Let anxiety guide you.
Anxiety is a signpost.
It’s showing you, in excruciatingly painful clarity, that you’ve got to go in a different direction in order to align with your Truth.
Aligning with Truth is the only way you will ever embody the version of yourself —and life— that you really want.
But until you learn how to understand the language of anxiety, it limits your ability be where you want to be.
Before you learn how to let anxiety guide you, it feels restrictive, overwhelming and exhausting.
Your mind is breathless, rushing around from thought to thought like a waiter at an understaffed restaurant.
Meanwhile your body physically hurts.
All you want to do is to run away, to change yourself or your circumstances so you can feel better.
But no matter how much you try to sort through it, no matter how much you do to try to “improve yourself”, and no matter how much your circumstances change, you can’t figure out how to escape anxiety’s grip.
And this is because there is no way to escape anxiety.
The only way to change the way you feel is to embrace anxiety as your friend and listen to what it’s trying to tell you.
And in order to hear what anxiety is trying to tell you, you’ve got to tune into the Truth of what’s happening in your body.
Because despite what your mind will have you believe, anxiety is a process that happens in your body.
And the more you try to rely on your mental reasoning to get you out of anxiety, the more you avoid the Truth and keep yourself stuck feeling anxious.
Anxiety arises as a response to stress.
And stress is a physiological phenomenon.
When you are stressed, your heart rate goes up.
Your breath becomes quick and shallow.
The blood rushes out of your organs and into your muscles, and your muscles become tense.
This tension is the opposite of the open, expansive, or even excited feeling you often have when you’re aligned with the Truth.
When your mind notices the presence of physiological stress, it scrambles to find a way to get you out of whatever situation is causing you to feel that way.
But the problem is, unless you’re in immediate danger, the solution can’t be found by the mind.
Because stress isn’t just activated when a bus is barreling in your direction, or you spill scorching hot coffee on your arm.
In these cases you don’t feel anxious, you just do what you need to do to get out of there!
You only feel anxious when you feel stressed and the threat isn’t immediate or obvious.
Stress can happen, for example, when you don’t get enough sleep, don’t exercise, or don’t eat the right combination of nutrients.
In this case anxiety is trying to push you to honor the Truth of what your body needs.
(Click here if you’d like to learn more about improving sleep and overcoming insomnia to calm anxiety, and click here if you’d like to learn how to use food to improve your mental health, and click here to learn about the power of routine and healthy habits in taming anxiety.)
Another way stress arises is when you focus more on the past and future than the present moment.
But the past and the future aren’t real.
They are literally figments of the imagination.
And if you feel anxious, there’s a high likelihood that it’s because your body is asking you to get out of your head and feel into the Truth of the present moment instead.
Anxiety is showing you that it’s futile to wish things had been different.
The past is gone, and the only thing you can change about it is your current perspective.
You can’t predict the future from here.
You don’t have that information from your current vantage point, so ruminating over it will only add to your stress load and make you feel more anxious.
You’ll know more about the future when you’re there.
What you do have is the information you need to deal with life right now, as you’re living it.
And maybe, deep down inside of yourself, you know that there is something you need to change.
But maybe you’re afraid of the unknown, the inconvenience of change, or what other people might think or feel in response.
In this case, anxiety is trying to get you to acknowledge the Truth that your current circumstances aren’t serving you.
And you will continue to feel anxious so long as you keep blocking the Truth.
This happened to me when I was in my early 20’s and joined a graduate school program that wasn’t right for me.
It had been my plan all through college to eventually be an art therapist.
I sat through dozens of impersonal, big-hall lectures throughout college in order to complete my major in psychology, and I doubled up in art and ALANA (Asian Latin African Native American) studies as minors so I’d be prepared for grad school.
After college I applied to art therapy programs, I got in, and everything was going according to plan.
Except that on orientation day something inside of me said, “This is not it.”
I couldn’t put my finger on it at the time, but art therapy wasn’t holistic enough.
I wanted to help people identify the imbalances in their diet and lifestyle that were contributing to their mental health issues, and talking or drawing about what was bugging them just didn’t cut it.
So I called my mom up crying, feeling desperate.
She told me I could quit if I wanted to, but quitting sounded too scary, so I dragged myself through a semester of the program.
I was miserable.
I cried every day.
I was scared of the truth and saw no way out.
Until finally, I saw an overflowing trash can on a subway platform and realized that it reflected perfectly how I felt, and I decided I didn’t want to feel that way anymore.
So I quit, and I’ve never felt more free in my whole life.
It was glorious.
And from that point forward I knew how powerful my intuition was, and it guided me to the holistic mental health work I have the immense privilege to do today.
But my gut wasn’t always the clear guide I wanted it to be.
It is now, but first I had to learn how to release the trauma that was stored in my nervous system so I could differentiate between anxiety and intuition.
Because anxiety also happens when you’re reminded of stressful situations from the past that the body hasn’t yet had the opportunity to process out.
In some cases these are obvious, big “T” Traumas.
But very often, it’s the smaller situations that you thought “shouldn’t” be such a big emotional deal that end up causing trouble down the line.
These seemingly small, stressful situations result in anxiety because by judging them to be unworthy of an emotional response you are denying the Truth.
The Truth is that you were impacted, but you’re not letting your emotions flow.
And you feel anxious because you’re focusing all of your attention on the stories your mind is making up to distract you from the Truth of the physical sensations in your body.
Emotions are energy that wants to move through your body.
Emotions need to be felt, and they need to expressed.
They are called feelings for a reason.
And the body literally needs to be allowed to press them out physically, often through sobbing, sometimes shaking, or moaning, or yelling, or twisting, or really any physical reaction you can imagine.
The thing is, you’ve been taught to be ashamed of these reactions, to hide them away and to avoid them as much as possible.
So you block the flow.
You deny the Truth of your emotional experience.
Yet denial doesn’t make the emotions don’t go away, it just makes you more anxious.
Because every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
And when you block the flow of your emotions, you increase the pressure of stress in your body.
Meanwhile, flow is exactly what your body is asking you to do when you feel anxious.
It is asking you to stop thinking so much and start feeling.
When you finally feel safe enough to feel what you’re feeling, to follow your body’s lead and let it express whatever it wants to express, you set yourself free.
And it’s only then that you can see the Truth clearly.
This is what I teach participants to do in my online course, Healing Through Anxiety.
Don’t try to escape anxiety. Resistance is futile.
Instead, let your anxiety guide you.
It’s here because it’s trying to help you find your Truth.
The more you try to escape anxiety and deny the Truth, the worse it gets.
So the only real option is to lean in, let go of thought, and let yourself feel what you really feel.