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Finding Clarity: Understanding the Difference Between Anxiety Symptoms and Intuition Signals

Updated: Dec 12, 2023

This week, 'Therapy Begins with Tea' steeps on how our bodies' feedback can give us clarity on what we need and offers tips on how to differentiate triggered physiological responses from our inner gut.

Is this anxiety or is this my gut?

Therapy Begins with Tea is a weekly newsletter based on the themes that come up in my sessions as a therapist who specializes in imposter syndrome, attachment styles in romantic relationships, and our psychological relationships with money. Each week consists of a 'steep' in thought reflection, an accompanying body based check-in, and tea card intentions for the week to come.

'Steep' in Thought (3-5 min)

Feeling 'Activated' Part Two

This question comes up a lot in session, especially in the context of relationships. It can sound like

"I'm feeling anxious because this person isn't responding right away. Does this mean they're not interested and I should stop before they hurt me?"

"I don't want to lose them, but I keep having this nagging feeling that they're not going to be able to give me what I need."

"I'm feeling suffocated by their expectations right now."

Differentiating between our triggered physiological responses and our inner sense of 'knowing' gives us clarity on 1) what we need for ourselves and 2) how to respond to others.

So how do we discern our intuition from our anxiety? We look at where it's showing up in our bodies.

Full Body Check-In (2-4 min)

Take a breath, close your eyes, and find the feeling of activation in your body. Maybe you spot the sensation immediately or maybe you use a body scan -- from the top of the head down to the feet -- to search for its location. Once you find it, describe the sensation that you feel. Is it a flurry of energy in your upper chest? Or is it an anchor sitting deep in your lower core?

Upper Chest

An activated nervous system is usually felt in our chest -- a tightening & quickening of breath and heartbeat. It's often accompanied by a feeling of urgency. Activation in the chest signals a bubbling up of unresolved fears & insecurities (e.g. anxious/avoidant attachment, uncertainty, lack of control). Rather than acting on these feelings impulsively, give yourself the space to explore the emotion(s) behind the sensation. Be curious. More often than not, these emotions need attention & soothing rather than action.


Lower Core

Intuition, or a 'gut feeling,' is named so for a reason -- it's felt quite literally in our gut and is often accompanied by an underlying sense of resolve. That inner sense of 'knowing' reminds us of our pre-existing boundaries and helps us recognize new ones. Which boundary is the gut feeling touching on? Is it asking you to practice the boundary yourself or to communicate it to someone else?

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