Last week, I said to my friend, “Just like someone who studies Freud thinks that everything boils down to sex, I think that everything boils down to anxiety.”
Since I started learning about the wild and wonderful world of our anxiety symptoms, I can see where they impact my life and the lives of the people I love. Anxiety drives so much more of our behavior than I ever realized!
I’m an ‘urban cyclist’ which is just a really pretentious way of saying that I don’t own a car. I ride my bike everywhere. I can drive, but I don’t like to. I have intense road rage and my patience is non-existent. I have come to learn that this is due, in large part, to my anxiety.
Again, I think that everything boils down to anxiety.
Yesterday I rode home and while I was crossing one of the busier streets in Central Phoenix, the walk sign changed on me suddenly. I was about halfway across the street. As if on cue, some guy honked his horn at me. When I turned to look at him, he aggressively pointed to the walk sign as if to point out my folly.
I shouted “I KNOW!” back at him whilst pedaling, and for good measure, I gave him the finger.
Not my proudest moment, but again, there is a point.
Now, there was a time, before ARC, where I would not have let this go. I would have texted my friends about it. I may have even authored a snarky Facebook post about it. The real estate that this less than 20-second interaction would have taken up in my psyche would be epic!
Instead, by the time I was about a block away I was chuckling about it. The reason behind the mind shift was simple. I understood what had happened and instead of painting a picture of me versus some jerk on the road, it was me and my anxiety response.
I was able to do this because I put the Know Your ARC® system to work in real-time.
Know Your ARC® is an easy-to-use, easy-to-remember process that Katy and Laura created and utilize with their clients to help them figure out where they are with their anxiety. There are three steps and they are literally as easy to remember as A, B, C. Because, the steps are A3, B3, and C3.
I’ll show you how it works. Join me on this journey!
On the best of days, being an urban cyclist is risky. Being an urban cyclist in Central Phoenix is basically taking your life into your hands every day. I have learned to keep my head on a swivel when it comes to riding anywhere, especially where crosswalks are concerned. I will give myself a solid five seconds before crossing to allow for people who are turning right and not paying attention as well as those who may be potentially color blind and mistake the glaring red for a more pleasant yellow warning. Both my mother and my older sister were struck by cars while using crosswalks, so I take it seriously.
So starting with A3 which is how you gauge your Anxiety level (A) between Aware, Alert, or Alarmed.
Before I crossed the street, I was at alert. (revved up, top of my game, engaged.)
Aware (calm, peaceful, neutral) is the lowest point of the arc, and where we spend a lot of our time, so while riding a bike in the middle of a city, alert is a pretty ideal place to be.
When I saw the crosswalk light change back while I was in the middle of the road, the arrow of my arc was moving to the right. I know how people drive in my city, especially during rush hour. I was practically waiting to hear a horn in the less than three seconds that it took to finish crossing.
So, my ARC was at full-on alarm (overdrive, fully intensity) by the time the driver honked his horn at me. My heart was racing and I could feel the blood rushing in my ears.
The shouting and my use of hand signals was frustration, sure, but it was also my anxiety. I was already in the red (alarm!) with my anxiety, the crosswalk changing quickly accelerated that and Mr. Congeniality was the icing on the cake. My motor was revving like I was about to race Vin Diesel.
So then I realized that once I knew where I was in my A3 (Aware, Alert, or Alarm) I could see where my anxiety symptoms showed up in my B3 (Brain, Body, or Behavior).
It started in my brain with the thoughts of, “Oh man, I have to hurry!” and, “I cannot believe that the light just changed!”. Then my body came into play with the physical sensations of my racing heart and the ringing ears, after that, behavior took the wheel, or in this case, the handlebars with the irritability and some would say overreaction.
So at this point, my anxiety is on full ALARM and my brain and body are buzzing, and my behavior is pure fight or flight. Great for getting me across a busy street, not so much for the remainder of my bike ride.
