Welcome to Episode #89: You Might Be Experiencing Anxiety If. Today, I'll cover the habits that grow from the emotional state of anxiety and outline the tricky ways that anxiety might be showing up for you. Enjoy.
Welcome to Habits On Purpose, a podcast for high-achieving women who want to create lifelong habits that give more than they take. You'll get practical strategies for mindset shifts that will help you finally understand the root causes of why you think, feel, and act as you do. And now, here's your host, Physician, and Master Certified Life Coach, Kristi Angevine.
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Here's my disclaimer for this episode. This episode is not meant as a diagnostic tool. If you have anxiety, obsessive compulsive tendencies, panic, suicidal ideation, if you have anything that is disrupting your ability to do normal daily activities, to get through your life, to get out of bed, to go to work, to function, this episode is not a substitute for diagnosis or therapy.
All right, let's talk anxiety. Growing up, I did not identify as somebody who experienced anxiety or somebody who ever felt anxious. I had friends who identified as having anxiety, and the way they describe their experience sounded so far from my daily life, it was so foreign to me, that I essentially decided, now that I look back, that anxiety was something that I just didn't experience.
I think because I saw examples of anxiety that just didn't seem familiar to me, I presumed that I didn't experience it. But looking back now, it is oh, so funny, it is so ironic that I didn't see it, given that so much of my formative years were very much shaped by and steeped in so much anxiety. But I was just blind to it. I had no idea that what I was experiencing could fall under the label of anxiety.
It's very parallel to my experience of not thinking that I had perfectionistic tendencies, and then realizing that I was kind of a poster child for all the telltale signs of perfectionism. I'm not alone in not realizing that what I was experiencing could be named anxiety.
As I've coached more and more people, I've heard the same thing over and over. People say, “I didn't realize this feeling was anxiety. I thought of anxious people as X, Y and Z, and since I'm not that, I'm not anxious.” So, why is it that time and time again, people who are actually experiencing the emotional state of anxiety, don't identify it as anxiety?
This episode is dedicated to explaining this, and elaborating on the commonly known and the less commonly known manifestations of anxiety. So that, if this is you, you can start recognizing it for what it is. If this is not you, you can also start recognizing it for what it is in your loved ones.
If you listen to this episode and you think, “Oh my goodness, these features that she's describing, that's totally me. I have anxiety.” Please don't fret. Anxiety is a normal human emotion. It's a normal human response. It is not a sign of a defect. And, it's not something that defines you.
When a part of you experiences anxiety, it doesn't mean that you're an anxious person. It's not a sign of some major problem to fix. If, as you listen, you recognize that you have felt anxious, but didn't realize that that's what it was, you've now just got some extra data. Extra data enhances self-awareness, and self-awareness is the path to being intentional.
I'm organizing this episode into discussing the feelings that we have that can indicate anxiety, or the feelings that are essentially different variants of anxiety. Then I'm going to move on to covering the actions and habits that arise from anxiety.
To be anxious, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is to experience worry, unease, or nervousness. Typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. Merriam Webster says that anxiousness is characterized by extreme uneasiness of mind, or brooding fear about some contingency.
Meanwhile, anxiety is defined as an abnormal, an overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear, often marked by physical signs such as tension, sweating, increased pulse rate, by doubt concerning the reality and nature of threat, and by self-doubt about one's capacity to cope with it.
So, as you can hear anxiety sounds very heavy. When you have adjectives like extreme and overwhelming, you can see how, if you just have a sense of apprehension, but not an overwhelming sense of apprehension, you might think, “Well, this isn't anxiety, because it's not extreme. It's not overwhelming. It's not all consuming.”
Now, when we look to the psychological literature, the most classic features of anxiety are worry and worried thoughts. When you think about anxiety, you think of intrusive concerns, apprehensive expectations, and feeling restless and keyed up and on edge.
Many times, when we think of anxiety, we imagine this extreme caricature of anxiety. We picture of someone who's really nervous, they're jittery, they're panicky, they're overly caffeinated, they're full of phobias, maybe they're paralyzed by self-consciousness, and maybe they avoid things because of their anxiety.
Now, while these aren't untrue things, sometimes the profound or extreme nature of these descriptions makes it easy to miss ordinary, everyday anxiety. Because in reality, anxiety comes in many outfits. Here are some of the emotions that can indicate that anxiety is actually present.
Listen, and think, if you have any of these, if they might actually be anxiety: Stress, tension, feeling concerned, feeling worried, feeling uncertain, feeling scarce or scared, feeling fearful, feeling angst, feeling very tightly, wound, feeling bothered, irritable, frustrated, overwhelmed, feeling guilt, uneasiness, trepidation, and apprehension.
