A “free-floating anxiety disorder” is the label psychologists use when people describe anxiety that exists for no apparent reason. This type of anxiety does not come from a specific phobia or event, so it is unclear why the person feels anxious.
Have you noticed the anxiety that is in the air these days? We have. The name “free-floating” perfectly describes the collective experience of anxiety all around us.
For you it may be a combination of the US presidential election, the tragic Syria War, extreme weather, ISIS threats, Zika virus, economic uncertainty and/or frequent random shootings. If you check your social media apps every few minutes you may rarely get a worry-free moment.
Free-floating anxiety is affecting each of us—possibly more than we know.
Free-floating anxiety is a constant state of feeling uneasy, but not knowing why. As a result, you may observe:
- An inability to focus or concentrate;
- Irritability, for no apparent reason;
- Disturbed sleep patterns;
- Muscle tension, especially neck, shoulders and back; and/or
- Focusing more on what is going wrong than what is going right
A normal level of anxiety can enhance your ability to focus and motivate you to complete tasks. A healthy level of anxiety alerts your body and mind to pay attention and focus on what you want to create.
However, if you succumb to free-floating anxiety you may move from motivating anxiety to living, working and relating from the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT)™. When you can’t put your finger on what is causing the anxiety, you may feel more confused. The more you try to figure out the specific cause, the more your anxiety arises. It’s a vicious cycle of feeling victimized by the free-floating anxiety itself.
If you are like most of us, you then go looking for a Rescuer to numb the pain. The Rescuer could be a person, a substance (such as an extra glass of wine), or an activity that seems to help dull the anxious Inner State.
You may enter into a “Kinship of Victimhood” conversation with some serving as a Rescuer, complaining about the state of things. Or you find someone to gossip with you about the candidate you both have grown to loath.
Whatever its form, relief from the rescuing is temporary and the cycle of anxiety resurfaces and may even get more intense.
What to do? First, recognize that free-floating anxiety is a very real “thing” and may be affecting you. That insight could help you catch and redirect your thoughts when you keep sliding into the DDT.
Second, working harder as a reaction to your anxiety will only heighten it. Scheduling time during your day for breaks is essential. Removing yourself from the stressor for just fifteen minutes can help dissipate the anxiety.
Third, know you are not the only one feeling this way. Hopefully the idea that free-floating anxiety is a real “thing” and others feel it too, can help you dissolve some of your worry. Letting go of having to have it all figured out and giving yourself a break, can be the best decision you make today.
Lastly – and most important – consciously choose to redirect your focus. The question becomes, what do you choose to focus on? Thinking about one or two things you are grateful for is the fastest way we know of to redirect our focus, interrupt the free-floating anxiety, and – as a Creator – take a Baby Step in service to something you care about.