"Anxiety shows up as a variety of symptoms, from behavioral and emotional to physical and cognitive (which just means thoughts). No anxious person has the exact same set of symptoms, but everyone has some of each type.
"Although anxiety can sometimes seem like a flaw, it's actually an evolutionary advantage, a hypervigilance system that causes us to pause and scan the environment. Feeling anxious triggers us to start looking out for potential threats. If you detect a potential danger, it's not supposed to be easy for you to stop thinking about that threat. While that's great when you're a caveman worried about protecting your family, it's not as great when you're an employee convinced you're getting fired.
"For many of us who suffer from anxiety, our anxiety alarms fire too often when there isn't a good reason to be excessively cautious. Why does this happen? We may have more sensitive anxiety systems. Or we may have been doing things to decrease our anxiety in the short term, such as avoiding things that make us feel anxious, that have actually increased it in the long term.
"Having some false anxiety alarms — where you see threats that don't exist or worry about things that don't eventuate — isn't a defect in your system. Think of it in caveman terms: In a life-and-death sense, failing to notice a real threat (termed a false negative) is more of a problem than registering a potential danger that doesn't happen (termed a false positive). Therefore, having some false anxiety alarms is a built-in part of the system, to err on the side of caution.
"People feel anxious when they step outside their comfort zone. Avoiding stepping outside your comfort zone would lead to living life less fully. Since I'm anxiety-prone by nature, almost every major decision I've made in my life has involved feeling physically sick with anxiety. If I weren't willing to make decisions that lead to temporarily feeling more anxious, my life would be much emptier than it is today.
"Reducing your anxiety to zero isn't possible or useful. Anxiety itself isn't the problem. The problem occurs when anxiety gets to the point that it's paralyzing, and you become stuck. I think of these bottlenecks as anxiety traps. We're going to work on managing your responses to five anxiety traps: excessively hesitating before taking action, ruminating and worrying, paralyzing perfectionism, fear of feedback and criticism, and avoidance (including procrastination)."