Most of us experience at some point in our life, some of us experience anxiety on a daily basis. Anxiety can feel like butterflies, a pit in your stomach, like you have a highway in your mind, uncomfortable energy, and constant worries about the past and future.
Anxiety can feel like a pest, like an annoying mosquito you can’t see but keeps buzzing around your mind and body.
I was looking at old journals of mine and noticed an entry that said “I wish I wasn’t so high strung”. I experienced ongoing tension and anxiety in the early years of my adult life, all the while being very driven, motivated and taking risks in life.
For years I had thought that anxiety = the emotion of fear. However years later I learned that anxiety is an inhibitory emotion. To inhibit means to be stopped from doing something.
Anxiety is the feeling that happens when your core emotions (which could be fear but also, anger, sadness, excitement, etc) are pushed down from being experienced because they are deemed unacceptable or overwhelming. Anxiety is the feeling of friction between the pushing down and the welling up of core emotions.
Anxiety is telling us there is something underneath that wants to be seen and heard.
What are the steps to feeling what’s underneath?
Acknowledge, notice and name your anxiety, and how you feel it inside your body.
Take steps to release or calm your anxiety (deep breathing, gentle movement, grounding exercises)
Validate and befriend your anxiety, talk to yourself and your anxiety “it makes sense you are anxious, and that you want me to protect you”
If the anxiety settles, notice and acknowledge what feelings are underneath. Take time to sit with these feelings and express them. Some people think, notice their body, cry, journal, sing or make art. You may also want to talk about these feelings with a trusted friend, partner or therapist.
Sometimes anxiety can happen because you are angry about a situation and you feel trapped and don’t feel that you can express your anger. Anxiety can also occur because there is a conflict between your feelings and urges and your values or expectations of yourself.
Exploring your anxiety with a therapist can be a helpful way to understand what is underneath the surface of anxiety, and find ways to calm or release your anxiety.