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Could your anxiety just be common sense?

After a over a decade of working with people be it in a retreat situation, 1 2 1 or group work there is a worrying trend that has emerged.

The tendency is for people to identify as their anxiety, in the same way someone may say I am a carpenter or a mechanic.

In a world where so many people feel lost, with no sense of belonging it is understandable that anything that may make them stand out can seem weirdly attractive, and yet, the thing I am noticing more and more is that, quite a large percentage of people that say they are are anxious, really are not. And, in just realising this, a shift can take place that really helps to make life better.

So, I want to look at the act of anxiety, and yes, anxiety is something we do, it is not something we are.

How can we spot the difference between anxiety and common sense (good thinking)?

Do you:

  • show concern towards events and activities?

  • feel better for preparation, making sure everything is as ready as it can be for whatever you are doing?

  • When you think of your day or week ahead do you find yourself anticipating potential problems and taking action to avoid them?

  • Do you think about what other people may think or feel?

I see quite a lot of people who come to me for help with anxiety who go on to tell me the above or a variation of them. They have been worrying about it and there doctor may have send they have anxiety.


These things are not symptoms of anxiety. They are just a bit of common sense.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting things to go right. And being prepared is an extremely valuable quality, every cub scout is taught to be prepared, and, if you are doing an activity like a parachute jump, one would hope you would not just grab a backpack, climb in the plane and jump. Who does not want there week to be the best it can be, to avoid difficulties where possible? Being aware of other peoples thoughts and feelings is common decency.

Yet, people come to me saying that these very things and claiming they have anxiety.

Compare this with:

  • Wake up instantly worrying something bad is going to happen.

  • Can't relax because you may miss something and that would be the end of the world.

  • Just can't switch off.

  • Keep rerunning worst case scenario disaster movies in your mind

  • Constant sense of foreboding.

  • That cold deep ache in your belly, knotting you up.

  • Always expecting things to go wrong, the good spell will not last.

A bit of difference, right?

If you experience aspects or all of the second list then you are doing anxiety.

But the good news is it does not mean you are broken, it does not mean you are ill. It just means that you have gotten into some non productive thinking habits and behaviours that keep you in super alertness. And EVERYONE has done this from time to time.

The even better news is that you can learn to take control of the thoughts and behaviours that trigger this heightened awareness.

So, as you think about all this you can begin to explore how you are feeling. Is it common sense and just wanting life to be good that has somehow got a little out of control, or have you been worrying that your desire for things to go well is anxiety?

Or, is it that you are doing anxiety, that you have picked up a few bad thought and behaviour habits that are not serving you?

Often with the people I work with making this comparison can be enough to help them relax and let go of the idea of being anxious. So I help that this little exploration can begin to be the start of your journey to less anxiety and stress.


If you read this and it resonates and you would like to talk more about how you can overcome anxiety and stress then it would be great to hear from you, you can book a chat using the button below.

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