Mental Health & Wellness

Reframing the Relationship With My Anxiety

When I used to think about my anxiety, I would picture a demon hag with sunken eyes, a deep black hooded cloak, and long boney fingers following me around, sounding alarm bells, and making me second-guess my every move (think Baba Yaga). We didn’t have a good relationship or a good understanding of each other; we were at odds, every day was a constant battle to ignore it or keep it at bay. The symptoms were my battle wounds; and, I would try to keep moving forward in the best ways I knew how. It was exhausting.

However, with some recent coaching and direction, I am forming a different relationship with my anxiety. I am becoming more aware of the impact of my experiences and the person I am, making sense of the way I feel. My survival instincts have been in overdrive. I am so much more complex than I allowed myself to believe. My mind and the way I operate are different. My anxiety is not such a bad guy after all; we’ve been miscommunicating. I’m learning to read my anxiety, question it, and sit with it.

Part of reframing my relationship with anxiety is celebrating how it’s served a purpose, not only acknowledging negative implications. Sure, there’s a lot I’ve missed out on and felt sick about, but there are also helpful aspects. Today I will reflect on a few ways anxiety can be positive.

  • Detecting where I am safe
  • Leaving unsafe situations
  • Signaling when to protect my energy
  • Setting boundaries
  • Thoughtfulness about my words, written and verbal
  • Increased attention to detail
  • Noticing shifting moods
  • Planning and logistics, sometimes being overly prepared
  • Showing care to other people
  • Punctuality
  • Thorough research
  • Defensive driving
  • Leadership abilities
  • Trying new things
  • Questioning everything
  • Seeking clarification
  • Striving for better communication
  • Striving for a better understanding of self

Instead of seeing these behaviors as overcompensation for my feelings of inadequacy, being misunderstood, and feeling out of place, I see them as gifts I’ve learned. If I use them discerningly, I feel much more autonomous and capable; not trapped by my mind or feeling controlled by another force. When I feel myself becoming anxious, I ask myself: What are you trying to tell me? Am I safe? Am I jumping to conclusions? What do I need?

Now instead of picturing a demon hag, my anxiety is manifested as my inner child. Trying their best to assess situations without all the information available with the goal of making sure we feel safe and comfortable. I can’t fault myself for that. Anxiety is no longer something I am trying to banish. We have an ongoing relationship that has its ups and downs like any other relationship. We tackle each gut punch, sweaty palm, racing heartbeat, and skin-crawling sensation as they come, extending compassion and nonjudgement as we figure it out.

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