Are you anxious?
If you are, why?
Anxiety can be an important message from your body. Sort of like the robot in the old TV series “Lost in Space” who at the slightest provocation would …
Are you anxious?
If you are, why?
Anxiety can be an important message from your body. Sort of like the robot in the old TV series “Lost in Space” who at the slightest provocation would flail its robotic arms wildly and scream time and again, “Danger! Danger! Danger! Danger, Will Robinson,” anxiety is our body’s reaction to real or perceived danger.
Because anxiety often is a warning sign that something is wrong, we can easily be threatened when this feeling arises. But a word of caution is in order. Like the robot in “Lost in Space” who was often anxious when no real threat was present, anxiety does not necessarily mean that something is truly wrong, only that our body believes that something is wrong.
For this reason, anxiety requires interpretation. Like many messages from our bodies, the true reason for our anxiety may be obscured. As important as it is to recognize that our body is sending off an alarm of “Danger! Danger! Danger!” it is even more important to understand why the alarm is being triggered.
What is the danger?
Is this danger past, present, or future?
Is the danger real or imagined?
Should we heed this anxiety or should we try to ignore it?
Are we feeling anxious because there is a legitimate threat, because we are charting new territory, or because we are seriously considering doing something stupid?
Honestly answering all of these questions is very important to our overall well-being as anxiety drives all of our other emotions. Therefore, when our anxiety is high, our other emotions tend to be high. This means that as anxiety heightens, we may find it increasingly difficult to make rational, thoughtful, and constructive decisions.
So when we become anxious and hear the inner voice screaming, “Danger, Danger, Danger!” how do we know if this is a legitimate warning to stop what we are doing or to venture forth into uncharted territory where we actually need to go?
I have learned through experience to heed and pay attention to anxiety and view it as a “STOP sign.” Coming to a full stop, I have time to think and consider why I am anxious before I proceed. This means that I recognize that my body is warning me of potential danger and that I need to think twice.
If I proceed, will this be in my best interest and in the best interest of the people I love?
If I proceed, is what I am about to do really stupid and will it only serve ultimately to hurt myself and the people I love?
If I proceed, is there a reasonably good chance that my anxiety will lessen as I explore new territory that will enhance my life and also the lives of the people I love?
After careful consideration as to why I am feeling anxious, I am better equipped to make the best decision before I proceed.
Hearing the inner voice scream, “Danger! Danger! Danger!” I might just stay put for awhile.
Or, I might just turn around and go back to a more familiar place. I might decide that the anxiety is only because of my unfamiliarity and going ahead is a reasonable chance that I need to take.
Whatever decision I make, I know that anxiety can help me make the best decision before I proceed.
Rob Coombs is a professor with a doctor of ministry degree and a doctor of philosophy with an emphasis in Family Systems.
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