When you have anxious thoughts to the point that you worry about EVERY. LITTLE. THING. — namely every little detail about HOW YOU LOOK AND ACT and how OTHER PEOPLE PERCEIVE YOU. Where do I put my hands? Where do I look? Was that too awkward looking? — you are constantly on high alert, and that’s a very stressful state to be in. And also very tiring!
It’s like you’re in a jungle and you’re sure there’s a tiger there stalking you to pounce at you any moment. You’re feeling the fear. Your body is flooding with stress hormones. You’re on full alert to get the hell out of there or to stay and fight. Well, let’s face it, to run… we know we won’t stay and fight.
And this is YOUR. EVERY. DAY. When you leave the house, your thoughts are that there is a danger there waiting to pounce on you. Your body is in a high-alert state of stress. This probably happens when you’re at home too, because you’re thinking about the things that are going to happen when you do go out. Or perhaps thinking about trying to avoid going out altogether. Being in this negative state of stress is bad for our digestion and nutrient absorption, among other things, and snowballs into health issues and illnesses.
Pema Chodron — American Buddhist nun and author — describes anxiety as a problem of resisting the unknown. I get that. To me, anxiety felt like a constant state of fear. The thoughts were running wild in my head, and they just went on and on. I didn’t know that I can stop and ask myself or ask my thoughts, So what if those people are looking at me while I cross the road? Is that really a problem? Why would they be looking at me standing here and caring about what I’m doing anyway? Am I really that special that everyone will want to look at me and consider what I’m doing?
So what is the unknown Pema Chodron speaks of? Is it, what would happen if that person looks at me and thinks I’m chubby because I didn’t suck my stomach in enough? Is it, what will happen if that person thought I looked a bit awkward just then? What exactly do we think — we don’t even know do we? IT IS the unknown. And whatever IT is, we ARE resisting it. We ARE resisting the unknown.
Anxious thoughts are fears about things that haven’t even happened yet.
Author Dr Susan Jeffers in her book, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, writes about the fear of not being able to handle it. She says: “At the bottom of everyone of your fears is simply the fear that you can’t handle whatever life may bring you.”
Put simply, you believe that you can’t handle it if that stranger rejects you, or you can’t handle it if you sometimes look awkward, or you can’t handle it if you make a mistake.
If we never check in with our thoughts to really notice what they are and what they’re telling us, how do we know what the fear is and if it’s valid? Those fears just go on and on, unchecked.
So we need to consciously stop and examine our thoughts. Ask yourself — What am I scared of? And then ask , Will I be able to handle it if that thing I am scared of actually happens? It might not be ideal but will I survive it? Will I be able to carry on? Or is it a nothing fear?
I want you to shine a light on your thoughts. Take something that you used to do automatically without any further thought, and be conscious about what is going on in your head. This will knock out so many of those unnecessary anxious thoughts that are causing your system stress.
And remind yourself constantly — Whatever happens today, I know I can handle it!