If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times. Anxiety lies!
Anxiety is a lying liar who lies! I'd yell it from the rooftop if I could. Anxiety is a master manipulator and it exaggerates the truth until it is blue in the face. Anxiety has a tendency to highlight our biggest fears and weaknesses without taking into account our strengths, capabilities, or our lived experiences of continually doing hard things. Anxiety shoves reality out the window and sets up camp in our mind and body while it begins preaching doom and gloom to our soul. Anxiety will remind us of the worst case scenarios but will never mention all the times it has been dead wrong. It always skips over all the lies it told us that never came true.
While anxiety tends to be a hindrance to us currently, historically and genetically, our anxiety served an important purpose for our ancestors. It was an evolutionary adaptation (EEA) to avoid danger and harm. In potentially dangerous situations, the physical and emotional sensations of anxiety caused our ancestors to respond by fighting (escalating behavior) or fleeing (de-escalating behavior) to respond to dangerous situations.
Today our brains remain programmed to reduce harm and experience an increased sense of safety. While our brains' responses have remained relatively the same, what we now interpret as dangerous and anxiety provoking has morphed and changed with time. For individuals experiencing anxiety, the sensation related to having to make a phone call, showing up at a holiday party, braving winter roads, or having a hard conversation with a family member can produce the same physiological responses as staring down a sabertooth tiger. This is why anxiety is a tricky, tricky, lying, liar because the stimulus that causes us to experience such physical and emotional discomfort usually isn't as dangerous as our anxiety tells us it is.
For example, for someone who has anxiety, making a phone call may feel as scary as staring down a sabertooth tiger but in actuality, their lives are NOT at risk. Very rarely are people harmed in the making of a restaurant reservation, and yet it can feel terrifying to do so.
So how do we realign our minds and bodies, bring them back into reality, and challenge our bodily fear responses? Challenging and treating anxiety requires individuals to be both aware and brave. First, we need to become more aware of how our anxiety manifests itself in our lives. Consider asking yourself the following:
What are the physical signs and symptoms that tell me I'm experiencing anxiety? Where do I feel it in my body?
Example: Racing heartbeat, sweaty palms, pressure on the chest, blotchy skin on neck and chest. Right now, my anxiety feels like it is living in my stomach.
What thought patterns do you I often experience that create or increase my anxiety?
Example: "I'm not good enough", "No one will talk to me." "I always mess up", "Everyone notices my flaws", "Everyone thinking I'm weird", and "I can't do anything right", "Nothing ever works out", or "I shouldn't even try, it won't be perfect enough".
What are the people, situations, or environments that trigger me to experience anxiety?
Example: Social situations, taking a test, talking about money, asking for help, when I'm really tired when I have low blood sugar, or after a major disappointment, or when I'm feeling really incompetent and/or vulnerable.