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Anxiety is NOT an Emotion

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We all say it, “I feel so anxious.” I am guilty of it too. The term anxiety has become a catch-all for a lot of emotions.  Anxiety has become a socially accepted word for stress, worry, anger, sadness, etc.  We can say ‘anxiety’ and people nod their heads and say “oh, yes me too.” But no one is really dealing with the anxiety.

Anxiety is a state of being. A state of frenzy, heart pains, stomach disorders, and panic attacks.  At the root of anxiety are feelings. Scary, raw, vulnerable feelings that most of us don’t want to (or don’t know how to) feel. We get so caught up in the causes of our anxiety (which only serve to make us more anxious) that we lose sight of the feelings under the anxiety. Too often when we start to get curious about our feelings we try to figure out WHY we are feeling a certain way not WHAT we are feeling.

Here are some common examples:
Sara crawls out of bed and takes a very quick shower before she is greeted with 3 kids, breakfast, packing lunches, coats, gloves and out the door.  Finally she is able to catch her breath as she makes her way into work.  She says to herself “wow, I am really anxious” and her first reaction is why? So she starts listing off all the reasons she is anxious:

  • A project deadline at work is looming.
  • She fought with her husband last night.
  • She and her daughter aren’t clicking like they use to.
  • Her Mom is getting older and she is worried how much longer she can live alone

Before she knows it she is feeling MORE anxious than she was 5 minutes ago. She says to her self, “Holy Sh*t!!  You have A LOT going on…you better get to work so you can get it all done”  And then her anxiety becomes all about getting to work as quickly as possible, screaming at the car in front of her and racing up the stairs to work.

OR

Sara crawls out of bed and takes a very quick shower before she is greeted with 3 kids, breakfast, packing lunches, coats, gloves and out the door.  Finally she is able to catch her breath as she makes her way into work.  She says to herself, “Wow, I am really anxious” and she asks herself, “Ok, if anxiety is not a feeling what am I FEELING?”

  • Scared that she will miss the deadline and lose her job.
  • Frustrated that she doesn’t REALLY like this work
  • Scared about her marriage
  • Vulnerable around her daughter and her spouse
  • Sad that her daughter is growing up so fast.
  • Scared that she might not be able to be a mom of a teenager, and an aging mother.
  • Sad about her mom.
  • Sad about her father who died a year ago.

As she drives she feels her eyes welling up, she takes a few deep breathes and she says “wow, you have a lot going on!” “there are a lot of emotions swirling around…no wonder you are anxious” “it is ok, you got this, just breathe”,  Does she feel less anxious? Yes.  Does she feel amazing? No.  Does she feel centered, grounded and based in reality? Hopefully.  Because that is what anxiety does it keeps us in such a frenzied state, we don’t have to deal with what is really going on around us. For those of us with chronic anxiety, it can become a comfort, a protective mechanism against the tough emotions in our lives.

I know when I am frenzied, panicked, moving from thing to thing and obsessing about everything it is time to check in and ask, “What is REALLY going on here?” “What am I REALLY feeling?”

9 times out of 10 it is anger, fear, sadness or pain of some sort.  Only once I know what is going on and come into my body and breathe can I really start taking action to reduce the state of anxiety.

I would love to hear from you in the comments: Do you agree?  Do you suffer with anxiety?  How do you deal with it?

Tired of feeling anxious all the time?  Let’s talk.  It is possible to live a life with less anxiety–I do it, my clients do it.  Contact me to start ending the anxiety roller coaster.

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