It isn’t difficult to know when we are anxious and worried. We can all too easily feel it in our bodies. Our heart might be racing, hands cold or clammy, we find it difficult to take a satisfying breath, we can blush, get blotchy necks and backs, sweat, all with an upset stomach, our lungs and chest feel heavy and our limbs feel jelly like and weird.
We can feel teary, flustered and on edge, looking out for threat and ready to defend ourselves. There can be strong feelings of overwhelm, wanting to run away or go invisible and we can feel small and helpless.
And feeling like this is very uncomfortable so we try to avoid the people or situations that trigger us. Then our world gets smaller. The places and people we feel safe with reduce. Our lives are controlled to avoid anything that sets off anxiety. And all the managing of anxiety takes up hours of our day.
We feel different to others – they seem to be able to take life in their stride – we conclude there must be something wrong with us. And so begins the crippling and cruel self assessments. These are commonly more painful to live with than the physical feelings of anxiety. Ideas like ‘not good enough’, ‘won’t be able’, ‘can’t do’, ‘stupid, ‘too scared’, ‘fraud’, ‘don’t tell anyone’, ‘people won’t like me’ and so on. Living with a foreboding sense that we will never be enough is a scary, lonely and exhausting way to go through life.
Small events are over-thinked and every possible scenario is considered – usually with a focus on what could go wrong or how we will mess up, be confronted or fail. We engage in worst possible outcome thinking and tire ourselves out with imagined argumentative conversations, imagined scenes feeling awkward on our own, imagined rejections, imagined ridicule.
Our digestion suffers and we feel pressure to go to the bathroom before meetings. We could have hours of couch time curled up with stomach aches.
And when things are going well we are waiting for when it will turn bad – waiting for the other shoe to drop.
It’s very stressful living with daily anxiety.
Why the anxious response?
We originally evolved to trigger the ‘fight or flight’ reaction in response to a clear and present physical threat. If someone was attacking us we needed to find an exit to run away or have the energy to fight back.
Then as we evolved in social groups – where we needed to work as a pack/community to survive – the same ‘fight or flight’ response got triggered whenever a person perceived themselves to be in social danger of exclusion. As isolated pack members were in more danger than those in the group, social exclusion is linked to our survival ‘fight or flight’ response. This is why we get the same physical response now whenever we perceive ourselves to be in social danger.
The key word here is ‘perceive’. If we think we are ‘less than’, requiring approval (and don’t feel we are likely to get it), ‘different’, ‘unloved’, ‘not good enough’, ‘going to be found out’ we kick off the anxious reaction.
Thankfully for most people physical threat is no longer part of daily life however we commonly feel a fear of social threat.
Ways to resolve anxiety:
The solution to this kind of anxiety is to question and change – emotionally – the perceptions we have about ourselves that are stressful to believe. We can re-educate our brain that we aren’t in danger. We can build an inner sense of strength and self approval. We can heal past painful experiences that still trouble us.
A simple exercise is to get into the habit of questioning our thinking rather than just believing it. How likely is what the mind saying to be true?
A thought no longer believed can no longer trouble us.
There are plenty of proven and effective ways to resolve excessive anxiety.
Change and true and lasting freedom is possible.
I’m always happy to chat about how life can improve so feel free to get in touch. You can reach me at 01 207 9615 or drop me a line to
Have a great week,