What if Anxiety was something you were doing rather than something that was happening to you?

Anxiety is many things. It affects many people, often in different ways and to various degrees. It is the birthplace of a multitude of symptoms from mental and emotional to physical and hormonal and is triggered by a range of circumstances, which are different for everyone because they are so intricately linked to your beliefs and values. Anxiety is and can be increasingly debilitating if it ongoing and is not addressed and more importantly understood,.

What anxiety is not is a noun;” it” is not actually a “thing” that you catch; it is not something happening to you and it is not necessarily a negative, it is uncomfortable, but that doesn’t necessarily make it “bad."

Anxiety is a verb. It is a doing – it is a doing. And what this means is that you can learn to “do” anxiety in a different way.

Anxiety is a response to stress or perceived danger (or not OK’ness depending on YOUR story about how things should be) and most people will experience some level of it in their life. If you are facing an event that you have no control over such as the birth of a child, your child’s first day at school or are dealing with financial uncertainty, a sick friend or relative it is natural to feel anxious about what might eventuate.

Anxiety in the simplest sense is driven by a feeling or belief that things (life, events, the weather, you, your body, finances etc. ) are not ok. It creates a reaction that says to the individual “you are not safe right now, you need to do something.” And this is the key – it is about “doing,” driven by a need for control as a path to certainty, which for most people equates to safety.

The challenge is that in the short-term anxiety is actually helpful for human survival and growth – it is a motivator and a necessary biochemical response to ensure we survive and continue as a species. Everyone knows the ancestral tale about meeting a lion face to face – anxiety is the feeling and thoughts that motivate you to run! However, in today’s society, we are now faced with unparalleled “perceived” threats, compounded by lifestyles that focus on certainty and attaining a false sense of security instead of acceptance of change and the fluidity of the human experience. These beliefs keep us stuck and this is causing men, women, and children to live in a constant state of “I am not ok.”

For some people, this state of I am not ok has supported success in home and work. It motivates them to cross the t’s and dot the I’s. It makes sure the details are reviewed and all potential threats perceived and accounted for. And while this may seem like a perfectly sound path, the truth is that the person who succeeds as a result of this fear-driven need for perfection, with no allowance for human error or critique, will eventually struggle with feelings of worthlessness, or lack of meaning and purpose, when they cannot sustain perfection and therefore the success, they actually achieve is hollow and unfulfilling.

The key to making anxiety usefully is to understand and choose.

  1. Understand what the contributing factors in yourself and your life that are compounding the experience of anxiety. Examine your values vs. your reality, your expectations, childhood belief systems, unhealed trauma, pathology, hormones, gut health, diet, sleep and exercise. Consider the people in your life and the environments that you are in.
  2. Understand that life is messy. No matter how much we would like to control what happens in the grand scheme of things we cannot. There will be pain, there will be challenges and there will be death and suffering and that is ok. We need to be able to detach and realise that things are not good or bad – they just are.
  3. Choose to own it. When we take responsibility for our mental health and can own that anxiety is something that we are doing we can take the steps to minimise its impact on our life.

Anxiety sufferers, for the most part are “do-ers.” When they feel that sensation come on they seek a solution to change the situation. Depending on the driving beliefs that underlie the anxiety the doing behaviour will vary. For some it might be an avoidance of situations for others it will manifest as a controlling attitude and pro-activeness.

This is where anxiety is subjective. It is different for every person and so to is the solution.

Anxiety, when not done in the right way, can cause havoc. The manifestation of symptoms includes racing heart, sweaty hands, dry mouth, nausea and panic attacks to insomnia, constant overwhelm, stress, loss of libido, digestive issues and emotional instability. Anxiety is a desire for control and a need to prevent things from happening. It keeps the individual in the future, taking them from the now and the ability to truly connect with and enjoy life.

When a person can own the way, they do anxiety just like they own the way they brush their teeth, cook eggs or make love, they create the opportunity to learn a new way. Understanding that anxiety is a verb, puts you in the driving seat and gives you back the keys so you can enjoy actually enjoy the journey that is your life.

At Noosa Confidential we recommend that if you are experiencing anxiety you find a professional/s to work with that can support you to uncover how you are doing life and what changes may need to be made – physically, relationally, psychologically, emotionally, spiritually and pathologically as well as in lifestyle, relationships and values. With the right support and an open mind, anxiety does not need to control you and you will find that you do not need to control life.