The Gift of Anxiety - Part One
Can anxiety be a gift? Yes. How can anxiety possibly be a gift? Because anxiety is the most direct wake up call. It will show you that something needs to change.
It won't always show you what needs to change but it will show you that a change is needed and quick. In Part One of this post I'll share how anxiety can be a gift and what can cause it to show up in full force. In Part Two I'll share what the antidotes are and how to start using them to ease your anxiety.
Now stress is inevitable, anxiety is not. We live in a world of fast and constant change. This means coming into contact with situations daily that are “stressful”. But your sensitivity to stress can be managed if you tune into why you're so easily stressed out. Better managed stress will help with anxiety. But in order to do this you have to be more comfortable with discomfort.
Part of the problem is this – we are adverse to discomfort and we have a very sensitive survival instinct in our brain. I don’t want to focus too much on the brain here however I think it helps to know a few things so you don’t feel crazy when you’re in overwhelm. Read this post here for survival brain 101.
The other part of the problem is we don't like to tune in when things get rocky. This is why these unnoticed emotional threats can take over if not recognized and turn into chronic pain, headaches, chronic stomach problems, chronic fatigue, arthritis, chronic inflammation, brain fog, and overall crankiness.
Anxiety is simply the inability to predict your safety in the anticipated future. Safety from what? Anxiousness is your brain's way of warning you when threat is present. I don't have an actual statistic but from my work and reading I can confidently say that more than 99.9% of anticipated threats are emotional and assumed.
Emotional Threats and Anxiety look like this...
These are just a handful of the most common emotional threats I see when someone is having anxiety, experiencing overwhelm, and having the above symptoms.
Perfectionism can be summed up with a quote from one of my favorite author's, Brene Brown - "Perfectionism is a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it's the things that's really preventing us from taking fight."
It's the reaction to the world by keeping your cards tight, using your life as a model for how others should act, and it's the inability to embrace vulnerability. When perfectionism is in the driver's seat you're not connecting with others and are keeping people at bay. And you're creating a space in your life where you can't fail. The pressure is immense and easily creates unnecessary anxiety. The antidote is...vulnerability.
I like to think of alignment as the flow between your heart and your life path. Alignment is when your heart, your knowing, and your actions are all on the same page. Life just works when you're in alignment. Alignment is about purpose.
Do you enjoy your life? Do you feel on purpose? Are you moving in a direction that fills you with joy? You are more than the work you do - you are the causes you support, the way you show care to your friends, how you embrace your most authentic beliefs, and how you show compassion to the world around you. When you're living a mis-aligned life you know it. You say something to yourself like, "This just doesn't feel right." You feel disconnected from yourself but also the people closest to you. You may feel an immediacy to change course or redirect your life. The antidote is...listening to your intuition.
We all have the same 7 core needs -
Love & Connection: We all want to stay connected and experience or seek love.
Certainty: Does the foreseeable path offer some predictability and security?
Uncertainty: Need for spontaneity.
Significance: Either on an inter-personal level or at a greater purpose level, do you feel significant?
Growth: Need to keep learning, growing, and enriching your life.
Contribution: Need to give back through which ever means serves the greater good.
Although we all share these there are some needs that we need met more than others. For example I have a large need for uncertainty and love and connection. Part of how I get connection is through spontaneous adventures with friends. Because I know this about myself I try and plan time for adventure every week. When I start feeling cooped up then I know I need to call a friend and go play.
If even one of your needs is not being met for a long period of time you will start to see the effects. Unmet needs make us feel not whole and unfulfilled. Needs are essential to feeling balanced and in control. When your needs are not being met and you're not balanced it's easy to feel anxious. The antidote is...need awareness.
Uncomfortable with discomfort
For the most part we are not comfortable with discomfort. We don't like to sit with uncertainty for long. It can be something as simple as waiting for a friend to reply to your text message - do you ever notice that you expect a response almost immediately and when it doesn't happen you find yourself checking more and more frequently? This is a simple example of a low comfort with discomfort.
Discomfort is actually the doorway to feeling agitated more frequently. The more frequently you feel agitated the more susceptible you are to stress, and the more susceptible you are to stress the more you welcome anxiety into your life. Look around and you'll see people everywhere who are highly agitated constantly. Just drive during a holiday weekend and you'll know what I'm talking about. The antidote is...practicing sitting in discomfort.
Note this - I don't mention anything like work, home, or even relationships because although these are common places for your anxiety to get triggered they're not the culprit. They are more stressors that are tipping you from managing to not managing. On Friday I'll post Part Two and share how you can practice each antidote to the drivers behind anxiety. In light and love, Andrea