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Anxiety or Intuition: How to Differentiate Your Gut Feelings

Sometimes trusting your intuition is easier said than done. Ruby Warner offers some tips on how to navigate your gut feelings when dealing with anxiety.

By Ruby Warner,

THE CROFT/ Sometimes trusting your intuition is easier said than done. Ruby Warner offers some tips on how to navigate your gut feelings when dealing with anxiety.

When we face situations or decisions that bring up conflicting feelings, it can feel impossible to decipher whether we are being guided by intuition or misdirected by fear. As someone who struggles with anxiety, it is particularly difficult to tell one from the other. Maybe anxiety and intuition are somewhat intertwined, but when we start to untangle them, there are some subtle differences we can pay attention to. Here are some questions to ask yourself when you feel uncertain of the difference between anxiety and intuition.

1.       Is the feeling one of urgency or one of calmness?

An overwhelming sense of panic and urgency is often a sign that our fight or flight response has been triggered. Our body feels it needs to protect us by avoiding or escaping a situation. Intuition, on the other hand, feels peaceful and safe. There is a sense of clarity rather than chaos.

2.       Are you being guided by self-compassion or insecurity?

Intuition comes from a place of self-compassion, whereas anxiety comes from one of insecurity. Because anxiety is rooted in the perception of threat, the decisions we make when guided by anxiety feel like the safest option. However, the ‘safe option’, for example, saying no to a new experience because you fear what could go wrong, can be self-limiting and hold you back from enjoying your life. Intuition looks beyond this and guides you from a place of knowing your worth.

3.       Are your thoughts clear and rational or intrusive, distressing and based on assumptions?

Anxious thoughts tend to assume the worst, overgeneralise and catastrophise situations. It may be difficult to think clearly, making you more indecisive and uncertain. If you are finding that as you are thinking, you are becoming more confused and overwhelmed, take some time to regulate your nervous system and take some deep breaths before continuing. Your intuition is a calm, guiding feeling rather than a stressful one.

4.       Is this thought or decision helping me move forward, or is it based on the past?

Anxiety tends to focus and ruminate on the past. In an attempt to protect us from getting hurt, being rejected, or failing at something, anxiety focuses on everything that could go wrong. For example, if you had a bad experience in a previous friendship, anxiety might appear when there is the possibility of making new friends and having another negative experience. However, intuition helps us move forward. Intuition might guide us towards reaching out to new people, allowing us to move on from the past.

Intuition does not come naturally to everyone; it can take time to trust and embrace it. But, just like any other skill, intuition can be developed and strengthened. In Dialectical Behavioural Therapy, therapists teach patients to develop something called ‘Wise Mind’. It is a way of thinking that encourages the merging of our emotional and rational minds, allowing us to respond to things in a more balanced way. The idea of Wise Mind is to listen to and honour your emotional needs and utilise your objective knowledge to find an intuitive, mindful and balanced perspective. Through adopting this practice, it can be easier to define and harness intuition whilst acknowledging other conflicting feelings that may be present.

How do you make sense of your gut feelings? Let us know!

Featured Image: Krisjanis Kazak