Don't Get Anxiety Confused With Intuition

by Elaine Roth
Originally Published: 

Intuition led me to know that I was pregnant with my son moments after he was conceived. Intuition was the reason a boy at a club with a business card sporting a picture of a toilet seat became my husband.

And intuition is why I insisted to the doctor that something was wrong while I was pregnant with my daughter, and why even though all the tests revealed everything was fine, I kept insisting something wasn’t—insisting so fiercely that hours after I walked into the doctor’s office crying, she was born via c-section—premature, in critical condition, hours away from becoming a tragic story. But alive.

I knew it all, and I swore it was intuition.

I’ve always believed I was a highly intuitive person. Or, maybe I always just wanted to believe I was the kind of person who was highly intuitive.

Then my young husband died. And anxiety commingled with grief. I could no longer tell the difference between my intuition and my anxiety, no longer tell the difference between what I knew and what I didn’t. When it came to big decisions—like whether to sell my house or whether I was ready to date—there was no clear answer. I was no longer sure I could trust my heart and mind to steer me in the right direction.

Just as I was (maybe, hopefully) beginning to sort out the difference between my intuition and anxiety, a global pandemic ripped across the globe. We were bombarded with endless terrifying breaking news alerts (hello, doomscrolling), and every thought was clouded with feelings of negativity.

Once again, it became impossible to trust my heart and mind to steer me in the right direction. And this time, millions of other people were as unsure of what to do next as I was.

Scary Mommy spoke with practicing intuitive and New York Times bestselling author Laura Day about how to differentiate between your real intuitive thoughts and manifestations of anxiety, and how to tap into your intuition during times of transition or crisis.

What Is An Intuitive Coach?

Before attempting to understand the difference between intuition and anxiety, it’s important to understand what intuition is, and what an intuitive coach actually does. Intuition is defined as “the power or faculty of attaining to direct knowledge or cognition without evident rational thought and inference,“ by Merriam Webster Dictionary. Meaning, it’s an ability to know or understand something without conscious reasoning.

An intuitive coach, like a life coach, can help you define your issues and determine next steps forward. While a life coach may determine your problem and help you find an accepted generalized way of dealing with things, an intuitive coach’s approach may not be so linear. An intuitive coach may instead dig deeper and question what in a particular person’s environment is affecting them, and will often tailor a solution to the reality of each individual client.

What’s The Difference Between Anxiety And Intuition?

According to Day, the clearest way to understand the difference between anxiety and intuition is to understand that anxiety is future oriented and searching—all but fantasy—while intuition is calm and active, and often comes with direction. With intuition, comes a solution.

She says, “Intuition comes through as an awareness that something needs to be done and what to do. Intuition rarely evokes fear because it comes hand in hand with solutions.“

Intuition also isn’t a gut feeling. A gut feeling may be hunger, or you picking up someone else’s anxiety, or you feeling overwhelmed. Feelings are not intuition. Intuition “is experienced in a very detached way,” says Day.

How To Tap Into Intuition

Before tapping into intuition, you need to calm the anxiety. “Anxiety demands attention,” says Day. “Anxiety misleads you and has you hyper focused on a problem that probably won’t happen and has you missing the real problems.” She recommends deep breathing and mindfulness—which can be meditation, but can also be found by hiding in the bedroom for few minutes and having a moment. If that fails, she recommends one of two approaches: either distraction—do all the small tasks that can be done under an hour, exercise, or organize your sock drawer, because after a while one of those activities will catch your attention enough to pause your anxiety—or a small physical challenge, like tossing a ball from hand to hand, which coordinates the two hemispheres of your brain and makes it hard to keep focused on the anxiety.

Then, Day recommends listing your anxiety. Write down clear, specific questions and issues.

Once that’s done, it’s time to do what she calls, “a body check.” Examine how you’re feeling. Notice what you are seeing, smelling, touching, hearing, feeling, thinking, and remembering. Bring all of that into the moment. Doing so will allow you to have the most important thing that you need for intuitive work: perspective.

Perspective allows you to see what outside influences are impacting your thoughts—whether your concerns are related to something you’ve been influenced by in the news, or by a childhood experience, or by any number of “old tapes” that might play in your mind that have more to do with history than present.

With perspective comes intuition, a knowing that doesn’t come with a side of fear.

We’re living through a global pandemic, through unprecedented times, but if there’s anything I’ve learned in my years of young widowhood, it’s that there will always be the next crisis, the next life event that brings stress and turmoil (though, let’s all hope we don’t have to live through anything as stressful as a global pandemic again), and the best we can do is take a breath, cut out the noise, and trust ourselves.

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