Anxiety Is What You Make of It: 3 Ways to Rethink Fear

Woman curled into a ball on her bed, representing what anxiety is.


Fight or flight: This is our evolutionary survival response to things that scare us.

Because human brains are so sophisticated, the fight or flight response activates for reasons that aren’t just sabretooth tigers on the savannah. Anxiety is the result.

And it’s for that same reason, our awareness and intelligence, that we can come to master our anxieties so that they no longer burden us.

How Anxiety Should Be Understood

Anxiety can be defined as persistent worry about a perceived future event. 

It is a kind of fear that gets dragged out over the long term, as opposed to meeting a threat and responding to it immediately.

Here are the classic signs of anxiety:

  • Excessive worry
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Increased heart rate
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Reduced concentration
  • Restlessness
  • Shaking
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating

In a state of uncertainty about the future, we feel that we are somehow in jeopardy and that the anxiety we feel is just there to give us trouble.

Our brain is setting off alarms to tell us to be on alert until a threat can be dealt with, and we don’t have to feel the tension of uncertainty anymore.

To address anxiety and all the troubles that come with it, what needs to change is our beliefs around it.

Before learning any relaxation or mindfulness technique, it is essential to understand that nothing in life is certain, but more importantly, that you are strong enough to deal with the uncertainties of life. 

Let’s look at how you can reframe your anxiety:

1: Gauging Your Anxiety

Fear and anxiety are human emotions, and human emotions are not static. Even the most frequent anxiety sufferer has moments of reprieve, and even panic attacks, the most acute form of anxiety, never last forever.

It’s best to think of anxiety as a bell curve on a graph. Anxiety climbs steadily to a point of maximum intensity, and then eventually, it begins to taper back down. Always. Even if you do nothing to manage it. 

Armed with this knowledge, you can assign numerical values to your anxiety. 

For example, with “0” being absolute calm, and “10″ being the worst fear of your life, you could say that your current anxiety level is at a “4.” No matter how high your anxiety gauge climbs, you know that it will eventually go back down, even if it takes a while.

Gauging your anxiety is a great technique because it allows you to not feel so controlled by it. You can observe your anxiety and let it flow through you, which is also the goal of mindfulness meditation. 

This technique is often assigned to those undergoing exposure response therapy because it serves as a way to measure how much their fears affect them. With enough experience, they start to notice their fears becoming less extreme, and that their bell curves become tiny molehills.

2: Anxiety Is a Kind of Teacher (and a Friend)

Much of the time, what we’re afraid of isn’t so obvious. The things that keep us up at night can be signs of other needs that have gone unaddressed. 

Sometimes we can discover fears buried beneath other fears, and from there we can discover what’s missing from our lives.

For example:

  • One person is anxious about their appearance. They tell themselves that they just like to make a good impression. However…
  • What they’re really afraid of is not being liked and accepted. Their entire personality is molded around seeking others’ approval.  And underneath that…
  • They don’t feel that they deserve to be liked and accepted for who they are, so they have to become social chameleons to maintain their attachments. And underneath that…
  • They discover that they needed to perform for their primary caregivers as children or else they would feel unloved.

The belief of not being good enough was embedded in their psyche from childhood, and now that’s the main issue they can address in therapy.

This is seeing your anxieties as signposts guiding you toward your internal beliefs.

Instead of rejecting your fears, try seeing them as a kind of overbearing friend from your childhood. You may have developed the fears you have because your child brain thought it was necessary to keep you alive.

Even the worst anxiety can come from a benevolent part of yourself; in the same sense that your body makes itself sick when it’s trying to fight off a virus. When anxiety pops up, you can calmly tell it that you appreciate its concern, but you can handle things yourself.

3: Anxiety Points You Toward What You Want

You should listen to your fear when you know that your life is in danger. 

But, there are also times when it feels like your life is in danger, when in reality it’s only your ego.

Like Carl Jung said, 

Where the fear is, there is your task!”

Facing anxiety is a tremendous opportunity for self-growth and personal freedom. If you can break the shackles of your fear, you can start doing things you never thought you could do.

Once you start doing things because they cause you anxiety, you turn the game of being anxious on its head. You stop seeing obstacles to avoid and start seeing opportunities to test yourself.

Facing fears is never easy, and you should always do it at your own pace, but those who suffer from excessive anxiety know how limiting it can feel.

So, let this be a message that your anxiety could be pointing you toward freedom and greatness. Heroes and heroines always start their stories scared.

Learn to Love Fear

The more you can be certain about a situation, the more your anxiety reduces. 

But more importantly, anxiety reduces with the confidence that you can handle uncertainty. This usually involves immersing yourself in what scares you, and realizing that it was never that scary to begin with.


  • Anxiety is a temporary wave of emotion, and it will pass on eventually like a thunderstorm.
  • Anxiety is a teacher of your inner being, and your mind’s child-like way of keeping you safe from danger.
  • Anxiety is the gateway to your greatest potential and personal freedom.

So don’t be scared. It’s just anxiety.