Anxiety: what is it and how does it affect us?

If someone were to ask us ‘do you have anxiety’ would we automatically say ‘no’? Does anxiety need a diagnosis from a professional or has it become so normal that we don’t recognise what anxiety looks, sounds and feels like anymore? Is anxiety so ‘normal’ that we wouldn’t even go to a professional to get it diagnosed in the first place?

What are we talking about here? What does anxiety feel like?

We could describe the anxiety that people pay attention to, the very real panic attack, where your heart feels like it is being crushed, with no ability to take a breath because your lungs feel they are compressed and there is just no space for more air. It is terrifying.

We could step back and consider if there were warning signs before we got to the point where we are having a very real panic attack.

In our day to day, we can feel a sense of being ill-at-ease. We are off-centre, physically it can feel like a constant tightness or as an internal vibration. How often is there an outplay of this in a shaking or twitching leg muscle? It is like a ‘push-me-pull-you’ from a nervous system that never truly switches off – even when we are sleeping.

The outplay of our particular response that is dealing with the anxiety is a constant sense of fight or flight in the body. Because we have so much distraction in life, we can ignore what is going on to a large degree. We don’t ask why we feel the way we do, rather we keep the whole thing going and take it as normal. We do not see the level of anxiety we have made normal for ourselves and therefore, cannot recognise what it feels like to not be in fight or flight.

By the time we take our body to the doctor, could it be that we don’t know what is truly ‘normal’ anymore?

Anxiety is very individual and yet, there is a commonality to it. The commonality has meant we have a plethora of distractions to ignore our bodies’ very clear communication. Rather than feel what is going on for us, we watch TV, we shop, we tend to our children, we go online, we go on social media, game, we drink soft drinks with huge amounts of sugar, caffeine, alcohol, we set up a whole industry around eating.

It is exhausting, so we try to counter that exhaustion with what we ‘think’ may alleviate the tension. Yet does it actually work? Has it alleviated the exhaustion or just made our heart go faster and exacerbated the anxiety?

It is pernicious.

How about we get honest about what is going on in our body and the impact this has on it. Do we want to go there? If we do… let’s consider a moment of pause and give ourselves space to feel what is actually going on in our bodies and how it is impacting our lives.


Further reading

Our internal bully

We don’t live in isolation

Falling in love with appreciation

How a spec on the wall becomes a super-giant monster


Sleep is your super power

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