Those of us who live with anxiety tend to have a certain way of thinking about anxiety. More often than not, this way of thinking tends to be slightly on the flawed side.
Don’t worry though – because this just means that you’ve got some good news coming to you! That is: once you come to know the truth about anxiety, you’ll begin thinking about fear a whole lot differently (and in a much healthier way!).
So get ready to open your mind, expand your way of thinking, and quite possibly change your life – because in this post, I’m going to be telling you THREE THINGS that will completely and totally change the way you think about anxiety and fear.
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Life-changing realization #1 – Anxiety is meant to protect us
First things first – anxiety is completely natural. In fact, in its purest form, anxiety is actually a good thing.
Why? Because it’s built to protect us. Let’s think about early human history for a minute – are you picturing that caveman yet? Good!
We humans have survived in the wild for millions of years. During this time, we encountered many life-threatening situations (lions and tigers and bears and the like).
In order to survive these life-threatening situations, we had to develop a defence mechanism that would give us an immediate physical response in the face of danger.
And we did.
We developed a response that increased our adrenaline, increased our blood pressure, and increased our heart rate when confronted with a threat. Does this sound familiar to you? That’s because these are all trademark symptoms of anxiety.
And it was thanks to this anxiety that our ancestors were able to survive back in the day.
Right away, her anxiety response is triggered. Her adrenaline starts pumping, her blood pressure ramps up, and her heart feels like it’s beating out of her chest.
Within milliseconds, her whole body kicks into the knowledge that she must make a decision – either fight the bear, or run away (this is why anxiety is also called the “fight or flight” response).
After she makes and carries out her decision (let’s say she chooses to run away), the physical symptoms will disappear, she’ll feel a huge sense of release, and she’ll go back to her normal business.
Back when we were actually confronted with highly dangerous situations on the regular, anxiety was a hugely helpful thing.
The problem arises, however, when we mistake completely harmless things as life-threatening. This brings me to the second life-changing realization.
Life-changing realization #2 – PERCEIVED threats are not REAL threats
In the modern world we live in, we don’t often find ourselves face-to-face with lions and tigers and bears much anymore. There are of course still highly dangerous situations in life, but the point is: they’re not nearly as common as they used to be.
So why is our anxiety response still so often triggered? Well, it all comes down to what we perceive as threatening.
The problem with modern-day anxiety is that we’re now perceiving normal, not-so-dangerous situations in life as completely life threatening.
Why? Because our brain isn’t looking at the actual situation as a threat, it’s looking at the negative thought patterns we have surrounding those situations as threats.
You were raised by parents who only gave you praise when you did something outstanding. Later in life, you feel anxious at school, at your job, and in many areas of your life.
In this case, the negative thought pattern your brain has developed is: “I am only worthy of love if I am excelling at something”.
Therefore, the perceived threat that causes you anxiety is: not being great at everything you do.
But here’s the thing: not being great at everything you do ISN’T A REAL THREAT. Your mind is just tricking you into believing that it is – it’s tricking you into believing that something terrible will happen if you’re not great at everything you do.
And this brings me to the third and final life-changing realization.
Related Article: 10 Habits You Have That Are Fuelling Your Anxiety
Life-changing realization #3 – The risk isn’t actually that big of a deal
Everything in life comes with some amount of risk. There’s always a chance – no matter how miniscule – of something going wrong in a given situation.
But when you’re anxious, you start irrationally believing that the risk is: (1) WAY too high and (2) going to be the WORST thing ever.
Let’s go back to the previous example:
You feel anxious at school, at your job, and in many areas of your life because you’re worried about not being great at everything you do.
In your mind, the risk is that something terrible will happen if you’re not great at everything you do.
Now first of all – you’re probably a lot better than you think, so the outcome you’re so afraid of happening probably won’t even come to pass.
But let’s say it does come to pass. What’s the worst that will happen? Sure, it may suck for a little while, but you’ll survive. You’ll learn from it and move on (and be stronger because of it!).
Related Article: 10 Minute Journaling Exercise For Overcoming Fear
Altering the way you think about risk is a total game-changer when it comes to overcoming anxiety. That’s why in my Design Your Anxiety-Free Life course, you’ll find worksheets that will help you assess the risks associated with each of your fears in order to replace the irrational ways of thinking with more rational ways.
On top fo that, I’ll also be equipping you proven cognitive behavioural techniques you can practice at home that will guide you in facing your fears so that you can start truly living your life to the fullest (the only way your life should be lived!).
Remember: it’s one thing to read about anxiety and fear – it’s a whole other thing to actually do the hands-on exercises to challenge that anxiety and fear!
Final thoughts and reminders
Anxiety has our best interest in mind
The problem is, our mind can’t tell the difference between real threats and perceived threats
We also tend to over exaggerate the risk associated with our fears
The worksheets in my Anxiety Course are designed to help you asses, challenge, and change the way you think about the things you fear!
Sagesse ("Say Jess")
Owner of Mindaya