Connecting with our intuition on feeling safe

Photo by Matthew Waring on Unsplash

I never thought of myself as a particularly anxious person. Mainly because the idea of anxiety was something very visible and pronounced. It turns out that I just have become very good at managing my anxiety, rather than it not existing.

But in recent weeks I’ve been noticing how much unattended anxiety I’ve actually had. I don’t think this is something I’ve always had, but it’s certainly built up in the last few months. These haven’t been particularly noticeable (both to other people and myself) because my way of demonstrating anxiety is far less visible. Rather than having a visible panic attack, I tend to retreat inwards and disassociate from my body.

The challenge with examining areas such as anxiety and mental health is that it is very hard to compare and contrast. For a long time, I believed that the amount of thoughts I would have flurrying on in my head. Turns out, it’s probably not – whether it’s to do with me potentially having ADHD, or perhaps my therapist thinking I’m a high potential individual (or both).

It seems fairly obvious now when I examine it, but when we never stop to question things that we just accept as normal, we can miss some crucial information about ourselves.

One of the benefits of actually listening to the anxiety rather than trying to manage it is that I’ve become a lot more cognisant of my intuition around social interactions. Honestly, I can get bored with small talk and chit chat very quickly. This makes group conversations often quite tedious for me in social settings, particularly when people are first getting to know one another, and conversations are surface level. In the past I learnt to be disciplined to follow these sorts of conversations because I thought that was what I was meant to do. I thought everyone had trained themselves to do this as a matter of social etiquette.

What I’m realising now is that I have the option of not engaging too much if I don’t want to. My current mantra is that if something quite basic like a conversation is feeling like a lot of effort than I probably shouldn’t do it. It might feel a little rude sometimes, but I’m better being honest with myself than doing something I don’t enjoy.

It also helps that the spaces I frequent these days are generally very respectful of people shifting in and out at their own pace. In fact, I’ve become a lot more aware of how safe I feel within different spaces more generally. I think I got so good at melding myself to a situation that I somewhat lost my intuitive sense of where I could really let me guard down. It made me feel like a chameleon because of how much I would shift depending on the situation. I sometimes have questioned myself around what my true personality really is because of this.

Being more aware helps with my energy management. There are lots of places where I have been putting in lots of energy when it wasn’t really worth it. People might be a bit more closed, or have very different interests to connect upon. This meant that I felt like I was putting lots of effort in for not a whole lot of reward, much to my frustration.

So right now, my goal is to focus my time and energy on spaces where I feel like it comes naturally. In this way, I’m also more discerning of where to go and who to spend time with too. It feels so different when people tell me they have really enjoyed my company when I feel like I haven’t really tried all that much, as opposed to in previous instances where I probably tried too hard and then felt unappreciated.

So here is an invitation for you to look at what spaces you spend your time in, and how much you feel at ease within them. Whether you’re spending too much time in scary places or actually only spend time in comfortable ones, it may be time for a rebalance.

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