I have struggled with anxiety throughout my life. Anxiety related to people, situations, performance, approval, not being good enough, safety, etc. It recently flared up in a deep freeze that happened as my brain was consistently on the prowl looking for possibilities of what could go wrong. Of course, there’s many. Furnace could break. Car could break. Garage door could break. Notice that, in reality, what I’m not saying is I have a home, I have heat, I have a vehicle, I have safety, yet my brain is on the lookout for when, how, and where I won’t be okay.
This got me thinking further about the nature of anxiety. I’ve always understood and appreciated anxiety to be our evolutionary fear response being ill-suited to our current environment and circumstance. Yet it meant something a bit different and more clarifying to think of it as our fear reflex. The difference this made for me is that it conveyed, very clearly, this idea that anxiety is just my brain’s way of trying to naturally respond and keep me safe. This, in and of itself, gives me comfort even if the anxiety ridden thoughts do not. Now when my brain is trying to lead me down a path of worrying about the future and what could go wrong, I can say thank you to my mind for trying to protect me, remind myself that I am safe at this moment, and move on with my life. The niggle of worry and doubt may still exist but I can work with my reflex, I’m no longer believing these thoughts are real or have value.
Ongoing struggles with anxiety are common for many people and take many different forms, some more severe and impactful than others. I know my anxiety is also related to other parts of my health and life. For instance, when I’m not taking care of my physical, emotional, relational, and/or spiritual needs, anxiety is higher. When my faith and trust in myself, others, and the universe is lower, my fear reflex is firing. I can now appreciate it’s evolutionary value of trying to keep me safe but I would prefer to turn to what is real in the here and now, knowing that when crisis strikes I will have the resources, capability, and confidence to deal with it. I hope you will know the same.
By Paige Abbott
Registered Psychologist at www.sanapsychological.com