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“Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom” Soren Kierkegaard

What is Anxiety?

In the last video we looked at some definitions of stress. Like the word anxiety, there’s no sure definition of stress.

In terms of this course on stress, we’re going to stick to the definition of stress as being your response to any stimuli or stressor.

In this, the third video in our free course “Stress Without Distress”, we’re going to take a look at anxiety, what it is, how does it differ from stress, how it differs to fear.

Why am I making a video about anxiety?

Because understanding the what, why, and how of stress and anxiety helps you to take a small step towards gaining control in your life, control of yourself and your habits.

These small steps help you to gain some upwards momentum in your life and reverse bad habits or depression.

First off, anxiety is what is known as a hypothetical construct.

Anxiety is something that you cannot directly observe.

It’s existence can only be inferred through observation.

As a child, you have no concept of anxiety.

You don’t know what it is until you are taught by your parents, etc.

Anxiety is also a word that brings with it a lot of baggage and is often used in a hyped-up context.

For instance, the website beyondblue.org.au describes anxiety as “a serious condition that makes it hard for a person to cope with daily life.”

Labeling anxiety as a serious condition infers that there is something wrong with it.

There are levels of anxiety than can interfere with someone’s ability to cope with daily life, of course, but in general, anxiety is just a natural process. It’s built into our wiring.

Webmd.com says,

“Anxiety is a normal human emotion that everyone experiences at times. Many people feel anxious, or nervous, when faced with a problem at work, before taking a test, or making an important decision.”

I don’t think there is anyone who hasn’t had the feeling of being anxious when faced with a stressful situation.


Let’s look at a couple of definitions of the word anxiety.

The Webster dictionary defines it as

“Concern or solicitude respecting some thing or event, future or uncertain, which disturbs the mind, and keeps it in a state of painful uneasiness.”

The Merriam-Webster defines it as

“fear or nervousness about what might happen” or “an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physiological signs (as sweating, tension, and increased pulse), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it”

This last definition is basically the essence of it and the definition that we’re going to take throughout this course.

Anxiety is normally associated with something that hasn’t happened yet, otherwise known as a feeling of worry or perhaps in some situations dread.

Anxiety is an anticipatory emotion.

It can be thought about as being linked to your personal expectations, what might happen in the future, the things that could, should, or might happen.

Anxiety is often over the top, out of proportion to what might happen.


It’s sometimes labeled as catastrophizing, having irrational thoughts about something, making things out to be worse than what they actually are.

Let’s take an example in breaking habits.

Think about the anxiety that you may feel before you have quit drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes.

You might start to feel anxious about all the possible emotions that you are going to go through, the symptoms and the side effects, the different scenarios.

You might worry about sleepless nights, cravings, or just the feeling like you’re going to be missing out on something.

Another example might be worrying about having to go to a party once you’ve quit.

What will it be like to around people who are drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes?

What will you do if they offer you a smoke or a drink?

Do you have enough self-control?

These are all good examples of anxiety in action.

Your anxiety will affect your thinking processes, in the feelings that you experience, and it can alter your behavior, for instance, forcing you to behave differently in certain situations or avoiding those situations altogether.

To understand how anxiety effects you and how what you can do to deal with it you, must know where the problem is to be found, where it’s source lies.

Most problems with anxiety start with a specific stimulus.

That stimulus can be a thought, a feeling that you can’t pin down to a particular origin, or something or someone in your environment.

Summing Up

So in this video we covered the concept of anxiety, saying that it’s a hypothetical construct that means something different to each of us.

We all have the emotion from time to time and it’s perfectly natural.

Anxiety is usually anticipatory in that it happens before an event.

You can experience the same feelings after the event, by the way.

These are just labeled as frustration or guilt – think about the guilt you feel when you’re trying to eliminate a bad habit but you fail for one reason or another.

Our definition of anxiety for the rest of this course is fear or nervousness about what might happen.

We looked at how anxiety can often be over the top and we examined a couple of examples of anxiety in action like quitting smoking or drinking.

In the next video, I’ll talk about the stress in my life.

I’ll speak about how stress has affected me in the past, especially in connection to habit change.

I’ll also talk about how I handle my stress now that I don’t use alcohol or any other drugs.

Don’t Believe Everything You Think!

Until next time…
Onwards and Upwards!

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Previous Videos in Stress Without Stress

1 Comment

  1. Julie D.

    Thanks, Kevin. The video helped. One of my big triggers is stress. I try now to give myself a task when I get overwhelmed, sometimes it helps; even if it’s something so silly as to go buy cat food for my eighteen pound “little man” Sandy. Thanks!


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