“Anxiety is the handmaiden of contemporary ambition.” ~ Alain de Botton
My last couple of posts have dealt with fear, apprehension, insecurities, etc. More than one reader privately contacted me asking for clarification and thus, a distinction between fear (which they felt they had “under control”) and anxiety (which another believed was rampant in their life). Being in service to my readership, I’ll take a stab at briefly explaining anxiety. And why would I do this, you might ask? Because I’m not clear on the difference myself!
According to authors Kaplan and Sadock, anxiety is “a diffuse, unpleasant, vague sense of apprehension…” For example, imagine you’re walking down a dark street. You may feel a little uneasy and perhaps you have a few butterflies in your stomach. These sensations are caused by anxiety that is related to the possibility that a stranger may jump out from behind a bush, or approach you in some other way, and harm you. The anxiety is not the result of a known or specific threat. Rather it comes from your mind’s vision of the possible dangers that may result in the situation.
Fear, on the other hand, is an emotional response to a known or definite threat. Using the scenario above, let’s say you’re walking down a dark street and someone points a gun at you and says, “This is a stick up.” This would likely elicit a response of fear. The danger is real, definite and immediate. There is a clear object of fear.
Although the focus of the response is different (real vs. imagined danger), fear and anxiety are interrelated. Fear causes anxiety and anxiety can cause fear. But the distinctions between the two are subtle.
Lowering anxiety is easily done by addressing the perceived threat and taking real-time action. For those who experience anxiety, anxiety can be lowered immediately by following four simple steps:
Interrupt the thoughts by breathing deeply and focusing on the sound of the breath as it is exhaled. Those who meditate and practice yoga can attest to the usefulness of this action.
- Ask a question of the mind, “what am I afraid of here and what do I believe about this or a future situation?”
- Take action, preferably a physical one such as leaving the situation (flight or fight), taking a walk, or focusing on something outside of your thoughts in the environment.
- Talk to your self in reassuring ways with positive and encouraging words about what can be controlled and how success can be attained.
Think of anxiety as a warning state; it is not what is actually happening. The four steps above respond to the warning by addressing the source. The result is lower anxiety and productive and confident action taken.
In closing, one small request: Please don’t follow-on with requests about phobias or dread. I’m ready for a change of scenery. 🙂