What if we could lower our anxiety by changing the way we think about it?
Do you ever get anxious about feeling anxious? A lot of people do.
Because anxiety feels so shitty, we begin to dread and fear anxiety more than the thing that’s actually causing it.
So we try to avoid feeling anxious by covering it up with keeping busy. But that’s only a temporary hack; eventually, anxiety catches up with us in the same way we can’t run from our shadow.
A different approach to anxiety that I share with my clients, and that actually works is to change the way we view anxiety.
Rather than something to get rid, avoid or dread, what if anxiety had a message?
No I know this sounds overly simplistic, but hear me out because it works.
What if anxiety was a symptom of something else, a sign of a deeper issue?
Just like a smoke alarm warns us of fire, anxiety is a warning sign that something else is going on.
We feel anxious when we feel unsafe, overwhelmed or when we lack control and certainty. And since these are the hallmarks of 2020, it’s no surprise that many, many people are experiencing anxiety for the first time.
Anxiety is a physical response from our nervous system. It alerts us to a real or perceived threat.
So rather than fearing anxiety, if we frame it as a signal to look deeper, we can get to the root of the problem. Otherwise dealing with anxiety without addressing the root cause is like turning the smoke alarm off while ignoring what’s burning.
So what is beneath anxiety?
It’s a question that warrants asking as each of us will have a different answer.
We need to look at the “thing beneath the thing”.
And once we can identify the source, we can do something about it. When the source problem disappears, we don’t need the alarm bell of anxiety to be ringing in our ears.
What underlies anxiety is often a deeper issue:
- Not feeling safe, so we compensate by trying to control everything.
- Not feeling good enough, so we cover that up with people-pleasing and overachieving.
- Fear of rejection or abandonment, so we flex our boundaries and put our own needs last to fit in or gain approval from others.
- Fear of failure/embarrassment/humiliation so we torture ourselves with perfectionism or procrastination (two sides of the same coin) to avoid making a mistake.
So anxiety is ACTUALLY designed to keep us safe and protect us from hurt. When we view it this way, anxiety becomes a friend rather than foe.
And this is a significant shift in perspective. Anxiety is NOT the enemy and is not something to be feared. It a messenger pointing to an unhealed wound.
It’s a strange quirk of our mind that we prefer things that are familiar to unknown things. Which means that even though we hate feeling anxious, it’s familiar and that familiarity gives our mind/body some comfort and certainty.
We would rather feel shitty and anxious than feel what’s going on beneath the anxiety.
And when we actually feel what’s going on beneath the anxiety, it’s not as bad as anxiety has lead us to believe.
Many of my Yoga Alchemy clients have overcome their anxiety by adopting this approach.
They know that when they feel anxious, it’s a sign to pay attention to the deeper thing. And once they address what lies beneath anxiety, their anxiety lessens or disappears entirely.
I had a client who had regular panic attacks which kept her awake at night. When we addressed the underlying cause, the panic attacks went away completely.
I had another client who’d had anxiety for most of her life, and she just thought she’d always be anxious. Once we identified what was beneath the anxiety, created a sense of safety in her body, and reframed her thoughts about anxiety, it went away completely.
I didn’t learn this approach in my Psychology Degree or my Yoga Training. I learned it through trial and error and developing the courage to look inside, face my wounds and heal myself from the inside out. Now I teach people this exact process to alchemise their wounds into wisdom and grace.
It’s not easy. But nothing worthwhile ever is. Instead of looking outside of ourselves for quick fixes and temporary distractions, it might be time to look inside.
If you’re curious about how I can help you feel better on the inside, book a chat with me so we can talk.