• Sometimes the anxiety about anxiety makes us more anxious

  • Life coach Kate White explores how we can change our mindset about anxiety and embrace the present moment

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There will have been moments in all of our lives where we have needed feelings of fear or anxiety. Perhaps we were in an unsafe situation and our body helped us by responding with a chemical reaction. This chemical reaction is the 'fight or flight' response and it belongs to the realm of survival. At this level we know anxiety serves as a signal. It plays an important role in human evolution. 

However, today, humanity is suffering from a pandemic of anxiety and fear that does not serve our survival. In fact we could say it is contributing to a huge amount of disease, sickness and illness. 

Many of us wake up in the morning with a sense of contraction and fear about what the day will bring. You may have a feeling of pressure or worry sitting in your tummy or chest. Have you noticed there is nothing you do to make these sensations arise within your body? They are simply there. 

On an energetic level we can say these sensations are the movement of conditioning, habit and memory. We then label these sensations as anxiety, stress or tension. But we also deeply identify with the stories around these sensations, and this is what perpetuates the cycle of stress and anxiety. 

It is important to know that this is not your fault. 

In the past, these sensations may have helped you survive. For most of us, when a traumatic situation happened, we did not have the support to integrate and release the experience in a healthy way. So instead, any feelings and emotions were repressed and ignored. We then push on with life and in turn these sensations continue to circulate through our system. 

But this does not have to be our reality. Instead, can use anxiety to point us in the direction of healing. 

When we discover that what we are actually experiencing is a habit, we finally see there is no need for anxiety. With this new perspective, there is great relief and release. We can allow ourselves to be vulnerable, authentic, tender. When we allow ourselves to feel, then gradually the resistance begins to melt away and any old sensations can naturally and effortlessly release. 

This might sound too simple; but have you noticed that the more effort you make, or the more pressure you put on yourself to get rid of something, the worse it seems to become?

Perhaps then you are ready to try a different way. 

All it takes is a little openness to try something different. This openness is a glimmer of light. It is the beginning of healing.

I invite you to explore the following simple questions. Without putting pressure on yourself to find the right answer; the questions are intended as a gentle invitation.  

They can be used as a gateway to the peace and freedom that is available in this moment. 

1. Does this anxiety or fear serve me?

Is there anything that is a threat to your safety at this moment? Look around you now and if there is nothing that can harm you, take a deep breath. You are safe. This is the truth of this moment. There is nothing to be afraid of. It is safe to relax. It is safe to let go of control. Breathe into this sense of safety. Give yourself permission to be here now.  

2. Am I believing in a thought? 

The idea that there is something wrong is a thought that we have spent a long time believing deeply. Perhaps we are not even conscious of it. But over the years, this belief has distorted and influenced our perception of life. This belief has prevented us from seeing life as it is. 

When this belief is no longer there, you are left with the truth of life itself. This truth can also be called peace. There is nothing you need to do to get it. You do not have to get rid of beliefs or thoughts to achieve it. Rather by simply and clearly seeing without the filter of the past or the future, we begin to see the truth of life as it is in this moment. 

Can you feel how this recognition acts on your whole body? Can you feel how it immediately creates a sense of space or openness within you?

3. What is actually here right now? 

Bring your attention to what is actually here in reality, in this moment. Not an idea about the future or what is going to happen tomorrow. For just this moment we’re not looking to the past for the answer. Can you give yourself this chance? Perhaps you have spent your whole life giving to others. Can you give the gift of this moment to yourself?

When we are simply here without projecting into the future or focusing on the past, what is here? Can you feel the space that is here in your presence? Can you feel the peace and freedom that is here and available right now? This is not to dismiss the practical function of memory or the beauty of our past experiences. Rather it is to release the sense of being limited by the past. It is about directly experiencing the vital life energy and power that is available in this moment. 

4. Can I feel my connection to everything? 

In this space, notice your breath flowing naturally without any effort. Can you bring your attention to the room and to the sounds of life all around you? Can you see the sky and the trees? Do you know you belong right here in the heart of life? 

The same life force that makes the seasons change and the planet turn is also taking care of you. There is nothing to fear. You are right where you are meant to be. Every moment is new. Every moment is a chance to begin. And when it feels difficult, be gentle with yourself. 

There is no pressure to be perfect or to get it right. Even when you feel tender, tired, or vulnerable, there is space here to let yourself be, just as you are. Together we honour how you feel in this moment, not clinging to a particular emotional state or trying to change it. But simply allowing the power of our presence to be the healing balm we need. 

“Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realise that right now we are OK. Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvellously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones.” – Thich Nhat Hanh  

Kate White is a verified welldoing.org online life coach 

Further reading

7 tips to help your body recover from pandemic-related chronic stress

Performance anxiety and low self-esteem: can hypnotherapy help?

How to take control of catastrophising

Doomscrolling: is reading the news bad for mental health?

Challenging your thoughts: are they helpful?