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How Anxious Are You?

June 23, 2011

I’ve always called myself a worrier and have worked for years on worrying less. As far as how successful I’ve been, the operative word is “less.” I am less worried that I used to be. But I had a powerful experience recently that showed me the level of anxiety I carry all the time (anxiety being the underlying feeling related to worry—more on that next time). I was part of an experiment to test the results of training in mindfulness and compassion. As part of it, I had to rate myself twice a day for nine weeks on a scale of 1-7 on how anxious I was, how calm I was, and several other factors.

Just keeping up with the surveys made me anxious. They were like rabbits breeding in my inbox.  The minute I got one out, the next arrived. But what was more telling was to realize that my anxiety number was between 4-5 every day (1 being not at all and 7 being very much). If I’d just meditated, it might drop to 3 but never lower. After all the work I’ve done on myself, it was pretty discouraging until I realized that if I had done such a survey when I was younger, my average would have been 6-7. My big takeaway was that I’ve made progress, but I’m still carrying a pretty heavy “perpetually-waiting-for-something-bad-to-happen” in my being.  I’d like to continue to transform that.

What about you? If you had to rate yourself on a scale between 1 (not at all) and 7 (very much), how anxious are you? How calm are you? Does it fluctuate much? What would you like that number to be?

If this topic interests you, keep coming back. I plan to explore worry, fear, and anxiety through a variety of lenses over the next few weeks (and perhaps longer) and share what I’m learning.


9 Responses to “How Anxious Are You?”

  1. Jerry Steele said:

    Hi MJ — Interesting topic. I’m really curious about the statement “If I’d just meditated, it might drop to 3 but never lower”. As I’m trying to establish a meditation practice, my hope is that not only will the act have an immediate in the moment effect, but a sustained practice would help in a more ongoing way. So, if my normal fretting before having meditation in my life was a 5 or 6, then having a tool might keep me at a 3. Is worrying in your DNA despite it all?

  2. MJ Ryan said:

    We worriers are hardwired, which I will write about next time. However with sustained practice, I think we can get our numbers even lower. And I’ll take a 3 over a 6 anytime…

  3. Pocket Perspectives said:

    Hi MJ…I’m changing…slowly, slowly…but the numbers are dropping…and surprisingly, going lower than I would ever have thought they might…as you say… “sustained practice” ….a big sigh of relief… and lots more happiness, too. Kathy

  4. MJ Ryan said:

    Congratulations! Change is possible!

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