Going with The Flow

I once had a client who described the feeling of anxiety as "worrying over an important exam that doesn't exist", and an anxiety attack as "trying to breathe but there isn't enough air in the room".

Anxiety is said to manifest itself in a set of complex cognitive processes and behavioural responses to events or circumstances perceived as threatening (Chand and Marwaha, 2019). In my previous article, I mentioned that fear was a fundamental contributor to anxiety. I think that everyone feels anxious from time to time when things do not go as planned or when our family members did not reciprocate in the way we think they should. Fear is indeed innate in all of us and it is meant to help us respond to danger.

As in many things, when it goes beyond a certain threshold, feelings of anxiety and anticipation can go off the charts if left unchecked. We tend to draw a complete picture or a conclusion as to how things should unfold in our minds. When an outcome is unexpected and we are not prepared for it, we tend to feel that we are not in control. While some just adapt to unforeseen circumstances, others may feel like being on a rollercoaster that only goes up.

收流 (uke - nagashi)


I was introduced to this term by my Ninjutsu teacher: uke-nagashi (收流). This term is used in most Japanese martial arts to describe a set of movements where one would receive an attack, without interfering the flow or energy of the attack. Most attacks happen when we are mentally unprepared, as do impromptu quizzes at school or spot-checks at work. When we feel confronted unexpectedly, we are forced out of our comfort zone. Worrying excessively over an unexpected comment from a friend or over a project presentation at work is mentally draining. It also limits one's potential to see the bigger picture of a problem or situation. Learning to go with the flow when the tides roll in, instead of staying fixated on what we are looking for, is better way to manage our expectations of ourselves and of others. By adopting a more adaptive mindset, our scope becomes less myopic and it helps us explore and learn more about ourselves and other people.

We all have times when we are worried, and worrying makes us feel restless. However, when we worry excessively and disproportionately about things that do not fall under our area of control, it impairs our ability to stay focused on our daily tasks. We can feel so overwhelmed that we lose sight of what is important at present and think too much about future or past events. It is not wrong to think or worry, but when unhelpful thoughts become so repetitive that we feel unnecessarily nervous with a sense of impending danger or doom, we may need help to cope with anxiety.

Things can always go south or north without us knowing when or how. Letting nature to take its course while we take what’s there would be a better strategy than being drowned by waves of unwanted thoughts. So, let’s grab our surf boards and go with the flow!



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