What Is Anxiety?

 In Blog Posts

In these times, worry seems to permeate our lives more than ever. There’s a myriad of concerns occupying our minds. But what is anxiety?

Some level of anxiety is essential—it helps us to attend to what’s important. It’s a mechanism that helps us avoid potential dangers or discomforts.

However, we’re often not taught how to deal with anxiety, or what it is. We are also concerned about small things without addressing the main issues that are bothering us. This can mean we focus on the wrong things in life and miss out on what’s truly important to us.

For instance, when planning a social event, we might fret more about appearance or weight than the essence of the occasion itself—such as meaningful connections or enjoying the moment. This misplaced worry could lead to neglecting crucial aspects of life, like intimacy, leaving us feeling isolated.

Anxiety manifests in various forms:

  • health-related concerns,
  • phobias,
  • social anxiety, (among other forms of anxiety).


9 Things to Understand

1. At its core, it stems from fear of the unknown—a fear of being incapable of fulfilling a need or facing a challenge.

2. Worry assumes that something was or will be very wrong, and it asks “What if”?

3. When we are anxious, we might judge ourselves harshly and worry too much about what others think.

4. Physically, our bodies can feel tense, our breathing can become shallow, and our voices can become strained. It can even cause pain in the chest area.

5. Anxiety puts us on high alert, making us ready to defend ourselves, but this also stops us from dealing with the real reasons behind our worries.

6. We might also feel embarrassed for feeling vulnerable. This can prompt behaviours like overeating or excessive sleeping as a coping mechanism.

7. Worry makes us believe that we won’t be able to handle things, even though this is often not true.

8. The underlying belief driving anxiety is often the fear of being unable to cope, rather than a rational assessment of potential outcomes.

9. Worry tends to amplify perceived risks while underestimating our resilience, shaped by our belief systems.


A note on panic attacks

It’s important to notice how worry shows up in your body—like changes in breathing or feeling more tense. The physiological effects of anxiety can exacerbate the condition. As the breath gets more shallow and higher in the chest anxiety can increase, potentially leading to panic attacks, particularly if there’s a fear of experiencing one.


First Steps

To understand how anxiety affects us, we can think about how we react when we’re worried and what our usual concerns are. Here are some questions to help you explore how anxiety shows up for you.

  • How do you behave when something worries you?
  • What do you usually worry about?
  • How do you respond when you are worried?
  • What happens in your breathing and body when you are anxious?

It’s important to identify recurring concerns and any reliance on coping mechanisms like food or alcohol. When we use substances to cope, like with binge eating, the body remains in a constant state of alertness, contributing to the cycle of anxiety.


How to deal with anxiety

Recognising anxiety as a natural response is the first step to dealing with it. Even if worry feels overwhelming, the root causes can be addressed.

If you’d like to learn more about how we can work together with your worry, get in touch with me here.

You can also download my podcast about anxiety here

Shelley Treacher, a specialist in Bristol, helps you to cope with anxiety.