Shelley J Whitehead

The beauty of anxiety

1 October, 2022

As the days draw shorter and the sharper air of Autumn creeps into my home, I find myself noticing a familiar sensation creeping into my body. There’s a knot in my stomach and a fluttery feeling all over my skin. My breath is shallower and faster and my heart is beating just a touch more rapidly than usual. “Hello, old friend”, I say to the sensation I recognise as anxiety.

As I’ve grown wiser over the years, I’ve learnt to welcome in all my feelings, as friendly messengers rather than as unwanted interruptions to life. Every feeling, every emotion, brings the gifts of insight and self-knowledge, acting as a kind of guiding star. There are no ‘good feelings’ or ‘bad feelings’ – all emotions are welcome to visit. 

Anxiety is the emotion that brings the gifts of getting prepared for something that’s up ahead. As our minds become future-focused, anxiety is a light form of fear that helps arouse our senses and points our energy towards something that we know we need to get done. 

In the early days of Autumn, nature itself gets busy, as the seasons cycle from the abundance of summer towards winter scarcity. Squirrels rush around my local park, frantically hiding their treasures away for the coming months with a similar kind of energy to the humans at home as they shake the dust out of their winter wardrobes and bustle around their houses checking the radiators are ready to be switched back on again. And, as I tune in to that anxious feeling in my body, I know what its message is to me: it’s time to shift out of the easy laid-back spirit of summer and get energised for the projects, the commitments and the engagements I have in these busy months ahead. So I soften into that anxious feeling and it transforms into the energised focus of preparation

To be alive is to change, continually. The seasons cycle, our bodies and minds grow, our priorities shift… and yet change is often one of the hardest things for us to embrace. Our brains are naturally wired to resist it: there is safety in the ‘known’. Change takes focus and is therefore a drain on our energies. 

I feel change in my body before it happens. And I don’t resist. Inspired by nature, I always remind myself to relax into the subtle shifts of the changing seasons. “Welcome in, anxiety”, my heart says to Autumn, as I allow the feeling to work its magic and energise me for the months ahead. 

Shelley J Whitehead
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