The Trickery of Anxiety And What You Can Do About ItJan 14, 2021
Truth is every human being on this planet experiences anxiety. The fact that you have anxiety does not make you abnormal… exactly the opposite, in fact. You are very, very normal. But why do some people get stuck in their anxiety and experience a “disorder” while others don’t? A lot of that has to do with the trickery of anxiety and here is what to do with it.
The Process Of Getting Stuck
The one thing that seems to be common across the board with those struggling with anxiety is that they have anxiety ABOUT their anxiety.
The experience of anxiety is no longer just an experience of anxiety. The experience itself has become the source of more anxiety. So instead of simply noticing my racing heart and pressured feeling in my tummy, I now turn inward and scrutinise these symptoms. “how fast is it beating? “Am I having a panic attack”, “What has set this off this time?”, “What is going to happen if this gets worse?” “Is this getting worse?” “Is that dizziness I feel? “OMG Im struggling to breathe”, “Or am I?”
And as I scrutinise them I also become anxious about them.
The more worried we feel about our anxiety, the more we begin to check (and re-check, and check again. And again. And again) to see whether we are feeling anxiety or not. Sometimes we begin the checking process when we aren’t even feeling anxious and that sets off the anxiety to start.
The problem is that the more we check, and worry, and feel anxious about the possibility of feeling anxious – the more attention we pay to the experience.
And where our attention goes, our energy flows. We are giving so much energy to the anxiety now
You can see how this can become so very stuck?
The Purpose of Anxiety
As you more than likely know, the anxious response is really just adrenaline and cortisol being released into your body because your limbic system (emotional brain) perceived a threat somewhere and is now setting you up to freeze, fight the threat, or run away from it.
More often than not the threat is not real. Sometimes it is (and that’s what makes anxiety our friend) so the adrenaline is useful. But many times the threat is really based in our own imaginations and thought processes.
So it should be simple, right? We should scan the environment, establish that there is no real threat and then calm the eff down! Ideally.
The Trickery of Anxiety Gets In The Way
But that’s not what happens, is it?
Because the trickery of anxiety comes with a host of addons to intensify the experience. Self-doubt and shame being the top two.
So instead of being sure that we are safe and nothing bad is about to befall us, we start to wonder if maybe we have missed something… “Maybe that guy really is looking at me funny”, or “What if I have missed something and I really do have a heart condition?”.
Anxiety makes us second guess ourselves so much that we can’t be sure about what is real and what is not… so we go with the strong voice in our heads. But that voice – that belongs to anxiety.
And it only serves to increase the perceived threat, right?… So cue some more anxiety.
And now cue the anxiety about the anxiety and the racing thoughts about how you are going crazy. The thoughts about how you will never get your of your head again. Will you ever be normal?
Cue some more anxiety for those thoughts too.
And then comes the shame. The shame that we are unable to overcome this state, leave the house, go to the BBQ we said yes to. Shame that you are crying again and cant seem to pull it together. Shame that you lost your temper because you have such a short fuse after feeling so wound up all the time. All. The. Shame.
Anxiety has led you to believe the worst about yourself.
The Trickster Strips You Of Your Power
Often those racing thoughts, the self-doubt and the shame, happen fast and spontaneously. It is almost as if they are beyond our control. As the cycle starts, you simply have to go along for the ride because it becomes an automatic pattern that you’re caught up in.
Eventually you may begin to feel completely powerless, especially when you are having an anxiety attack.
And, let’s face it, no one wants to feel powerless. It is scary. So the mere thought of something that brings us to our knees this way is bound to be perceived as a threat, right?
So we want to avoid this feeling. We try avoid having panic attacks and feeling anxiety.
Getting Stuck In the Cycle
It is this avoidance and the fear of feeling helpless that creates the cycle. Of course you want to be prepared, so you are going to ensure you know when it is coming.
“Was that a heart palpitation I just felt?” The checking continues relentlessly. It keeps you on guard and vigilant for any signs that you are feeling anxious or about to have an anxiety attack.
Anxiety about anxiety. Anxiety has effectively made itself the threat.
The process to getting unstuck has many layers but the very first is to interrupt this cycle.
We want to stop viewing anxiety as a threat.
Remember, everyone experiences it. Anxiety itself is not a problem. It serves a real function and the adrenaline spikes we experience are there to keep us safe. They cannot kill us.
We need to interrupt the cycle of belief that says that anxiety is a problem so that we can stop checking and stop being vigilant.
We need to feel in control of our thought processes again and believe that we have some agency in our lives.
We need to stop fearing that we will be brought to our knees by these experiences. We need to be able to sense ourselves again, beneath and alongside the experiences of anxiety.
Intentional Living as An Interruption To Anxiety
Alongside mindfulness based strategies and deeper therapeutic work on our own core beliefs about ourselves, intentional living is an effective tool that interrupts this cycle.
Living intentionally means getting off autopilot and taking back the reigns so that you decide how and where your life is going. Being more intentional re-connects you with yourself and gives you back your agency.
Feeling empowered is in direct opposition to feeling powerless. It undoes the trickery of anxiety.
And when we are intentional with our own thoughts, then we decide what to focus on.
At The Unstuck Initiative we provide support in creating an intentional life as well as harnessing the power of mindfulness to put you back in the driver seat and taking back your power from anxiety.
If you would like a taste of what intentional living can do for you and see what is possible, grab the 7 day Interrupt Anxiety with Intentional Living course here
Other ways to work with us include our Inner Circle and Coaching Packages to help you lean in and ditch the anxiety for good. You can find out more here.
In the meantime remember that you are not your anxiety. It is just an experience.