Cool. Me, too. So here's the question:
Is it fear or anxiety?
Although they may feel similar, fear and anxiety come from different places and play distinct roles.
Fear springs up in response to a known, concrete threat. You're hiking and a bear appears between the trees in front of you. Fear stops you in your tracks and your body goes into fight or flight survival mode. Maybe you climb a tree. Or get out your bear spray. Whatever it is, fear is keeping you alive. When the bear leaves (or you run away before it sees you), the fear dissipates.
Anxiety on the other hand generally comes up around less concrete threats. It may be a general sense of unease around money. Or worry that you won't fit in in a party. Or maybe that people won't accept you if you show them who you really are. The trigger is more amorphous, an idea or belief as opposed to a direct threat to your well-being, but the impact is the same. You go into survival mode.
Unlike bears, ideas tend to stick around. So while fear dissipates, anxiety can sustain itself indefinitely leading to a chronic sense of unease, tension, insomnia and ungroundedness. It's not, technically speaking, fun.
Fear keeps us alive, anxiety keeps us from living.
The good news is that you can release anxiety! Here are a few tips to get you started:
Bring Awareness: Ask yourself if what you're feeling is fear (concrete threat) or anxiety (more amorphous, based in an idea or story you tell yourself). If it's fear, cool. If it's anxiety. . .
Search for the Trigger: What's behind the anxiety? Write it down. Let it have a voice. For example, if the anxiety is around money, you might write something like: 'I'm worried that if I quit my job, no one will hire me for anything and I'll run out of money and have to beg on the streets.'
Write an Alternate Story: Because anxiety is based on an idea or story, you can work with it by crafting an alternate story. Ask yourself what the scenario could look like if you take the anxiety out of the equation. Approach it like a game and notice what happens--you may feel some resistance. Just note the resistance and do it anyway. The key is to open yourself to imagining a future without the anxiety--a new picture of success.
Following the example above, it might look like this: 'Once I quit my job, I'll have a chance to offer my services to other people and companies. They'll see the value and soon I'll have more work than I know what to do with.' It may feel false at first. That's fine.
Release the Anxiety: This is where practices like breathwork, yoga and meditation come in. Once you've located the anxiety and started to work with it directly, a spirit-based or somatic practice can help you release it from the body, signaling the brain to transition out of fight-or-flight mode and come back to a more healthy, functional place.
The steps outlined above are simple, but they're by no means 'easy.' Often, the roots of anxiety run deep to childhood or even familial experiences. They won't want to let go. At the end of the day, you get to choose when it's time to release it. When encountering resistance, you may want to look at the exchange you're making. What is the anxiety doing for you? And what is it costing you to live with constant anxiety and stress?
If the cost outweighs the benefits, it's time for a change.