Calming Anxiety by Reducing It to Concern
Anxiety is heightened fear. Anxiety can grab your brain and make it spin. It is painful and it gets in the way of you dealing logically with whatever created the anxiety.
Some people try to avoid anxiety by going to an oblivious or numb place. They pretend there's no problem. Pretending there's no problem isn't going to solve the problem either.
Spinning won't make the problem go away and pretending there's no problem won't make the problem go away. The solution lies in between these two: concern.
Concern allows you to calmly examine the problem and deal with it.
The Fear Family of Emotions
Panic, anxiety, nervousness, and worry are all in the fear family of emotions. They are different degrees of fear intensity. Any of them can be felt as “stress.” (Note: Some people feel all the levels of fear, some experience a few of the levels, and some tend to spend a lot of time on one particular level.)
Here's the hierarchy of fear from more intense to less intense:
The higher on the hierarchy your fear level, the more energy you burn up and the less you are able to think clearly:
At the level of panic, fear is immobilizing. You have trouble breathing, let alone accomplishing other tasks. You are focused on staying alive. Your brain can’t think clearly.
Anxiety consumes your physical, mental, and emotional energy. There is a tendency to think in circles. You can’t focus your mind.
Nervousness and worry create a slow burn in the background. They drain your energy and distract your mind, making it difficult to clearly think through options and take constructive action.
Concern is the sweet spot. Concern can be energizing. It allows you to get direction. It tells you something is important and in need of your attention. You can clearly think through, “Is this something I should really be afraid of because there is danger to myself or others. or am I overreacting?” At concern, you can think through your options and decide on the best course of action.
Oblivious is the numbed-out positon. Here there is an avoidance of the fear. People can get to oblivious by having an inner coping mechanism of going numb, by using substances to zone out, or by ignoring a problem (the “ignorance is bliss” philosophy). Oblivious is a dangerous place.
Many people consciously or subconsciously think that oblivious is the desired condition. When they feel the higher levels of fear—panic, anxiety, nervousness, worry—they may think that oblivious or numb is the goal. It is not.
Concern is the goal.
At the level of concern you can calmly work with the fear and use it as part of your emotional feedback system. Concern can help make your life better.
Here’s’ another look at the fear hierarchy:
When you experience the more intense levels of fear, you can benefit from learning how to lower your emotional response down to the level of concern. The first step toward bringing high levels of fear down to concern is to actually know that you don’t have to stay at the high emotional levels to do something about a feared situation or thing.
Learn more anxiety tips in my "A quick look at Anxiety" mini-book
- Ann Silvers