Last night I woke up with a start, like being zapped by a charge of static electricity. Suddenly, at 2:00am, I was fully awake.

“Ah, s*%&,” I mumbled. What the heck had woken me up? Clearly I was worried, because I had the signs: My heart was beating fast and my breathing was shallow. But what was I worried about?

Blinking into the dark I sifted through all the possible things I could be worried about. The kids? No, they were doing great. The husband? Nope, he was good, too. Work? Work was incredibly busy but all t’s were crossed and i’s dotted there. So what was worrying me?

Photo of a woman in bed with the cover pulled over her head. Text reads "Worrier Without A Cause" The photo creates the feeling of the woman filled with anxiety.

Worry Becomes Anxiety

By now you may have caught the insanity of my situation. Just because I was experiencing the symptoms of anxiety did I have to be worried about something? If I didn’t know what I was worried about right off the bat did that mean I was really worried? If a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one around to hear it, does it make a sound? While we’re at it, what is the sound of one hand clapping?

Given enough time and enough adrenalin our silly, Neanderthal brains will come up with something to worry about. It’s like a law of thermodynamics.

Usually when we experience that crazy fight/flight response it is in reaction to a clear stimulus, like an unexpected letter from an attorney.

In contrast, there are those times when the fight/flight response happens first but our brains can’t just leave it there; we are compelled to nail it down with a reason for being. We think, “My heart is beating fast therefore I am worried, nervous, anxious.” A better, more mindful, reaction might be, “Hm, my heart is beating fast, isn’t that interesting? Let’s see if we can slow it down.”

Brain Looks For Something To Worry About

Which is the conclusion I finally got to once I realized my brain was fishing for something to worry about. The danger was that if left unchecked it was bound to find something to give the anxiety cause, just as a toddler left unsupervised is destined to find the one uncapped Sharpie in the house and introduce it to the wall. It was time to shut the mind down with some deep breathing and relaxation.

dr aletta