by Derek O'Neill
When we feel anxious, we are dipping into our personal storehouse of responses to triggers, and that becomes a habit. Anxiety may on a rare occasion stop us from acting on something we should steer clear of and think about, but for the most part, anxiety is causing us to put a barrier between ourselves and the ability to look at something with a clear head so we can figure out what triggered our feelings.
The first is the emotional manifestation of anxiety; our feelings that occur as reactions to people, places and things, whether ongoing or new.
The second is psychological anxiety that is rooted in what has happened to us in the past, how we were raised, and events that have transpired in our lives. Everyone brings their baggage with them into stressful situations. We all know someone who seems to have very little anxiety no matter what is thrown their way. Maybe that person is you! Our orientation, our triggers, our emotional scars, all play a role. Having a difficult past can actually provide a road map for coping that helps you be less anxious, perhaps bringing a hard-earned consciousness to everything you face. It will be different for each person, yet we are ALL capable of dealing with the past and moving on as best we can.
The third kind of anxiety is physical, both when it is caused by physical/chemical issues (for example, a physiological pre-disposition for panic attacks, or other medical conditions), or the source of physical problems, which is so often the case when persistent stress shows up in the body. Even when the manifestation of anxiety is a “panic attack”, triggered by something organic in the body, the role of your mind is often overlooked. Thoughts can create a chemical release. The domino effect of thinking yourself into a state of anxiety can turn into a deeper, chronic problem.
Anxiety can be what happens when fear meets stress and collides. When something triggers a fear that you have been carrying around with you and building in your subconscious, eventually a reaction might happen. No matter how stable you are, anxiety can cause your mind to focus on the fear, losing perspective of its context. Maybe you are losing something or someone that you allowed to define you, and now your identity – how you see it – is slipping away. Perhaps you are embarking on something new that you have terrible doubts about because of the way you perceive yourself. The source of anxious panic could be connected to abuse you suffered, or a stifling of your power. These are all real reasons, but they also manifest in your thoughts and attitudes.
The next time you feel anxiety rising, or turning into a panic attack, try to stop and ask yourself, “What is the source of this feeling?” Sit quietly and allow yourself to focus on understanding the anxiety, rather than experiencing the anxiety.
We don’t have to fight the feelings, rather we gently shift them to an orientation of reflection.
You may be thinking that being able to understand your anxiety and examine it while you are in the thick of it will be very challenging. Remember that the smallest move towards connecting with the real reasons you feel panic or anxiety will open a path. It is not something that happens quickly and immediately changes everything. Understanding anxiety, in the bigger context and in your own life, will take a commitment. But just pausing, and looking at your feelings can be transformative.