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Anxiety is not your identity

Blue waves in thin lines and a burnt out lightbulb against a dark background, symbolizing anxiety

Hello anxiety, old friend of mine. Wonderful to see you again.

There’s no time like the holiday season to reframe anxiety and define it for what it really is. We’re all feeling more of it, from the pressure of year-end deadlines to the frenzied schedule of gatherings, concerts and unexpected weather events. Anxiety surges, and it’s easy to feel powerless in its wake.

Collectively, we’re giving anxiety more credit than it deserves.

Here are things I was told about anxiety by various well-meaning mental health practitioners over the past several years:

  • “You might be a naturally-anxious person, so you need to pare back your life choices accordingly.”

    • Okay, but how do I make a living?

  • “Anxiety is totally curable with the right combination of medications.”

    • The meds never worked for me. They elevated my threat levels to new heights, so I abandoned them. I know meds work well for a lot of people. But they don’t work for everyone.

  • “Your anxiety is a huge asset. It’s the drive behind all your greatest accomplishments and successes.”

    • If anxiety is this much of an asset, why does it drive my major breakdowns too?

Here’s the truth: Anxiety is none of these things. It isn’t an identity. It isn’t a disease to be cured. And it most definitely is not a healthy way to motivate success.

So what is it?

Anxiety is an output of your nervous system. Similar to pain, hunger and exhaustion, anxiety serves as a communication tool between your nervous system and your mind to drive you to take action.

That’s it. Anxiety is just a warning sign that you need to make a change, leave a situation, back off the intensity of your efforts or remember to exhale.

Think of it this way:

  • When you touch something very hot, your nervous system sends you pain signals to pull back.

  • When you feel hunger in your belly, you know your nervous system is saying it needs fuel.

  • When you feel exhausted, you can bet your nervous system is screaming for rest and relaxation.

  • So when you feel anxiety, ask yourself: What is my nervous system trying to tell me right now? Then, take the necessary action(s).

With practice, you can build a conversation with your nervous system through your anxiety. You can befriend it by asking what it needs from you, by noticing it when it shows up. And in time, it will let go of the power it has over you because you’ve finally learned to listen.

That’s how to live anxiety-free.


Interested in finding out more about how to converse with your anxiety? Book a FREE DISCOVERY CALL to get a taste for how nervous system training can transform your life.

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