As a therapist who provides therapy for anxiety, I have found that anxiety is a fact of life. If we are honest with ourselves, there usually are varying degrees of anxiety floating beneath the surface. A Google search defines anxiety as,
“A feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.”
As humans, we are wired to stay alive and we want certainty. Our fears help us stay alive. However, what sometimes happens is that our life-preserving wiring picks up irrational and non-useful fears and we start to run with them. The more we run with them, the bigger they become. As they get bigger, our sympathetic nervous system may activate. Now our arousal is up, and we start to assume that those fears are legitimate since the body is responding to the stress. This cycle has the potential to create panic and other health problems.
I know anxiety is very uncomfortable. However, in order to put a wrench in the cycle, we need to bring our attention and intention away from solving anxiety with our thoughts and other escapes, and into the simple awareness of our body. It is important to get off the thought train, so-to-speak, that is being fueled by our anxiety. Thoughts are not reality. What is reality is the present moment, and turning our awareness to how the body physically feels during an episode and away from the anxiety-thought-train is a start. This can be painful. I suggest aiding the practice along with reality testing questions such as:
- What sensation/emotion am I trying to escape?
- Where is this sensation right now in my body?
- Right now, what is my body’s posture and I free from outside danger?
My favorite quote on anxiety is by Bruce Tift. He says, “Anxiety is an approximation of an open state of mind.” He states that an open state of mind is reality. That fundamentally there is no certainty, solid ground, or meaning to hang our hat on for the rest of our lives. Things change. Thus, we have anxiety when we view life from our typical frame of reference — that we need certainty and solid ground in order to be whole, function, and move forward in life — compared to the reality that there is fundamentally no certainty/solid ground.
Contact me if you are interested in working with your anxiety together.