Fear, worry, anxiety - sometimes it feels like these are getting the upper hand. Though we often confuse these words and interchange one for the other, it’s important to make a distinction, because ...this simple awareness is actually a way through.
Why? When you are aware, when you can discern what it is that is interrupting your natural flow, "Am I in fear - what's causing it? Am I just worrying about a problem that can be taken care of? Has this escalated into anxiety, and what can I do?" then you can make a choice of the best way to proceed. Dr. Dan Siegel says it beautifully – “Name It To Tame It.”
Today we’ll detail these 3 states, give you ways to deal and do a fun exercise to discover yourself in a deeper way. Let’s jump in:
Fear is a visceral reaction to an acute sense of danger. You hear a sudden startling noise – is it an explosion, gunfire, a scream? It feels close, and your senses are on high alert. Your amygdala, the part of the brain that deals with fight, flight or freeze kicks in and you are poised. Fear is your innate capacity to react more quickly so we can escape dangerous threats.
Fear makes you tuned in, alert and aware. That’s a good thing – as it wakes you up to be fully present so you can deal with a situation. Have you ever had an intuition that something wasn’t right? Whether it was a sense of foreboding in an empty parking lot, or a gut feeling when someone said something that just made you uncomfortable, that was advice from you to you to pay attention.
Worry has to do with a problem that bothers you mentally – It’s defined as “allow one's mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles.” You are worried when you ponder a mental problem – I’m worried that I’ll mess up my presentation, I’m going to be late for the plane. It’s specific, and you can take specific action... I’ll practice more for my presentation, I’ll leave 15 minutes earlier for the plane. Has worry ever got you to be better prepared for something important?
Anxiety, on the other hand, is more vague. It’s more like "I get paralyzed when I have to speak, I’m uncomfortable on planes, I don’t like to travel." It’s harder to pin down, and not within your control. You can feel it in your body – tensing up, or in your rapid heartbeat. Anxiety is giving you a message that something is off - it could be in your relationships, your work/life balance or how you are treating yourself – consider this a wakeup call to make a shift. Has anxiety has ever caused you to question a situation and look for a better way?
What to do:
Here is a fun JOURNAL CHALLENGE from my book Emotional Advantage – Embracing All Your Feelings to Create a Life You Love. One way to get to know yourself better is to discover where you are at, so… Take out your journal and we’ll play a little game. I’m going to give you 2 sides of what we generally call fears. Depending on what’s going on, you may find yourself at one side one day, and at the opposite side the next, or somewhere in the middle. In fact, this can be like a roller coaster ride. But check in with where you are right now. In this exercise, you may be surprised at what you discover.
So what’s up for you more at this very moment? Which end of the arrows are you closer to?
All these distinctions can help you get to know yourself better, so you can understand not only what is happening, but also the triggers that set you off and the go-to strategies to move forward.
Your emotions do not have to take you off course. You can use them to inform your life and make the most of your beautiful spark, and all that makes you such a gift to this world.
Q: What insight stands out for you, and what is one way you can bring it onto your life?
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