The Three Arrows of Anxiety

We all experience anxiety from time to time, whether it’s worry about an exam, first date nerves or the anxiety that accompanies an important meeting. This is completely normal and the feelings of anxiety usually pass as soon as the ‘stressor’ has passed.

However, for some of us anxiety is a longer term experience. We may or may not know where it came from, but either way it causes us considerable distress. We might feel overwhelmed by worrying thoughts and constantly on edge, or troubled by a range of physical symptoms such as pins and needles, digestive problems, sweating, nausea, dizziness, hot flushes and ‘jelly legs’. This foundational experience of anxiety is the first arrow.

The second and third arrows of anxiety are our reactions to the first arrow which actually serve only to heighten our anxiety. The second arrow is resistance. We want the anxiety to go away and we struggle against it, but unfortunately this merely creates more tension. The third arrow is ‘anxiety about anxiety’. We worry that we may be losing our mind, or we focus excessively on the physical symptoms, wondering what they could mean or worrying that perhaps we have a serious health condition.

When we’re feeling very anxious, our ability to think clearly and work out our best next steps is diminished. However, understanding the three arrows of anxiety can help lessen the mystery and fear of anxiety so that you can start to feel a little more in control.

Over the coming weeks and months, Mind For Wellbeing will be running a series of wellbeing events at Place Eight Wellness providing information, tools and techniques for managing the three arrows of anxiety. Keep an eye out on our wellbeing courses and workshops page or on Place Eight Wellness’s website for further details.

© Michelle Drapeau, 2019
The metaphor of The Three Arrows of Anxiety is based on the Buddhist Parable of the Second Arrow