Anxiety is the feeling we experience when our brain is predicting “a” future we do not want.
The aspect of anxiety used by the experts to define it as a “mental illness” is that those feelings are not about anything specific. Having no cause for anxious feelings somehow makes it an “illness.”
The only difference between anxiety and stress is that stress has a reason you can point to. So, somehow, stress is not a mental illness.
From this point on, I am going to talk about anxiety because the same process creates all negative emotions, including distress.
Any website offering expert advice about anxiety will give you the same advice about what you should do for your anxiety, AFTER you figure out you are anxious or stressed.
Their tips all say both can be managed by regular exercise, meditation or other relaxation techniques, structured timeouts, seeking support from loved ones, or learning new coping strategies. All these tips tell you to do something other than what you are stressing about, and you will feel better.
And they are all exactly right. While you are doing whatever technique works for you, you are focused on what you are doing. Your current focus is distracting you from focusing on the problem that is creating your anxiety.
Distraction techniques work, but the distracting activities have nothing to do with solving the problem that is actually the cause of your anxious thoughts, do they?
The experts say fear, anxiety, and stress are all “natural, and unavoidable.” They are not correct.
They are not the same. They are Not Synonyms.
The differences allow us to use processes built into our brain to prevent anxiety. Fear is something else, and that something else is an OK thing.
The next blog will explain the why the differences can set you free from the trap of negative emotions.