Can you tell when you’re anxious? It’s hard for me…

anxiety2Can you tell when you’re feeling anxious? Simple as it may sound, this can be tricky. Many times our anxiety hums and buzzes just below the surface. It is not strong enough to cause panic, but it exists, a backpack we carry without knowing we’re carrying it. How do we recognize this sneaky feeling of anxiety? How do we know it’s not adrenalin?

Gretchen Rubin writes about how she identified her jitters before the release of her new book, “Better Than Before.” 

I don’t feel particularly anxious, but I realized that actually I am pretty anxious — because I recognized my “tell.”

This is my tell: a while back, I realized that when I’m feeling anxious or worried, I re-read books aimed at a younger and younger audience. The more worried I am, the simpler the book. Under all circumstances, I love children’s and young-adult literature, and read it often, but when I’m reading these books as an anxiety tell, I inevitably re-read instead of reading books I’ve never read before. I want the coziness, the familiarity, the high quality of a book that I know I love.

A “tell” to tell if you’re anxious – what a wonderful idea! As we race to meet the expectations that the world has of us, and our own expectations of ourselves, we often lose touch with our emotions, or don’t sit in silence enough to sense them. So a signal would give a clue into what’s going on inside us.

These tells can be very different for each of us. The tells can also vary based on whether we’re feeling “good anxiety” (like in Gretchen’s case above) or “bad anxiety.”

Here’s how Harriet Learner describes her own tells in her wonderful book, “The Dance of Fear.”

When anxiety hits, I underfunction in the realm of practical, “real-world” skills (say, following written instructions or getting Ben to the hospital). I may have difficulty accessing more than a thin slice of my competence in terms of noticing and doing what needs to be done. On the emotional/relational scene, my tendency under stress is to overfunction, which may take the form (if I don’t curb it) of judgmentalness, a preoccupation with what someone else is doing wrong, and unsolicited advice giving.

Knowing our “tells” can help us recognize that something is wrong. That we need to slow down and listen to ourselves, to be one with our thoughts and feeling. I once saw a video in which the wonderful Danielle LaPorte spoke about how her chest would tighten on reaching the entrance of the company she’d started once she’d brought in some people to manage it. Before long, they had taken over the company – Danielle had missed the important information her body was trying to give her.

Our tells may be as different as each of us. For some, it may be going on and on and on, for others, going quiet. For some, it may be strong feelings of anxiety, for others, it may be deadening those feelings and operating as a machine, with a head but no heart. For some, anxiety may involve attacking others, for others, attacking themselves.

Spend some time thinking about YOUR tells. And when you know what they are, pay attention when they appear in your life, and think about what they’re trying to tell you.

If you liked this, do share with those who you think might find this useful. Sharing=Caring.

I’d love to hear about what your tells are, and what you do once you’ve identified that you’re anxious.

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4 thoughts on “Can you tell when you’re anxious? It’s hard for me…

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