Aside from the existential dread that’s a constant in 2020, this has been one of my more emotionally stable years. I’ve always struggled with anxiety, sometimes to the point where it’s consumed me. Additionally, my loved ones have frequently commented on my strong intuition, a sense that has spooked even me at times. My anxiety and intuition, forces that everyone has to some extent, don’t always play nicely with each other. They’ve become mixed up and murky at many points in my life, especially when it came to relationships or perceived danger.
Time and time again, I found myself frantically Googling “intuition vs. anxiety” and “How can I tell if my worries are real or just my anxiety?”. I came across many articles with helpful advice and sought help from therapists that lead me in the right direction. All of this was essential to my journey of distinguishing between my anxiety and intuition, and spending time with myself and engaging in self-care were equally helpful.
I’m obviously no mental health professional, but now that I’ve made a lot of progress in this area, I wanted to share what’s helped me in case it can help someone else. The following list is a collection of things you can do to help tell the difference between your anxiety and intuition and mindsets to give you more peace during the process.
#1 Take care of yourself.
It can feel like “self-care” is a buzzword and blanket solution for everything these days, but I’m serious about this! I like to think of intuition as music and my body and mind as the instrument. If you let an instrument get out of tune or broken, the music played on it won’t be as loud and clear. Similarly, if we don’t do things like exercise, relax and eat and drink water regularly, our intuition won’t come through as clearly. Not engaging in self-care can also increase anxiety which can drown out or warp the voice of your intuition. I am most intuitive when I’m in a routine, journaling regularly and taking time to unwind every day.
Speaking of journaling regularly! When my anxiety was at its worst my junior year of college, journaling was my saving grace. Every night, I wrote down a list of things I was anxious about. After a week or two went by, I went back and highlighted the things that turned out fine in green to show myself what things had been my anxiety rather than my intuition. Then I reflected on how I had felt during those situations so I could more easily recognize what anxiety felt like in my body.
After I grew more practiced with that technique, I began journaling about times my intuition had been correct and reflected on how intuition felt in my body. This was extremely helpful in learning to tell which feelings were my anxiety and which were my intuition. It also helped me decipher how my body felt based on what my intuition was trying to tell me. Even the other day when I didn’t know how a situation was going to go, I was able to make an accurate prediction about the outcome based on the feeling I had on my stomach.
#3 Two words: Socratic Questioning.
One of my therapists introduced me to my favorite worksheet EVER: the Socratic Questioning Worksheet.
When you experience a thought and can’t tell if it’s rooted in the truth or in your anxiety, this worksheet helps you walk through the process of dissecting the thought and where it came from through a series of questions. This has been extremely helpful for me to do and you can look at the worksheet here.
#4 You’ll get answers when the time is right.
Thoughts rooted in anxiety and intuition do have something in common: the timeline of you resolving them isn’t completely in your hands. Let’s say you’re worried that your friend seems “off”. Whether it’s coming from a genuine gut feeling or anxiety rooted in a fear of conflict, you won’t know if something is up with them until they’re ready for you to. Of course you can ask them if they are ok and reflect on what’s going on in their life, but after that it’s out of your hands and you have to accept that you’ll get answers if and when the time is right.
The same goes with romantic situations. I’ve had relationships where I wondered if a girl was into my ex or if my ex was into in a girl. There have been a few times where I spent nights tossing and turning over it, asked them about it or even did the psycho things you see on TikTok like stalking Venmo transactions (luckily, I’ve grown out of this!). Sometimes I was completely wrong. Other times, I ended up being completely right, but all of this desperate thinking and investigating and wondering wasn’t what gave me my answers. They came when they were ready to, often when I had given up trying to figure it out and least expected it.
I learned that all I could do was pray for information to be revealed to me when the timing was right and use the answers I received from situations as tools to further distinguish my anxiety from my intuition. I also like writing affirmations about the strength of my intuition and my gratitude for it to attract it.
#5 There comes a point where if something really doesn’t feel right and it’s inhibiting your ability to function, it doesn’t matter what’s causing it.
Going off of the story of all the anxious and psycho things I used to do, I truly believe you don’t always need all the answers to decide if something is good for you or not. Whether it’s a job, relationship or decision, if something is constantly bringing out the worst in you, making you upset every day, or preventing you from doing your normal daily tasks, it’s ok to walk away from it even if you aren’t able to get to the root why it’s happening. It could be your intuition screaming that something is wrong, a sign that something isn’t the right fit for you, or an indication that you need space from something to prioritize your mental health.
Of course we all have days and moments where we feel uneasy or have doubts about things, but as I said, if a feeling is consuming you for an extended period of time, it’s important to reevaluate things, no matter what’s causing it.
I hope this blog post helped any of you struggling with what I struggled with. Honestly, telling the difference between anxiety and intuition is an ongoing challenge and process so these pieces of advice are things I have and will continue to revisit as well.
Please remember, these are just tips and mindsets that worked for me. If your thoughts ever feel too overwhelming or upsetting, it’s always best to enlist help from a mental health professional.
Stay healthy and safe!