52 Quotes on Anxiety

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Anxiety

52 Quotes on Anxiety

THC Editorial Team June 26, 2021
Landscape with a Rainbow over a Farmhouse and Distant Village n.d. Vincent Jansz. van der Vinne Dutch, Met Museum (article on anxiety quotes)
Landscape with a Rainbow over a Farmhouse and Distant Village ,n.d., Vincent Jansz. van der Vinne Dutch, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Contents

What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety is an emotion that refers to concerns, worry, and/or fear about a situation. In clinical terms, anxiety refers to instances when a person experiences excessive fear or apprehension about a situation.1 According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th edition; DSM-5), “Fear is the emotional response to a real or perceived imminent threat, whereas anxiety is the anticipation of future threat.”2

Anxiety, within normal bounds, can be a “gift of wisdom.”3 It acts as a tool, or indicator, to communicate our internal perceptions about the external world. It can prompt us to reflect on or prepare for stressful but important occasions, such as an exam, a first date, or a competition. However, excessive anxiety can profoundly affect our minds and bodies in negative ways. Modern life—and its associated challenges—is conducive to abnormal levels of anxiety. Our Western concepts of time management and our notion of productivity, the divisive rhetoric in the news media, and our fast-paced, high-stress work environments contribute to heightened baseline anxiety.

Experiencing prolonged levels of abnormal anxiety may be characterized as having an anxiety disorder. In 2017, an estimated 284 million people experienced an anxiety disorder globally.4 The World Health Organization estimates that anxiety disorders make up 4% of existing disabilities worldwide.5

Select Quotes on Anxiety

The following are some of our favorite quotes on anxiety. They have been curated from some of our favorite books, articles, and teachers.

Depression and anxiety are downward spirals: patterns of negative, unhealthy activity and reactivity that the brain ends up stuck in.…Recent research has uncovered the power of the upward spiral: the fact that small positive life changes lead to positive brain changes in its electrical activity, its chemical composition, and even its ability to grow new neurons.…Upward spirals can reverse the downward patterns of depression and anxiety.6

— Alex Korb
The Upward Spiral

By making small changes in your thoughts, actions, interactions, and environment, it’s possible to change the activity and chemistry of the key brain circuits underlying depression and anxiety.6

— Alex Korb
The Upward Spiral

The brain is malleable and can be reshaped, and thus so can the neural circuits that contribute to depression and anxiety.6

— Alex Korb
The Upward Spiral

The above quotes are from neuroscientist and writer Dr. Alex Korb and indicate the possibility of change in anxiety and depression, the two most common mental health conditions.

The following quotes by Marc Brackett and Max Lucado allude to the uncertainty and lack of perceived control of anxiety.

Anxiety…is worry about future uncertainty and our inability to control what will happen to us.7

— Marc Brackett
Permission to Feel

Anxiety is a meteor shower of what-ifs.8

— Max Lucado
Anxious for Nothing

The next quotes are from leading existentialist and 20th-century psychologist Rollo May, who covers some philosophical aspects of anxiety.

Anxiety has a purpose. Originally this purpose was to protect the existence of the caveman from wild beasts and savage neighbors. Nowadays the occasions for anxiety are very different—we are afraid of losing out in the competition, feeling unwanted, isolated, and ostracized.9

— Rollo May
The Meaning of Anxiety

Normal anxiety is an expression of the capacity of the organism to react to threats; this capacity is innate and has its inherited neurophysiological system.9

— Rollo May
The Meaning of Anxiety

Anxiety cannot be avoided, but it can be reduced.9

— Rollo May
The Meaning of Anxiety

Anxiety can be treated constructively by accepting it as a challenge and a stimulus to clarify and, as far as possible, resolve the underlying problem.9

— Rollo May
The Meaning of Anxiety

The constructive use of normal anxiety…is characterized by the individual’s…admitting apprehensions but moving ahead despite the anxiety. In other words…moving through anxiety-creating experiences rather than moving around them or retrenching before them.9

— Rollo May
The Meaning of Anxiety

The positive aspects of selfhood develop as the individual confronts, moves through, and overcomes anxiety-creating experiences.9

