“Anxiety is not a disease. It’s a signal.” – Dr. Caroline Leaf
Your anxiety is a warning sign that your mind is trying to protect you from something you think is a threat. It’s usually something you care about but have coded as a source of fear instead of love.
It starts with obsessive thoughts. You’re thinking about the outcome. What if you look silly? What will they think of you? How will you sit in the unease? What if things don’t work out?
You get anxious around a person you like because you care about what they think. You get nervous before writing a test because you care about what a passing grade will mean. You get anxious when you purchase a new home because you want to make the best decision.
Anxiety is paralyzing. It prevents you from thinking clearly, from being your authentic self. You want to pass out—your ability to think slows down, leaving you unable to reason or respond.
Anxiety isn’t about lack of caring. It’s about being paralyzed because you care too much. Your anxiety is coded as fear because you’re trying to protect yourself from all the possible negative outcomes.
Anxiety is about managing risk in your life, except the management has gone out of control. Yes, you can plan for some circumstances based on past experiences and future trends. However, you can only live your life in the present.
The good news is that your anxiety lets you know that you’re capable. It lets you know that you care about the outcome. You’ll do what it takes to make things work if that’s what you want. Caring about something doesn’t mean you have to stay in a harmful situation.
Anxiety is a warning sign, but you have the final say. Ultimately, you get to decide what to do with your life. Unfortunately, anxiety tricks many of us into thinking we’re less than capable. As a result, we give up our deciding power.
At its core, our anxiety calls us to ask the question, What am I terrified of? And what do I care about losing? Often we’re afraid of being seen for who we are and losing control of our lives.
1. Anxiety is about the search for perfection.
There’s nothing wrong with striving to do things well or having specific standards. Yet those with anxiety don’t just want to do things well. They have a compulsion to be seen as perfect. We want people to think that we have our lives together. When our lives get out of control, we can spiral and enter a negative self-talk cycle.
2. Anxiety is trying to control things because we feel like our lives are spiralling out of control.
When you have anxiety, you feel like your life is going nowhere fast. You’re busy doing many things but feel like you don’t have a purpose. The only means of control is controlling everything else. This behavior can make you come across as a control freak. The truth is, you’re trying to hold it together because if you lose control, your whole life unravels.
Ultimately, we find peace when we accept that some things in life are out of our control. As humans, we are prone to making mistakes. We can’t be perfect in our own will.
Anxiety isn’t a disease. It’s about being paralyzed because you care too much. That means you give a damn about your life. Refuse to let anxiety take over your life. Instead, find out what it’s telling you about what you’re afraid of losing and what you care about.