Anxiety can be thought of as a misallocation of attention. Our brains have certain nine net of positive and negative thoughts bouncing around in them all the time, and anxiety ensures that our attention stays focused only on the most unpleasant and distressing ones.
It feels like your brain is still doing its job and representing reality to you accurately, but the machinery has actually gone seriously wrong.
So how do we get it back on track? Well, though our feelings might be telling us one thing, our rational minds are still working normally, and can still offer us a more balanced point of view if we can find a way to let them. That’s the topic of this piece by Sharon Salzburg about keeping anxiety in perspective:
The fact that anxiety grips the body in the same way as fear gives anxiety more credibility than it deserves. When your body reacts this way, it believes anxiety is alerting you to a genuine threat.
And when the brain is spinning out one horrifying outcome after another, it does not have enough space to clearly perceive the world around us as it is, and make careful, appropriate choices to protect ourselves and others.
So, first step: start by taking a breath or two to ground yourself so that you can determine if the threat you feel is real or a conjecture from circumstances. Is this a real threat? Or is my mind making it up, or perhaps exaggerating what’s actually there? Don’t try to forcefully calm yourself down — that’s too much. Just try to determine if this is a real fear, or an anxious conjecture.