Although there are many reasons for a nervous feeling in your stomach, it has been linked as a symptom of anxiety. You might experience this as butterflies in your stomach, a nervous feeling in the “pit” of your stomach or a knot in your stomach. It could also feel like queasiness, nausea, tightness in your stomach or a swirling, rolling or churning feeling.
Why Can Anxiety Cause A Nervous Stomach?
As with a lot of physical symptoms of anxiety, the triggers lie within our caveman brain. This is the survival-driven part of our brain that our newer, rational cortex grew on top of. It’s primary concern is keeping us alive, so when our brain perceives a threat, it releases the stress chemicals cortisol and adrenaline and activates the stress response called the fight, flight or freeze response.
The stress response causes your body to send blood away from the stomach to other vital organs in order to help you fight or flee etc. It also suppresses digestion and can cause muscles to tighten, including stomach muscles. This can result in any of the nervous stomach feelings mentioned.
Also, if you experience stress and anxiety frequently, you can develop chronic stress, also known as hyperstimulation, which is when your stress response is on high alert for a prolonged period of time, long after the perceived threat has passed. This may mean you chronically feel a nervous feeling in your stomach.
How Can I Stop This Symptom?
As this symptom stems from our fight, flight or freeze response, the main thing that we can do to combat it is to focus on our breathing, adopting anxiety-reducing breathing techniques, such as controlled diaphragmatic breathing or box breathing. This should calm our central nervous system, distract our mind from the perceived threat, and deactivate our fight, flight or freeze response allowing our rational brain to kick back in and regain a semblance of control and feel the black cloud lift.
Though this will help short-term, in order to prevent the symptoms of anxiety and stress occurring in the first place, you need to manage or build strategies to tackle your anxiety and stress. There are several options available including CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), mindfulness, medication and group therapy. If you’re unsure, please contact your GP for more information.
Stomach sensations can also be caused by other factors, so talk to your doctor to find the root cause and therefore the best course of action for you.