Adelaide Hills, South Australia


How hard is it to describe an emotion?   How would you describe sadness or anger or joy?  Well, I’m going to give it a go by explaining the difference between the similar emotions of anxiety, fear and worry.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that anyone that has experienced severe anxiety knows exactly what it is!  People who haven’t experienced it tend to think of it as worry.  There’s a really big difference.

Worry is something that originates in the head.  Often it’s a state that we actually “catch” ourselves in as we continue with our day to day routine.  Our minds tend to go off-task and go ruminating over a perceived problem, often for quite some time before we notice.

Anxiety, on the other hand, originates in the body.  It can be a quickening of the heartbeat or shortness of breath or shaking hands.  It’s usually a bodily sensation that can’t be ignored.  Someone suffering from severe anxiety will be unable to function at their full potential for anything from a short moment to days on end.

Most of us wouldn’t take a day off work because we were worrying about our kids getting into university but those with anxiety can experience symptoms that make it impossible to effectively perform our normal duties.   Interestingly, worry is a state that is actually conducive to solving problems as our brains tend to strategize and work through several scenarios.

Anxiety is the opposite.  It holds our rational, thinking brain to ransom and all we can think about is the next breath or the next step or the    very        next          moment.

Worry tends to be about something specific, whereas anxiety is usually pretty broad and sometimes the cause is unknown.   Worry is also usually about more realistic scenarios than anxiety.  When and if these scenarios actually occur – worry then becomes fear. Fear is your body’s reaction to an actual real-life threat, right here, right now.

To put it another way:

Fear is what you experience when you’re driving to work and a child steps out onto the road in front of you.  In that instant, it’s totally reactionary.  Your heart beats, you gasp and you plant your foot on the brake, all in a split second.

Worry is when you drive down that same road for the next week or so, system on high-alert, anticipating the same thing to happen again.

Anxiety is when you dread getting behind the wheel ever again.

Anxiety can hit on any random street, on any random day, without warning and often without a trigger.   The good news is that you really don’t need to live with fear, worry or anxiety.

I’m not saying that you need to be happy-happy-joy-joy all the time.  As we know, bad things happen.  It’s just that you don’t need to waste the good times by staying in those dark places.

As nano-technology has developed, it is allowing us to better see the structure and the functioning of the brain and we are finding that some of the very simple practices, often from ancient traditions, really work.

What a different world we might have if we started learning these practices when we’re young and then incorporated them into our daily routines.  It’s never too late 😉