Written by: Anthony Leake, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
Anxiety is not a random event.
It doesn't happen because you are unlucky.
There is no anxiety gene that makes some people pre-disposed to it.
I will add a caveat to that last point. There isn't an anxiety gene that exists medically, however people who grew up with role models who were anxious sometimes pick it up as a learned behaviour. That's OK. People can change. If you learned one behaviour you can learn another and overwrite it. It happens all the time.
Back to anxiety. In general, there are 3 ways that people become anxious.
They learned to be anxious at an early age and have 'always been an anxious person'
It was brought on by a trauma or other significant event
It builds up slowly and unnoticed
Becoming an overnight success
You might know the adage that it takes a long time to become an overnight success. That usually describes someone who has worked very hard for many years with apparently little success and then in a very short space of time.
Anxiety is like that.
From the 3 examples above of how people become anxious, the third is possibly the most common. Like becoming an overnight success, the contributing factors for anxiety have been there for a long time. Slowly building, until one day you notice things have changed and you've become an anxious person.
Everything in life is a result
Let us start out with the basic principle that everything in life is the result of something.
If you mix eggs, flour, butter and chocolate in the right combination and bake it in the oven for a certain period of time you will get a result. That result will be a delicious cake.
If, however you leave out the eggs from the original mix and try to add them after you've baked the mixture then you'll get a very different result.
Starting from the end
Let's take our cake analogy and look at it from the other end.
If you consistently get is a nice cake, then you can conclude that you are happy with the results that you are getting.
If instead you have a soggy inedible mess then I'd assume that you won't be happy with your results.
No problem. You'd go back and look at the process you used for making your cake and make adjustments and see what that does for the result. You might have to go through this iteration several times but eventually you would end up with a nice cake and once again you'd be happy with the result.
Overcoming anxiety is the same (but very different!)
The process for overcoming anxiety is the same.
If the results that you are getting are anxious thoughts, anxious feelings and panic attacks then it's time to change the recipe.
It's not that simple though. There is one ingredient in overcoming anxiety that is not there in baking. I'll come to what that is in a moment.
To summarise the ingredients that are used in creating anxiety I'll use the blanket term 'worldview.'
I would go as far as to say that in most cases of anxiety that were not caused by trauma, the person's worldview is usually the biggest contributing factor.
The 2 component parts of your worldview are: your beliefs about yourself and the world, and your values.
Beliefs about the world can include things like:
You have to work long hours to get ahead in your career
People are nosey
It's more important to get things right first time than it is to make mistakes and learn from them
Beliefs about yourself could include things like:
This is the way I am and I can't change
I'm a fast learner
I'm a very confident person
Values are things that are important to you . Perhaps such as:
Being able to spend time with my family every day is more important than a high-flying career
Driving a new car every 3 years is important to me. I work hard and makes me feel successful
By far the biggest cause of stress and anxiety is a clash between conflicting values, or between our beliefs and our values. That's a different story though, and perhaps one for another time.
You are the sum of your parts
Your unique combination of beliefs and values is your worldview. We could also say that it's the blueprint of your life.
Certain worldviews are a recipe for a happy and fulfilled life. Certain worldviews are a recipe for stress and anxiety.
The missing ingredient
Experimenting with, and changing, a cake recipe is easy.
Changing your worldview is harder. Not because the process is more difficult. It isn't.
It's because of the missing ingredient. Emotional attachment.
If your cake recipe isn't working, no big deal.
For many people, if their life isn't working there is a huge emotional attachment, and they take it very personally.
They mistake "there is something wrong with my life" for "there is something wrong with me."
They mistake "the recipe that I've been using is flawed" for "I am flawed."
Holding on to that simple difference can be the key to remaining an anxious person, or becoming a person who used to be anxious.
If you're currently struggling with anxiety there isn't anything wrong with you. You are not flawed. You are, like every other person, a perfectly imperfect human being.
The recipes that you have been living your life by work perfectly too. They have been producing a consistent result. That is a wonderful thing to know because if you are not happy with the results that you've been getting then it's as simple as changing the recipe.
Anthony Leake, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Tony Leake became an expert in overcoming anxiety after he had to give up a successful career due to severe anxiety and debilitating panic attacks. He has since spent the last decade helping others to overcome anxiety. While he is very well qualified (certified as a Clinical Hypnotherapist and a Master Practitioner of NLP amongst others) he doesn't believe that tools and techniques are the answer. He often says that "overcoming anxiety is as much of a mindset as a skillset," and that to overcome anxiety we need to change the way that we think about it. Working with individuals from every walk of life, teachers, doctors and multi-millionaires has taught him that anxiety doesn't discriminate and everybody is just as likely to be affected. He currently consults for some of the largest companies in the UK. His message: anxiety robs people of their quality of life and it's not necessary to live like that.