Am I just being anxious? Or is this my intuition?
Should I listen to this dark feeling I’m having? Or should I just accept that it’s my anxiety?
As a formerly VERY anxious person, I know that it can feel almost impossible to tell the difference between anxious thoughts and your intuition.
When you’re always anxious, everything seems to be some elusive intuitive feeling.
How can you know if this is your intuition or “gut feeling” or just your anxious thoughts taking control?
From my experience, it can take practice to learn the difference between anxiety and intuition, but there are a few simple things to look for that can help you!
So let’s take a look!
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The top ways to tell the difference between anxiety and intuition.
1. Your intuition is an initial feeling but your anxiety will keep coming back
They say when you take a multiple choice test, you should usually go with the first answer that comes into your mind. If you think for too long, doubt will come along and cloud your judgement.
That’s because your intuition comes from your subconscious brain, which can process a lot more information than your conscious brain. Which means, that it usually has a pretty good idea of what’s going on.
I find that anxiety is that nagging feeling that comes afterwards. It forces you to keep overthinking and exploring all the different channels of doubt.
It goes against your intuition. Intuition should feel like a calm sense of knowing.
It can be a VERY subtle difference.
BUT, I know from my personal experience, that my intuition would typically tell me that it was fine at first and then my anxiety would sink in later.
My thought process was usually something like this: “ I know that it’s probably fine, but I can’t shake the feeling that it’s not”
Trust me, that your first instinct that “it’s probably fine” – is RIGHT. The second feeling that it’s not, is just plain anxiety.
2. Anxiety interferes with your life, intuition does not.
If you find that you keep getting a feeling that you can’t shake – it’s usually anxiety.
That’s because it’s not rational and there’s not an easy way to resolve the feelings.
Anxiety will keep coming back into your mind and you’ll have the same anxious feeling for many different situations (and this will start interfering with your life)
Intuition will usually be a unique thought or feeling about a situation and won’t keep popping up all the time. It won’t be your usual “go-to” anxious thought.
Related Article: 10 Minute Journaling Exercise For Overcoming Fear
3. Anxiety feels like something you CAN’T easily resolve and intuition feels like something you could easily resolve
Again, anxiety is usually not rational, which means that it’s not going to have a rational solution.
It means that with anxiety, even if you take all of the right steps in the given situation you are feeling anxious about, you will still have those “what if” thoughts.
Intuition, on the other hand, will give you a signal that something isn’t right, and you will be able to adjust what you’re doing or do something that will help the situation. Once you take some action, the intuitive thought will go away, because you’ve been able to fix that situation.
Related Article: How Negative Thinking Gets Wired in Your Brain
4. Anxiety is based on what you think might happen in the future, intuition is based on how you feel right now
An anxious mind is usually focused on what will happen in the future. Intuition will be a feeling about what is happening in the present.
Your intuition is the collection of all your past experiences and knowledge, which will be used in combination with all of the information that your brain is taking in about the current situation.
Your intuition does not have any information about the future and therefore cannot make a prediction. The “prediction” is your anxiety using your imagination to make assumptions, but these are not really true.
Now I’m not saying that your intuition is always right, but it’s a lot more accurate than your anxiety.
Also, if you’re constantly worried about the future, here’s another piece of advice: literally no one can predict what will happen in the future, so don’t bother trying.
Here’s an example from my life:
I used to always think that I “knew” what was going to happen and I would believe my anxious thoughts. But here is what I’ve learned to help me stop doing that:
The world is much more complicated than you think, you cannot possibly know enough information to make an accurate prediction. (Which means your anxiety is lying to you)
Take this example: meteorologists. (Strange example, I know, but stay with me)
Meteorologists can make some pretty educated guesses about the weather – by looking at the FACTS, but they can never fully know because they can’t account for all of the complex factors that go into weather. There are too many unknowns out there.
So when applying this to your anxious thoughts: you could have some facts or ideas that might lead you to believe that something bad might happen, but you’ll never know! (And in my experience, it’s not worth the stress of worrying – a concept that takes practice to understand and live by)
My other advice for this is that when you’re anxious, it can even be hard to even know what your intuition is. I have worked on my anxiety a lot and I’ve worked on listening to my intuition – so it does take practice.
It will be hard for you to EVER listen to your intuition if you don’t take the steps to help your anxiety.
For example, there are tons of options, going to a therapist, doing online therapy, or doing some self-help and soul-searching. (But going to a professional is the best option!)
5. Anxiety is made up of chaotic, scattered thoughts. Intuition is a calm sense of knowing.
Not everyone experiences anxiety in the same way, but many of us will have scattered and chaotic thoughts flooding our brain.
They tend to be triggered by similar situations, where you will get the flood of “what if”s and then the flood of hormones that accompany anxiety, which make you feel the anxious sensations in your body.
Your intuition may come up with similar situations as well, but it won’t feel like this flood of worry, it will feel more just like a thought worth exploring.
A quick way to help determine if this is anxiety or intuition is to make a list of all the ways that you could help the situation to mitigate whatever you are worried about.
If these are reasonable things you can do that won’t upset your life, then you should do them. Or at least ask yourself: “If I did these things to help the situation, would I still be anxious?”
If the answer is “yes”, this is your anxiety. If the answer if “no”, it is probably your intuition and you can go ahead and take those reasonable steps to mitigate the possible problems that your intuition was telling you.
Now, can you ever fully know the difference between your intuition and anxiety?
The answer here is probably not: with ONE BIG CONDITION.
If you can’t tell the difference between your anxiety and your intuition, it’s because you NEED to work on overcoming your anxiety.
You will never be able to tell if it is actually your intuition until you don’t have that strong anxious reaction anymore.
In fact, your intuition has probably merged with your anxiety and is a bit off.
This is because your intuition is a combination of past experiences and thoughts, as well as information that it has perceived.
This means that the information that your intuition holds is subjective and clouded by your anxiety.
So, if all the information your mind has taken in is from a subjective, anxious perspective, your intuition is likely anxious.
Which is why you need to focus on changing how you perceive these situations to retrain your intuition!
You can check out some other articles I have on learning how to understand your anxiety better and change your thought patterns to be less anxious.