At its core, anxiety is a type of prolonged stress where our brain has become hypersensitive to perceived threats. Basically it sees existential dangers where there perhaps are none. This is to do with our survival-obsessed caveman brain, which our newer, rational cortex grew around. So, literally at our core is where our survival instincts live.
Cold hands are a fairly common symptom of anxiety, however it can be indicative of other conditions, so if you’re worried that there is something else going on, please consult your doctor.
Why Do Our Hands Get Affected By Anxiety?
When we’re anxious, our flight, fight or freeze response is ignited in our amygdala, which is part of our caveman brain. This is essentially our survival instinct kicking in telling the rest of our brain and body that a threat is imminent and we need to either run, get ready to fight or stay very still until the threat passes. Now, this is great for actual threats, but when we’re suffering from anxiety, this can be triggered by a whole host of scenarios that are far from life or death.
It might seem strange that something happening in the centre of our brain has symptoms in the hands, but when we look at the science behind the fight, flight or freeze response, it makes a lot of sense.
When this survival instinct is in play, the amygdala releases adrenaline and cortisol which allows our body to prepare for battle or to flee the danger. Other symptoms kick in such as increased heart rate and breathing, and as such, our body redirects the blood flow to where they’re needed most, namely the cardiovascular system.
Where is the blood not needed in what the brain perceives as a life or death scenario? The extremities, so our fingers and toes. As the blood redirects, our hands and feet feel colder from the absence of blood flow.
What Can We Do To Stop This Symptom?
For this particular symptom the best thing to do is to get up and get the blood flowing back around the body. Wave your arms about, flex your feet and get the blood redirecting around your body.
As cold hands are normally accompanied by other anxiety-based symptoms, it’s important to calm your body overall, so taking deep breaths to lower your heart rate and drinking plenty of water are simple ways to get your body back out of flight, fight or freeze mode.
Of course, this is simply dealing with the symptoms of anxiety as they arise, to help manage or create coping strategies for your anxiety itself, 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.