Anxiety is a feeling.
It’s an uncomfortable feeling that can range from mild apprehension through to absolute terror. Everyone experiences anxiety. There is no way to avoid the feeling, but we can avoid feeling unnecessary, unhelpful anxiety.
“To be anxious is to be alive. Human beings face persistent unknowns and innumerable dangers. Anxiety free worlds are the stuff of mythical pasts and mythical futures.” ~ Richard Gilpin
Did you know……
We only experience anxiety in response to perceived future threats.
Anxiety and Stress are different feelings.
Stress is a feeling we experience in response to real and present danger.
Though the terms ‘anxiety’ and ‘stress’ are often used interchangeably they are different feelings with different sources.
Often the two feelings are experienced together.
For example, you’re out walking through a park when an angry dog starts chasing you. Your inbuilt Danger Management System identifies the dog as a real and present danger. Instantly your Threat Response is activated, and your body rapidly adapts to help you fight off the dog or run away from it. You feel stress in that moment. The stress is a signal that your body has adapted and is ready for action.
You successfully escape the dog but, as you head for home, you imagine that the dog is still coming after you. This imagined threat activates your inbuilt Risk Management System. The feeling of anxiety is a signal that you’re facing a potential threat (risk) to your wellbeing (the angry dog) and that you need to act now, to mitigate the risk.
At this point, even though the dog is nowhere to be seen, you’re experiencing an uncomfortable combination of stress and anxiety.
Your inbuilt survival system.
Your Danger Management System and Risk Management Systems together form your survival system. They operate 24/7, 365 days a year detecting real and present dangers and potential threats to your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing.
The risk may be known or unknown.
When we feel anxiety, we may know what the corresponding risk is, for example, the dangerous dog as in the previous example, or we may not know what the risk it is, we just have a general sense of unease.
When we ignore the signal.
When we ignore the signal, the feeling of anxiety intensifies because our Risk Management System wants us to pay attention to the risk and act to mitigate it.
The intensity of the feeling decreases as we take action to mitigate the risk. And once the risk has passed our anxiety in relation to that risk dissipates. Again, using the example above, once you’ve reached the safety of home, and stopped imagining the dog is following you, your anxiety in relation to the dog attacking you, dissipates. It may take a little more time for the feeling of acute stress to dissipate and your body to return to its pre-dog encounter state.
Anxiety keeps us on alert for future danger.
The feeling of anxiety also encourages us to take greater care than we otherwise might, particularly when we don’t know specifically what the risk is. For instance, without any anxiety, we would engage in a lot of high risk behaviours, such as driving too fast, not paying our bills, stepping onto the zebra crossing without checking for traffic, not wearing sunscreen when out in the sun.
What I’ve described so far, is our Risk Management System operating perfectly and generating helpful, useful, necessary anxiety. However, our Risk Management System can malfunction and generate unhelpful, unnecessary anxiety which I refer to as ‘bad’ anxiety. This bad anxiety can become chronic and hence a problem for us. It can make our lives miserable and stop us from functioning normally. When that happens, we may be diagnosed as having an ‘anxiety disorder.’ I’ll explore ‘bad anxiety’ next week.
Is it time to say goodbye to anxiety?
If you are suffering with anxiety or stress and want to get your mojo back, let’s have a conversation to explore how I can help you become anxiety free. To schedule your no obligation 15-to-30-minute conversation with me via ZOOM just click HERE. Alternatively, you can call/text me on 021 056 8389.
Change begins with you.
I’m on a mission to help as many people as possible enjoy lives free of unnecessary stress and anxiety. If you’d like my help, or you know someone who would benefit, call/text me today on 021 056 8389 or email email@example.com