Once I crossed the street and tried to get my mind right, I went to C3, (Consider, Choose and Continue) I needed to figure out (consider) what I needed to do to get my A3 back to a reasonable level (alert) so that my B3 (my brain, body and behavior, the TRIFECTA) would calm down, and choose a strategy to do that.
Fortunately for me, I was already utilizing two of my favorite strategies for anxiety; music and exercise! Being able to focus on the song that was playing as I pedaled got my anxiety arc back down to an acceptable and functioning level, which in this case was alert.
By the time I got home, not only had I completely calmed down, I was able to find humor in the situation. Once I got myself to where I wanted to be, I could continue (the third C) the process as needed.
This may all sound like gibberish to you, but trust me, Katy and Laura created it with the goal of it being QUICK and EASY. I’ve immersed myself in the Know Your Arc® since I started working with them, as I prepared content and helped with presentations. I could recite A3, B3, and C3 in my sleep.
When I realized that I had used the system in real-time, I was amped! I didn’t realize that I was doing it until it was over, and only then because I was amazed at the fact that I had gotten over it so quickly. I didn’t have to text everyone I knew about what had happened so that they could reassure me that I was in the right and the driver was a jerk (another behavior-based reaction.)
Another great thing about the Know Your Arc® system is that you did not once read in my story that I was trying to STOP my symptoms or make them GO AWAY. I was observing where I was and using that to get to where I wanted to be.
Katy and Laura were brilliant in this way because one of the first things that they teach every client is that anxiety is not the enemy. It’s the internal alarm system that keeps us alive.
They also explain that anxiety is always on, for every single one of us. That’s why, at the far left end of the arc, you are at “aware”. There is no off switch to anxiety, but you can adjust it when needed.
So when you say that you have anxiety, well, of course, you do. We all do. What you’re struggling with are the symptoms of that anxiety, which is why you need to Know Your Arc®!
The time that it takes to learn the formula is worth it in the time and energy that you get back to your life. Yes, the story that I just told you was not the end of the world, but living as we all are now, everything seems that much bigger. The ripples from that interaction could have reached out to the first person I spoke with right after it happened had I not found a way to get my arc back down.
I work with experts in anxiety, but I am not immune to being hijacked by my symptoms and acting and reacting in ways that are far from productive as a result.
That’s the other benefit to the system. Knowing my ARC and utilizing it during that moment didn’t just help me get to where I needed to be with my anxiety, but it also helped me empathize with the guy in his car as well…eventually.
I knew that his reaction had more to do with what he was going through than me. I mean, there were dozens of cars at that light, and he was the only one who not only honked but felt the need to point to the walk sign!
Laura referred to this as ‘dueling limbic systems’. Both of us were reacting to something and when you boiled it down, it had to do with our own perceived threats than each other. He could hate driving. He could hate traffic. He could have just wanted to get HOME!
Clearly, he was also in the red zone with his anxiety.
Anxiety symptoms are at an all-time high in our country. Even individuals who have considered their anxiety under control are now reporting that it’s getting harder to rein in their symptoms. A lot of what we are seeing in the world is the result of those symptoms manifesting.
I like to say that the world is not getting more hostile, it’s getting more anxious.
Once you Know Your Arc®, you begin to see that…wait for it…nearly everything boils down to anxiety. That mindset really does help get to the other side of a lot of less than pleasant interactions.
I was able to see the driver as a person before I started bad-mouthing him to my friend, or I took to social media to publicly shame him. That was only possible, and I mean this sincerely because I understand how anxiety works.
There will be days when it takes more than a few moments to get my arc down to an acceptable level. There will also be times when I need to get the arc moving out of aware and into alert or even alarm. I may have to choose from a few different strategies to get the symptoms I’m showing in my brain, body, or behavior to change but I know that it’s possible.
I’m not a person who sticks with things for long. If something seems labor-intensive or too ‘cerebral’, I’m out, regardless of how helpful and beneficial it could be to me in the long run. But this, A-B-C…c’mon, it’s easy peasy.
And given my penchant for road rage, it could be life-saving.