Any of these emotional states can actually simply be a synonym for anxiety. Now, there are behaviors that commonly stem from anxiety as well. Sometimes noticing these behaviors are easier than actually discerning or naming the feelings. So, listen in to see if you can relate, and if any of these actions seem to stem from the feeling of anxiety for you:
Having racing thoughts, difficulty concentrating, feeling like you can't think straight, having difficulty thinking about anything other than the one thing that you're worried about. Conversely, having your mind go blank, time traveling to the future where there's a terrible situation that you can't fix, comparing yourself to others, typically unfavorably.
“Shoulding;” I should have done better. I should have done this. I should have done that. What's my problem? Ruminating and perseverating. Worrying without really knowing why you're worrying. Feeling guilty without knowing why you're feeling guilty.
Mind reading. This is where you imagine you know what others are thinking, and you export your own personal thoughts onto other people, and you assume that you're right, without questioning it. Micro analysis of other people's body language, tone of voice, and using what you see as evidence that there's something really wrong with you. Rapid thoughts without noticing them as rapid.
Jumping to conclusions without thinking that you're actually making a leap. Worrying, fretting, hemming, and hawing without making a decision. Taking things really personally. Feeling compelled to control everything. Overthinking, over analyzing, second guessing, asking others for their opinion, over intellectualizing.
Having a fear of being judged by others, having a really pronounced concern about fitting in, having a concern about others noticing your anxiety, others noticing your concern about fitting in, or perhaps just being standoffish socially, because you feel like the odd one out. You feel like the one who doesn't fit in.
Now, this is not a comprehensive list by any means. But if any of these behaviors ring true to you, just consider if perhaps anxiety might be fueling them. When you have any of these behaviors as your default, as your habit, that just means that you have habituated actions that come from a default of anxiety.
So, what this might sound like is, you might have anxiety as the root emotion for habit of overthinking, second guessing, and feeling guilty without knowing why. Or it might be that anxiety drives you to fixate on other people's comments, their tone of voice, to take things really personally, and then to hem and haw over making decisions because you fear making the wrong one and being judged.
Think for a minute, might anxiety be a part of your experience of life? Now, if this is new information, please keep in mind, when you first learn that you may be experiencing anxiety it is very easy to get anxious about your anxiety. The reason for this is there are many societal messages and negative connotations about anxiety. There's essentially a stigma to anxiety, and it sounds like this:
Anxiety means that you're neurotic. It's something that only quirky introverts have. Anxiety is weakness. Anxiety means you're unstable, it means you're labile. Anxiety is something that you should just snap out of. It's a sign of a lack of self-discipline, and frankly, it's something to be ashamed of. People with anxiety, they're definitely not good employees. They're not good coworkers, and they're not reliable.
Let me reassure you that to feel the emotion of anxiety is a common and normal part of human emotional experience. It's not weakness, it's not a sign of instability. It is not any of these things that we stigmatize anxiety to be. What anxiety is, is an emotional state that comes from how we think, and from what we believe about the world and ourselves. It's an emotional state that shapes the thoughts that we think.
It's like a loop. It's an emotional state that drives specific behaviors. That's all, anxiety is neutral. Like I mentioned in Episode 88, the best thing that you can do, if you notice some of these emotions or actions ring familiar to you, is to simply notice them. Pay them attention on purpose, and then name them.
It sounds like, “I noticed I'm worried about and I'm speculating about what other people think of me. Hello, anxiety. I noticed I'm perseverating on what I said in the meeting. Uh, I'm feeling anxious. I noticed my mind is a mix of blank and then racing, and I'm super irritable. Oh, this could be anxiety, good to know.”
Noticing and naming the emotion and the behavior is the way that you bring awareness to it. Once you have awareness, then you can start getting curious. “Hmm, I wonder why I'm second guessing? I wonder why I'm speculating on what they think of me? I wonder how come I'm perseverating about what I said in the meeting? I wonder why I'm so irritable? I wonder how come I'm anxious?”
This combination of naming, noticing, and then getting really curious, is how you pave the way to more self-understanding, and how you pave the way to be more intentional with your habits.
I hope this is helpful to you. I hope you enjoyed it. If you did, and you have any questions, feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Have a great week and I'll talk to you next time.
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Thanks for listening to Habits On Purpose. If you want more information on Kristi Angevine or the resources from the podcast, visit HabitsOnPurpose.com. Tune in next week for another episode.