Have you ever felt anxious and you have no idea why? You’re not alone in that. You may have dug around trying to figure out why you feel anxious and maybe you couldn’t identify it. Here’s the thing, we don’t have to behave or define thoughts on how we feel.
Imagine if you decided whenever you felt excited you had to yell “Cock-a-doodle-doo” and think about cheesecake. That’d be pretty strange.
We do that with anxiety though. When feel something (tense, heart rate up, sweaty hands), we think something is dangerous/wrong and behave in a predictable pattern (running away, distracting, avoiding the feeling).
Instead what we can do is become comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. If you have an anxious feeling, don’t run away scared.
- Notice it non-judgmentally: “Oh, how interesting, I’m feeling anxious”.
- Name the actual sensations you’re feeling : “Huh, my fingers tingle and I’m sweating”.
- Let the anxiety exist and slowly dissipate on its own.
Remember this: just because you feel something doesn’t make it more real or true. Just because I feel like I’m going to have a get stung by a bee does not mean it is going to happen. This is called emotional reasoning and you can read more about it here.
Props if you noticed that we didn’t talk about relaxation in this section. That’s because relaxation can become a form of avoidance. To prevent avoidance of physical discomfort you have to let yourself feel physical discomfort. That isn’t to say it’s bad to engage in relaxation techniques. Check out these articles on relaxation (Relaxation Are You Doing it Wrong? and The Intentional Use of Relaxation).
The main point to drive home is we need to get you used to feeling strong physical sensations because…a feeling alone is not dangerous. Feeling something is not dangerous. As we remove the link between strong physical feelings and danger, you’ll allow yourself to think and behave in the way you choose.