— Rollo May
The Meaning of Anxiety

Anxiety is the reaction when a person faces some kind of destruction of his existence or that which he identifies with it.9

— Rollo May
The Meaning of Anxiety

This normal anxiety of life cannot be avoided except at the price of apathy or the numbing of one’s sensibilities and imagination.9

— Rollo May
The Meaning of Anxiety

The problem of the management of anxiety is that of reducing the anxiety to normal levels, and then to use this normal anxiety as stimulation to increase one’s awareness, vigilance, zest for living.9

— Rollo May
The Meaning of Anxiety

The constructive way of dealing with anxiety…consists of learning to live with it, accepting it as a “teacher,” to borrow Kierkegaard’s phrase, to school us in confronting our human destiny.

— Rollo May
The Meaning of Anxiety

Conscious anxiety is more painful but it is available also to use in the service of integration of the self.9

— Rollo May
The Meaning of Anxiety

In…anxiety, what is felt to be wrong may be simply some aspect of human destiny which every person must accept as part of the human condition.9

— Rollo May
The Meaning of Anxiety

The next set of quotes addresses the holistic, mindful, and transformational aspects of the self and anxiety.

The dramatic increase in the number of people suffering from fear, anxiety, and depression in the last decades is a direct reflection of how many of us struggle with the painful lack of inner peace and self-acceptance.10

— Friedemann Schaub
The Self-Acceptance Project

The current level of pain, anxiety, and depression in our society offers a huge opportunity for growth on a larger scale, and it is encouraging to see that more and more people recognize that the path to harmony, peace, and fulfillment leads them within.10

— Friedemann Schaub
The Self-Acceptance Project

Spiritual health and well-being are as important as physical and emotional health, and very often conflicts in the soul play out in a person’s religious and spiritual practice. Spiritual emotions can be deeply disturbing: anxiety about meaning, guilt, fear of death, concern about afterlife, existential loneliness, and uncertainty.11

— Thomas Moore
Care of the Soul

Perhaps the biggest tragedy in our lives is that freedom is possible, yet we can pass our years trapped in the same old patterns. Entangled in the trance of unworthiness, we grow accustomed to caging ourselves in with self-judgment and anxiety, with restlessness and dissatisfaction.12

— Tara Brach
Radical Acceptance

Understanding anxiety’s positive function throughout history can facilitate the essential shift in mindset from wanting to get rid of it to becoming curious about it.3

— Sheryl Paul
The Wisdom of Anxiety

When we learn how to harness the wisdom of anxiety, the richness and messages contained in the unconscious can inform and expand our conscious lives.3

— Sheryl Paul
The Wisdom of Anxiety

Anxiety can inform your life, but it does not have to define it. You’re not destined for anxiety; you’re destined for equanimity.3

— Sheryl Paul
The Wisdom of Anxiety

This is the wisdom of anxiety: the call to turn inward so that you can fill your well and turn back outward to give to a world that needs you.3

— Sheryl Paul
The Wisdom of Anxiety

Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry all forms of fear are caused by too much future, and not enough presence.13

— Eckhart Tolle
The Power of Now

The simple and honest process of letting people know that discomfort is normal, it’s going to happen, why it happens, and why it’s important, reduces anxiety, fear, and shame. Periods of discomfort become an expectation and a norm.14

— Brené Brown
Daring Greatly

Anxiety is extremely contagious, but so is calm.15

— Harriet Lerner
As cited in The Gifts of Imperfection

The placing of your attention on the dissipation of the anxiety by witnessing it, and nothing more, allows it to go away.16

— Dr. Wayne Dyer
The Power of Awakening

Your sense of inner peace depends on spending some of your life energy in silence to recharge your battery, remove tension and anxiety, reacquaint you with the joy of knowing God, and feel closer to all of humanity.17

— Dr. Wayne Dyer
You Are What You Think

Being in the now is the way to remove anxiety, stress, and even some illnesses.18

— Dr. Wayne Dyer
21 Days to Master Success and Inner Peace

Chasing and striving—and then becoming attached to what we chased after—is a source of anxiety that invigorates Ambition, but it won’t satisfy the need for Meaning at our soul level.19

— Dr. