Everyone experiences anxiety at some point in their life, and some experience it much more often than others. Though we’re often aware what makes us angry, happy, irritable, or excited, it takes more work to look beneath these emotions to discover what creates – and maintains – that feeling. Anxiety is one of the core emotions that is directly related to the days of our evolutionary ancestors when humans survived based on their instinct to fight or flee. A person’s response time combined with their physical and mental abilities often meant the difference between life and death. So it stands to reason that those of our ancestors that survived (and passed on that agile chemistry) were either a) good at anticipating likely threats, b) strong, c) smart, d) really, really fast or, e) some combination of the above. It also meant that they responded immediately to their internal emotional system which prompted the need to react in the first place. Anxiety, then, was key to connecting anticipation with a response. More anxiety meant more awareness, faster thinking and quicker (or smarter) response. Anxiety itself is not a bad thing and has many adaptive components.
Fast forward to now, and far less of our day-to-day choices directly result in our survival. The decision whether to download that app, make it to the gym, or respond immediately to that email will likely not result in your demise (fingers crossed). And yet we strangely have this inclination to respond to many of our activities as if there is an immediate outcome that we either need to pursue (aka fight) or avoid at all costs (aka flight). And our internal system tells us that anticipating these outcomes will be best for our survival – hence the anxiety.
In fact, many of those secondary emotions we feel (angry, happy, irritable, or excited) depend an awful lot on the underlying level of anxiety we experience beneath that emotion. For example, we might get angry at our young child because we lost sight of them in a store, but beneath that anger is the fear – anxiety – that something could happen to them. We get irritable when we run out of time to get a task done, yet beneath that irritability we hold the anxiety that somehow we either won’t accomplish our task or that we will be perceived by others (or ourselves) as “less than” for being unsuccessful. Think about this with other emotions you feel. When do you feel them? What’s the underlying prompt, and how is that then connected to your emotional reactions? The pattern is there if you can find it.
So where is YOUR anxiety? Not unlike the Princess finding that pea wedged many mattresses below, it is not until we find the underlying issue that we can do something about it. Finding and removing the pea returns our restful night sleep – as does finding and dealing with our underlying anxiety. There are many ways to manage anxiety, enough that it would take another whole blog post. However, a few potential options to consider: self-discovery, mindfulness, & meditation.
Still struggling to uncover or address your anxiety? Let’s find it – and find a way to help you relax again.