagined to live such an ordeal when we showed up for work?

One of the worst collateral effects of this prolonged pandemic worldwide has been the massive release of Mental Health patients into our streets because either the caretakers disappeared or kicked them out into the street, or more ominously, the institutions begun to quietly discharge them due to tight budgets. We will address this Public Health issue in an upcoming blog.

We cannot trust anybody with our personal security out there in the street anymore.

Stay distant. Stay safe. Stay beautiful.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.