What is Anxiety?
It may sound silly because if you are checking out my website and reading this blog post, chances are you already know what anxiety feels like. Or you know someone close to you who does. But what you really need to do is challenge your current perspective on anxiety.
Let go of the idea that anxiety is bad. Anxiety is not inherently bad. It can and does feel scary, it gets in the way but it does have a very important function – to keep us safe. To help us problem solve & make good decisions.
Anxiety that has spiralled out of control, is a manifestation of other suppressed emotions, but ultimately it is driven by the emotion of fear.
In its simplest form it is an over use of our imagination. It’s always about the future, what might happen. Lots of risk assessments by the mind, “What If” questions. All driven by our subconscious and operating from the false beliefs about ourselves & our capabilities stored there.
Of course our subconscious beliefs are learnt, based on our perceptions of past experiences. And the good news is we can unlearn the unhelpful beliefs and replace them with healthy, helpful ones.
Certainty comes from within. It is not something we can rely on from the outside world. Confidence is not about having no fear or anxious feelings. It is not the opposite of anxious. Fear has a clear role to play, to keep us safe in real situations of threat or danger.
Fear is an emotion everyone has. The most successful people are the ones who think okay so there’s this thing I need to do & whilst I am not confident about it, I am confident in my ability to find a way through. Even if it’s not perfect to begin with. I know ‘good enough’ is perfectly fine.
So, anxiety is not inherently bad. It serves a useful function – to help us avoid danger.
Guess what, we are supposed to feel anxious when standing on a cliff edge. We are supposed to feel anxious when we are about to take a test – it motivates us to take action to study.
Anxiety tells us something is important to us. Anxiety and excitement actually feel the same in the body. They produce the same chemical reaction – the adrenaline is released to prepare you for action.
And its important to note that the subconscious mind cannot distinguish between what is true or imagined. The mind relies on the words you say to yourself and the images formed from these words to help make decisions on your behalf. That is why your self-talk is so important.
When we look at anxiety as acceptable and a normal part of life and the human wiring, it suddenly changes everything. Knowing we have the tools to support us and that over time, thanks to neuroplasticity, we can take action to reregulate and rewire our brains and nervous systems .
Disorder means a state of confusion. At the point where anxiety moves from being a normal human reaction to potential danger/threat to a state where it takes over and disrupts your life, it becomes ‘disordered’.
When the anxiety is causing you to start taking ‘avoiding action’ in relation to everyday tasks or experiences that are now causing challenging feelings to arise – like school, work, socialising -this becomes an issue which must be addressed and reversed.
Essentially, when we are stuck in this Anxiety cycle the harder you try to make it go away, the stronger and stronger it gets.
Contrary to popular belief that anxiety is more distorted the more severe it is, the reality is anxiety is disordered when :
- You feel in danger when you are actually safe. Perceived danger versus actual danger.
- When it interferes with your day to day functioning – the anxiety & attempts to avoid anxiety STOP you engaging in healthy, active life activities. Life then becomes more and more closed in. The brain is keeping you safe.
For example, I had a client who came to me with a fear of radiators. I know, can you imagine how limiting her life was. She was not able to go out at all, and all the radiators in her house were switched off and covered over.
She was experiencing a danger response (survival response) with the focus of her fear being radiators. She experienced real feelings of fear in her body – sweating palms, racing heart beat each time she even thought of a radiator. Of course the radiators are not actually dangerous.
So this is how disordered anxiety can make you think and behave. Completely irrationally. When she understood that she could change her thinking, direct her mind to RESPOND rather than REACT she very quickly dealt with the fear.
And of course the focus of her fear became the radiators but, from an emotional perspective her body and mind were trying to help her release the fear stuck inside of her.
This fear and it’s connection to radiators stemmed from a childhood experience where her hand was burned on a radiator and her parents, instead of appropriately reassuring her that everything would be okay, shouted at her and called her an idiot.
That single event, was enough to trigger her nervous system to become what we call ‘hypervigilant’. To look for threat everywhere (our subconscious does this for us) and her future life experiences, because life is a series of events, both challenging and life affirming compounded this primary belief that the world was unsafe.
The Anxiety Cycle
Avoidance is the real factor that fuels Disordered Anxiety. So part of the work we do is to change our behaviour & our thinking. And change our responses to sensations that the body brings up for processing and release. To train the brain & nervous system to be more optimistic, calm, realistic & responsible.
Understanding the true power we each have to influence our thinking & behaviour is key to healing. And recognising the importance of a healthy brain and body in achieving wellbeing and success in all areas of life.
The Core Change Program offers a comprehensive approach for recovery from anxiety and trauma. Ensuring you are able to build a firm foundation for your continued change and transformation, even after our sessions together finish.
As someone who experienced anxiety for many, many years and made a full recovery I am living proof it’s possible. It does , however require a 100% commitment to change.
If you are suffering then you are living a half life. Honestly, you have two choices available. One is to commit to change and healing, the other is to continue to suffer. Those are the only choices. I hope that you will choose change, because you are absolutely more than anxiety.