What Is Your Anxiety Trying To Tell You?
By Jon Terrell, M.A.

Anxiety can be very uncomfortable, yet as we learn to decode the vital messages that it has for us we grown and then release it.

Do you know how to listen to what your anxiety is saying?

The thoughts, feelings and body sensations that are part of anxiety call us to pay attention.

They are telling us that we are out of balance and need to change our direction. Viewed this way, anxiety is a call to action.

Sometimes the action we need to take is to change our mindset, our way of viewing ourselves and the world. Is it a friendly, peaceful, welcoming world or a scary place?

And sometimes it is a call for outward change. Usually, it involves both.

A comprehensive, holistic approach to transforming anxiety includes paying attention to our thoughts, feelings, body sensations and how these relate to our  relationships and roles in the world.

The typical approach is much more limited. The disease-oriented medical model sees anxious feelings as being caused by a bio-chemical imbalance in the brain.

From this perspective, an anti-anxiety medication would be the primary way to treat it. While this could help us feel better, at least for the short term, we could miss hearing the vital call to action message within our discomfort. 

What Is The Message?

It is a call to come alive. It is a "wake up call" to pay attention inside ourselves and around us. It's a call for us to tap into our creative wisdom, find our inner strength, and take an appropriate action.

"Anxiety is the gap between the now and the later" Fritz Perls 

It is about the future...we become worried or apprehensive about a perceived threat, of something happening or not happening. Often we are not even clear about what it is we are upset about, as opposed to fear.

Fear generally has a clear object...we are afraid, for example, of a big bear attacking us while we are out hiking. For more on working with fear, especially fear of change, go to Fear and Change. 

Anxiety helps us be aware of potentially dangerous situations, although not necessarily physical dangers. The cause is more vague than fear and can be less than totally rational...such as anxiety about heights or spiders or enclosed spaces.

What it is telling us may need some exploration. We may need to "dig in the dirt" to find out what we are afraid of... where in our past we lost control or felt helpless. Psychotherapy and the emotional healing retreats we offer can get us to the core of our anxiety so we move beyond being stuck in it.

In that exploration we can often find inspiration and healing, especially if we connect with and experience those hidden feelings along the way.

Working With Uncomfortable Emotions

Our feelings are essential messengers calling us to awaken and grow. They are the most overlooked factor in personal growth and total wellness.

We tend to want to avoid uncomfortable feelings that make us anxious but avoidance just makes matters worse.

Avoidance makes our world smaller as we shrink to avoid life. 

As we learn to lean into our feelings, they transform and become our teachers. Anxiety transformed is a great awakener (as is fear) calling us to live a bigger life, with far more awareness, courage and excitement than before.

Going through emotions (rather than suppressing them, trying to understand them or manipulate them) allows us to receive their gifts of increased energy and awareness. Click on this psychotherapy link for more on this perspective.

Our Grief and Loss and Shalom Retreats are designed to help people transform stuck feelings, including anxiety.

Over and over again I've seen people work through deep anxieties and fears by learning how to lean into these states of consciousness and express their anxiety through sound and movement. It is always a very powerful experience of transformation, relief and expansion. As my mentor in this work, Lawrence Stibbards, once said, "If we are bottled up by fear then our lives are bottled up." And once we release that fear our lives open up!

What are the components of an effective, holistic program?

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) has been shown to be effective for anxiety. It works with thoughts, beliefs and behaviors, helping clients change behaviors and thought patterns that reinforce their anxiousness.

Multimodal Therapy (developed by Arnold Lazarus) is even more effective because it also looks at the role interpersonal relations, perceptual stimuli and physical issues affect us. 

The approach we use, which I practice at my office in Northampton, Massachusetts, and long distance via the phone and Skype, gives greater emphasis to emotions than CBT or Multimodal therapy.

From our perspective, emotional healing is the key to healing.

We also give more attention to helping clients become spacious and open in their bodies and minds to let the uncomfortable feelings reveal their gifts. These gifts need space!

The process includes specific body-oriented energy healing and counseling. 

We offer a unique anxiety protocol that includes training in:

  • Relaxation Skills–Autogenics, Breathwork, Progressive Muscle Relaxation
  • Agni Yoga Meditation–a specific type of meditation that increases self awareness and body presence
  • Changing distorted beliefs
  • Challenging negative self-talk
  • Assertiveness Skills

I also encourage clients to make full use of the benefits of exercise, rest and a healthy diet. 

“Anxiety is the handmaiden of creativity” Wayne Dyer 

Our feelings are not an enemy to eradicate. They're allies, sources of wisdom and creativity.

In fact, there are many things we should be concerned about, and use our resources to help change them. Especially the big issues outside of our self--the state of the world and humanity's inability to deal effectively with numerous problems. The world is out of balance and needs our help. But how can we help when our life energy is being stolen by worry, stress and anxious feelings? 

Many people are stuck in denial. Others feel trapped and paralyzed by them.

But we can move beyond those stuck places. By working holistically, with all our relations (self and others), we can mobilize our vast internal resources to truly be a force for good in the world. 

While our approach is primarily non-medical, medications can be helpful by providing much needed relief when the problem is severe enough to make daily activities difficult to perform. And they can help some people be more able to take the action steps to truly master these feelings and discover the wisdom within them. 

Nutrition can affect our levels of stress. People who are experiencing chronic stress, fatigue, and other symptoms can often benefit from the help of an excellent nutritionist. 

A valuable website that I found is Anxiety Unraveled. This site contains a lot of practical information including coping tips, natural remedies and yoga techniques that you can use to bring long lasting relief.


For more information about counseling and retreats with Jon Terrell, contact Jon using the form below. He has offices in downtown Northampton, Massachusetts and New York City. 

Jon Terrell, M.A.
Fitzwilly's Building
25 Main Street, Suite #342
Northampton, Massachusetts 01060

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