Worrying and anxiety can stem from many different things, from general stress to health conditions, to specific life stressors, to relationships, to chemical or hormonal imbalances, to things we are completely unaware of. Some level of worry or anxiety in life is expected, and even helpful. For example, when we are worried about something, it probably means we care about that particular thing and see value in the outcome. Feelings of anxiety may also provide us with important information about our needs. Worrying about certain aspects of your life may indicate that you are not feeling stable, safe, or secure. So, before we go further, just know that anxiety is common and even normal. You are not alone. However… if you experience frequent or constant anxiety, it’s probably a good idea to investigate what’s really going on. Anxiety is most often maintained by unhelpful thoughts, the mind and body being disconnected, or the nervous system being dysregulated in some way.
First off, it’s important to distinguish between typical worries and actual anxiety. Why? Because, as mentioned, a certain level of worry is expected and normal. Anxiety, on the other hand, may indicate something bigger that needs to be addressed. This of course, like most things you’ll read from this blog, is unique to the individual. We all have varying levels of tolerance when it comes to worry and anxiety. What can you tolerate?
You know yourself better than anyone else knows you (really, it’s true). The worry you’re experiencing - does it feel tolerable? Do you feel you have valid reasons to feel worried? Does the worry motivate you to “take care of business” or make improvements in your life, or to reflect on yourself and your needs? Aside from how you perceive the worry, how does it make you feel? Is it temporary and occasional, and relative to something specific in your life? Or is it constant and pervasive, consuming your thoughts and distracting you from responsibilities and recreational activities? Do you experience physical sensations such as “butterflies” in your stomach and/or chest, or slight tension in your neck/back or other parts of your body? Or do you experience symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog, increased heart rate, nausea, diarrhea, or sweating? Regardless of whether you answered yes or no to any of the above questions, it is up to you to decide how much the worry or anxiety impacts all aspects of your life. Aside from how it may impact your physical and emotional health, how does it impact your relationships, work life, social life, etc?
Once you have examined the worry or anxiety and determined how it impacts you, it’s time to figure out what you want to do with it. Will you view it as expected and normal based on your current life circumstances, and roll with it the best you can? Or will you decide that it must decrease in order for you to feel sane and enjoy your life? There are MANY different ways to decrease anxiety, which I explain more here. But to get you started, one of the first things you must do is to become aware of it and try to understand it. Please start here. If we do not understand where our anxieties come from, and if we are not aware of how it impacts us, then efforts to decrease it will not be overly effective. Ask yourself the following questions:
When do I experience worry or anxiety? What is it about? What’s going on in my life currently that could be causing my worry? When do I NOT feel the anxiety? How do I know when I’m feeling anxious - what does my body communicate to me? What am I experiencing physically when I’m feeling anxious? What thoughts are coming up (helpful or unhelpful) when I’m feeling anxious? What are my perceptions and beliefs about the anxiety? How frequently am I feeling worried or anxious, and how long does it last? What other emotions come up when I’m feeling anxious?
These are just some of the questions that can bring about awareness and understanding of your worries or anxiety. And what is the purpose of awareness? To allow for depth of experience and intentional action in whatever it is we choose to think, feel, and do. And ultimately, you always have a choice about how you will respond to your anxiety.
**If after reading this you are in need of support or wanting to explore your anxiety further, please feel free to reach out via email for a referral, resource, or if you have any other need or question.