Mindful Journeys: How does anxiety actually feel?

Imagine you’re going about your average day. You’ve had your morning coffee, checked over a couple of emails and are about to start one of the items on your to-do list. Then, suddenly, you lose your focus. It’s no big deal; the thought of upcoming deadlines just passed your mind. You start work again only to not produce a single coherent thought.

The description above is just one of the most common symptoms I and many other people experience with anxiety. Usually referred to as “brain fog,” it can take longer to complete relatively easy activities. Forgetfulness or trouble trying to organize thoughts can also occur too. To people who don’t experience anxiety, it can be easy to chalk it up to “putting too much on their plate.” Even more people think mental health symptoms are just dealing with the thoughts in their head. 

Anxiety goes so much beyond brain fog. The subconscious takes over our thoughts without even realizing it, which can make it difficult to focus on anything but worrying. When those worries come to the forefront, a lot of people will avoid the things that trigger their anxiety. In turn, being restless and tense are two of the feelings that people with anxiety constantly feel. Oftentimes, it’s hard for us to relax when all of the fears —real or imagined — seem to be all we focus on. 

The adrenaline of constantly being in fight-or-flight mode activates an array of physical symptoms as well. Anxiety can trigger panic attacks that come on suddenly. In the moment, it can seem like it will never go away. Your heart beats out of your chest, you’re dizzy or lightheaded, your breathing brings you almost to the point of hyperventilation. It’s like a workout without any of the health benefits. 

Even achieving basic needs can be extremely difficult. Sometimes, you’ll feel like eating absolutely nothing due to nausea and the feelings of a tight stomach. Other times, you’ll want to eat every comfort food you can get your hands on. It can be difficult to fall or stay asleep due to all the racing thoughts going through your head. Talking with your doctor about getting on medication or going to therapy is so beneficial. The sooner you can go, the quicker you can keep your anxiety at bay. 

There’s a reason people say mental health is just as important as our physical health. If we don’t take care of mentality, it can affect how we go about our lives. Symptoms vary from person to person and it can cause a tremendous amount of inconvenience in our lives. The next time someone says they have anxiety or any other mental disorder, consider the fact that it might not just be all in their heads.

Photo caption:  Brain fog can make it really hard to concentrate on homework or any usual activities. (Courtesy of Emma Johnson)

Write to Emma Johnson at

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