I always thought that anxiety (the daily kind not the diagnosed kind) was reflected in feelings of not being able to perform everyday actions. I associated anxiety with analysis-paralysis, the idea that you're so anxious that you can't bring yourself to do anything. Then I started to notice, than most people around me had some level of anxiety - with no idea.
Listening to an insightful podcast episode, Unlocking us by my favourite Brene Brown, articulated my thoughts into a science. The idea that many people have a form of over-functioning anxiety. An anxious over-functioner feels the need to jump in and control a situation when there may be nothing that needs control. This happens when emotion, usually triggered by a form of stress, takes over logic and the anxious over-functioner feels that if he/she solves a problem immediately, they'll be back in control and the problem will go away.
This is the opposite reaction to an anxious under-functioner. An anxious under-functioner goes into the well-known state of analysis-paralysis. They''ll analyze the situation to pieces, each thought making them more anxious until they're so worked up about it that they're actually drained of all energy and unmotivated to do anything.
Neither, of course, are productive. But both reactions are our innate human instinct of survival. When anxiety takes over, for both the over-functioner and under-functioner, our brain is telling our body that there is a threat and we need to either fight or take flight.
This is where breathing comes in. Since, more often than not, there's no threat and a few slow, deep breaths will bring our brains back to a rational thought process where it realizes that it's not in danger. Once we do this, we're giving our brains enough space to allow for rational thought to take over. This slowing down allows us to think through the 'threat' in front of us and tackle it logically, one step at a time. So no matter what side of the coin you're on, you're not alone and it's totally natural. Try taking a step back in those moments and breathe. The jumbled thoughts in your mind will start to come together orderly and seamlessly - allowing calm to takeover. You got this.
Get the latest straight to your inbox