The anxiety-shaped hole

What are you anxious about?  If it is a ball you can catch, then catch it.  If not, let it drop.  Photo by Karla Rivera on Unsplash

You are going about a normal day, when suddenly you become aware that something is wrong.  Nothing in particular is wrong in your life, but still you have the feeling that things are not right.

You set about trying to work out what it is.  You might decide it is a family issue, a work issue, a personal issue, or a relationship issue.  But, sooner or later, you will find a thing to fill your anxiety-shaped hole.

For humans, in the past, this feeling of something being wrong has been extremely useful.  If we were not so aware that things might be wrong, we would not be so good at scanning and correcting things.  In this way, a certain background alertness is a good thing, and we are lucky to have it.

Where it damages our mental health, is where the anxiety gets out of control.  We feed the anxiety-shaped hole with problem after problem, until it becomes a way of life.  When it becomes a way of life, then we become habitually anxious.  Anxiety becomes part of our routine, something we cannot do without.


Learn to separate useful alertness from useless anxiety.

Useful alertness is similar to the kind of feeling you have when you are trying to catch a ball.  You know you might drop the ball, so you focus your attention on the art of catching.  You do not feel bad, because you are too busy being focused.

Useless anxiety is different.  With this behaviour, the body moves well beyond normal alertness, and becomes disabled.  This can happen because it all feels too much (overwhelm), or because it all feels too outside our control (helplessness).  The important thing is to learn to drop the anxiety, so that we can focus on normal alertness, and catch the ball.

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Am I experiencing a general feeling that things are not right?

Where this feeling relates to something I can correct, am I able to attend to it with normal alertness?

Where it relates to general overwhelm, am I able to drop my anxiety, and relax, so that I can focus on things one at a time?

Where it relates to helplessness, am I able to drop my anxiety, and relax, so that I can focus on things I can reasonably control?