What to Do When You Feel Anxious

What to Do When You Feel Anxious

Oh, come on. You’re a smart human. You’re not really trying to find out what to do when you feel anxious, are you? You know what to do, right? It’s all over the internet:

Take a bath

Light a candle

Meditate

Call a friend

Walk the dog 

Write down your worries. 

Read a book 

Exercise 

Cleanse yourself with sage under the light of a full moon

Etc. 

I don’t know about you but sitting in a bath when I feel that rushing, squirming, itchy, want-to-crawl-out-of-my-skin anxious feeling sounds about as appealing as letting a new date see my browsing history.

I guess you’ve tried those things to ease a feeling of anxiety and sometimes they help..and sometimes they don’t. Feelings of anxiety keep coming back on the regular and you’re fucking sick of it, right?

I hear you. 

The thing is, anxiety sucks so much and we race to get away from it because we think it’s bad and must be fixed.

Us humans have made meaning out of the feeling we call anxiety. 

But we got the meaning wrong. Ooops. 

We think a feeling of anxiety is a warning. We think the feeling is telling us about something bad that’s going to happen. The feeling is telling us that we are going to mess up, or something is wrong with us, or our lives. 

The feeling looks to be caused by crowds, work, social settings, exams, a lack of time, persistent inadequacy and countless other ‘reasons’. 

Sometimes there isn’t even a reason. We just feel fucking awful. And then we feel worse because we don’t know the reason.  

Anxiety: the great misunderstanding

The misunderstanding around the feeling of anxiety is:

  1. Anxiety means something is wrong, and
  2. We need to fix it. 

Good news: this isn’t true! It’s completely made-up – innocently –  by the psychologists/doctors/professional people of the past (and present) who were only trying to make sense of our human experience. 

They just got it rather wrong, like the people that thought the earth was at the centre of the solar system, or that bad smells caused disease. 

But at least they tried, huh? Thanks you lot!

Your anxiety is not caused by the outside world. Your anxiety is most definitely not a ‘sign’ that there’s something wrong. 

In fact, a feeling of anxiety is proof that you are a perfectly-functioning human! Yay for you. 

Yes, seriously. The feeling of anxiety is a cue, an alert, a reminder that you’re thinking too much and to slow down. Step off the gas. 

The feeling is like the RPM gauge (I just googled this and it’s called a ‘tachometer’ – did anyone know this?) in a car. 

The feeling of anxiety is telling you that your revolutions per minute – your thoughts per minute – are too high. Ease off your thinking. 

Seeing the feeling of anxiety as a reminder to set our thinking down, to not engage with our thoughts, to not take what we are thinking about seriously, brings such relief. 

Can you imagine it being that simple? That the feeling of anxiety is ONLY telling you that your head is full of thought. 

It’s true, my friends. 

This means there’s nothing for you to solve, do, sort out, fix. 

If a situation does call for some type of response, well guess what? You’re covered. It will occur to you with a magical obviousness. You don’t need to do anything. Seriously. 

If this sounds like a load of hippy shit to you, I get it. I felt that way, too, when I was coming across this understanding of how our thoughts/feelings work. My clients are sometimes sceptical, too. 

Of course we would be suspicious! Everything we’ve learned has pointed us toward anxiety being a bad thing, indicating a problem, and it’s up to us to fix the problem and get rid of our anxiety. 

But if that were true, wouldn’t we all be feeling a lot less anxious by now, if we knew ‘how it worked’? Wouldn’t we all be feeling much more awesome? Wouldn’t there be reports of ‘human beings reach lowest anxiety levels of all time’ in the news, rather than the opposite which says 35% of us feel chronic anxiety on a regular basis??

As we AREN’T feeling awesome and as anxiety is on the rise, why not consider that what I’m sharing may be true?

That anxiety is on the up, not because of Covid-19 or work pressure or the uncertainty of the future or the fundamental pains of the human condition, but because of a misunderstanding that is keeping us stuck IN anxiety, by using our thinking to ‘solve’ it when the only cause is too much thinking in the first place?

We are innocently increasing our thought RPM by trying to fix anxiety. 

All we need to do is see it for what it is – anxiety is our reminder to step away from our thinking – and let our mind settle

What do actually do, then, when feeling anxious?

You know we don’t really like ‘things to do’ around here. I don’t know what YOU should do. That’s why so many of us are suffering so much – we are doing what other people think we should do, then wondering why it’s not ‘working’.

But if you insist on a thing to do the next time you feel anxious, here you go:

  • Recall / remind that this feeling is coming from a very full mind, and that’s all. 
  • Remind yourself that while the content of your thoughts may look really compelling, there’s nothing you need to do
  • Blindly trust, for now until you see if for yourself, that your thinking will settle if you let it
  • Do what occurs to you

Isn’t this cool?

P.S. If you are like “YEAH RIGHT, this doesn’t make sense, what kind of hippy bullcrap is this?” then give me a shout here and let’s talk some more.