What is anxiety?
It can be defined as the body’s natural response to stress. It is a feeling of fear or apprehension of what’s to come. It is thought to be normal in situations such as public speaking or going into a new situation such as a job interview or the first day of school.
Anxiety begins with a thought about the future that may or may not come to fruition.
Anxiety can evolve into a series of thoughts that becomes a habit, a pattern, a habitual way of thinking. When it starts to interfere with daily activities and is provoked in situations where it does not routinely occur, it can be diagnosed as a disease process that is abnormal (that is not what we are typically referring to here).
Some people may be predisposed to anxiety thoughts – either as a protective mechanism from childhood, as a result of modeling parental behaviors or through learned habits that are routinely reinforced.
There’s a quote that worry is a debt for a thing we have not yet purchased. Why would we take on debt when we get nothing for it?
Because our mind experiences worry as as something useful, as an action, it gives us something to do.
Especially when there’s a situation or circumstance that we have no control over.
I understand that it feels useful to worry, to ponder, to think about all possible outcomes, as if this could somehow change the outcome or protect us. It feels that we’re doing something productive to find a solution.
Anxiety can also be a cover for other emotions that we’re not wanting to feel (like hurt, anger, sadness) and it can be a protective emotion.
This is not meant to be a discussion today about anxiety as a disorder or a diagnosis that has a biochemical or hormonal basis (that’s a whole other topic).
We’re talking about the feeling of anxiety that exists in our lives day-to-day. That nagging sensation that arises when we feel out of control and out of touch and unable to stop ourselves from worrying about something that we have no control over.
As I was writing the initial draft of this post, one of my mentors and an expert in the nutrition field, Georgie Fear, RD, published a fantastic article about nutrition and how it affect the feeling of anxiety. Read it here. She writes brilliantly about how what we eat affects our level and perception of anxiety. I encourage you to read it and incorporate her suggestions for decreasing day-to-day anxiety symptoms by adjusting your nutrition accordingly.
It should be no surprise that processed foods, sugar, and other fatty foods can increase our sensation of anxiety and depression.
Think about the circumstances that cause you to worry.
What types of things cause you anxiety?
Why do they cause you to worry?
Think back to situations where you had worried ahead of time. Then think about after that event or time… did the worry help? Did it feel justified? Did it feel useful?
Try this exercise. Choose to become aware of your worry, your anxiety and watch it when it occurs. Be curious about it. Don’t judge it (or yourself for having it), just observe it as it spreads through your awareness.
Next, describe how your body feels when you’re experiencing it in the moment. Does your stomach clench, do your muscles tighten, does your heart race? Do you start to sweat or feel jittery? Write down or verbalize what sensations you are feeling in your physical body. Watch your mind as you watch your feeling and are aware of it.
What thoughts are increasing this sensation? What thoughts are decreasing it? How could you choose to think about the circumstance that is causing your anxiety?
Let me know… how did you do? What did you feel? What did you notice?