Do you experience anxiety? I can relate. I have had several periods of anxiety in my life and I have made an intention to understand the underlying causes of anxiety so that when it does arise, I may move through it quickly and naturally, and help others to do the same.
First, anxiety is always about desires and fears. It usually comes from the experience that what we desire, we also fear. We may fear that we won’t get what we desire, we may fear that we will get what we desire (and that it won’t actually be what we want), or we may fear that we’ll get something that we don’t desire.
I’ll give you an example for this. I have a desire to live in a safe, warm, quiet place during the winter. I desire to feel grounded and able to do my work from this place. I fear that I won’t be able to create this for myself every winter, and so I feel anxious.
Second, anxiety is always about the past or the future. It’s never about the present moment. Notice my example above - it’s about future winters. Although I am living in a safe, warm, grounded place this winter, I still feel anxiety about future winters. Anxiety is bringing the future or the past (neither of which actually exist!) into the present.
Third, anxiety is caused by an imbalance between our feelings and our emotions.
What’s the difference between feelings and emotions?
Feelings are a subjective interpretation of a combination of sensations that we experience in the moment. For example, the sensations I experience in this moment are warmth, relaxation and stillness…. therefore I feel calm.
Emotions are energy organizing our experiences through time. Thoughts, beliefs and stories about the past and future all contribute to our emotions. In my above example, I have a complexity of thoughts and stories about my fate for future winters that all contribute to an emotional experience of worry and fear.
If we are living more in our emotions than in our feelings, we are likely to be anxious.
So now that you hopefully have a deeper understanding of what anxiety is, how can you address it?
Option 1: Understand the underlying desires and fears contributing to your anxiety. If possible, take action to address them. I’m creating a list of winter options for myself so that I can see how many possibilities there are. I’m also reaching out to loved ones for support.
Option 2: Have a mindfulness practice, bringing your awareness more often into the present moment. This can be tough when anxiety is really alive in your system, but it works well as a preventive practice - you will notice the effects of it over time. One example of a mindfulness practice you may enjoy is mindfulness meditation, in which you watch your thoughts from the perspective of the Observer or Witness within you.
Option 3: Bring yourself into the sensations in your body, spending more time in feeling, in the present moment. This can be done in a variety of ways. My favorite tools to address this are:
Breath work (deep belly breathing and alternate nostril breathing are my favorites)
Shaking and sounding (stand or lie down and literally shake your body as you sound to release the anxiety)
Get into a state of flow. What experiences can you create in your life that will drop you fully into the present moment? Commit to engaging in these experiences more frequently. I get into flow by barefoot rock hopping up creeks. Rock hopping requires a deep level of focus so my mind really has to be present in order to keep my body safe. Also, in nature all my senses are engaged - my eyes take in the beauty of the environment, I smell the trees and the flowers, I hear birds, and I feel the earth beneath my feet.
In my experience, working with all three of the above options is most effective.
Also, it should be noted that stimulants such as caffeine, sugar, and even excessive screen time may contribute to anxiety, so you may consider minimizing these if you experience anxiety.
I hope this was helpful for you, and please feel free to reach out if you have any questions!