What Anxiety Teaches Us and 3 Things We Can Learn From Our Anxiety:
“Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.” — Charles Spurgeon
Anxiety can teach us about our triggers and what sets us off.
It’s no secret that anxiety can be incredibly debilitating. You are not alone; over 40 million adults over the age of 18 suffer from an anxiety disorder. It can cause us to feel out of control, panicked, and completely alone. And believe it or not, anxiety can also be a powerful teacher. If we’re willing to listen, anxiety can teach us a lot about ourselves, our triggers, and how to find calm in the midst of a mental thought storm.
In order to start, let’s let go of criticizing and labeling our anxiety as bad, or good. When we first notice our mind and body reacting to stimuli in the form of physical changes, such as a twitch or shaking, or a racing mind of fearful thoughts, this is a good moment to pause and quietly and thoughtfully ask ourselves “what was I just experiencing a moment ago?”
When you take a step back to be a curious observer of your own thoughts, you may start to notice a pattern. Your anxiety can be triggered by a common theme, such as social judgment or ridicule, or possibly by a compounded fear brought on by past trauma which has yet to fully have closure.
Similar to how we can forecast the whether by combining temperature, humidity, wind, etc, we can now use our mindfulness to find clarity in our reactive moment of anxiety. Paying attention to your thoughts and external stimuli that occurred before your anxiety, will help you learn more from it. Over time, your insight into your triggers can empower you and guide you towards addressing these more clearly.
“Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer.” — William S. Burroughs
Anxiety can help us learn to be more mindful and present in the moment.
Anxiety can be a helpful emotion that allows us to become more aware of our surroundings and present in the moment. It can help us learn to pay attention to detail and be more cautious in potentially dangerous situations. While anxiety can be debilitating for some people, it can also be a useful tool for helping us stay safe and healthy. When we feel anxious, our body goes into “fight or flight” mode. This causes us to become more alert and aware of our surroundings. We might notice things that we wouldn’t have otherwise noticed, such as potential dangers or red flags in a situation.
In a single day, the average person in a modern city is said to be exposed to as much information as someone in the 15th century would have encountered in their entire life.
Our bodies and minds were not evolved to handle this much stimuli in such a short span of time. No wonder we can easily become overwhelmed by the end of the day. Rinse and repeat and over a few days or weeks, and depending on the type of information we expose ourselves to, it’s easy to see how anxiety might possibly be a warning that we need to stop, pause, breathe, and just be. We are human be-ings, not human do-ings.
Next time you have a feeling of anxiety, and after you understand what you were just thinking beforehand, take a moment to pull over to a safe location, step aside to an uncrowded spot… and be mindful of your surroundings. Are there a lot of different sounds and noises? Is the visual stimuli overwhelming? Are there a lot of people talking and moving about?
By being mindful and present in the moment, we can immediately detach from the source of the anxiety simply by observing that it is outside our selves. And being mindful reengages us with our bodies’ our breathe, beating heart, and our own freedom to have a thought, rather than a racing mind reacting to our surroundings. By this moment of mindfulness, we are now being reminded that we are alive, and have the power to change a thought, change a direction, and change how we want to perceive our surroundings.
Anxiety can remind us of our own personal strength and resilience.
Just like swimming, we can’t learn how to swim unless we get wet. And as we navigate this world made up of a diversity of people, unlimited variety of opportunities, and new ways of doing things, we will be offered a lot of choices. It’s uncomfortable to venture into something unfamiliar, or at the very least, different. But, at the end of the day, you will find that being mindful and paying attention to your own thoughts, you will get through any situation. Taking this approach a step further; when you allow yourself to learn from the situations, you become better for it. You will no longer be a victim of our anxiety. Your anxiety will become your guide. When you feel anxious, you can pause, ask yourself to pay attention to your thoughts, and mindfully be in the present moment. That feeling of powerlessness will slowly shift towards empowering feelings of self-awareness and confidence.
“You cannot always control what goes on outside, but you can always control what goes on inside.” — Wayne Dyer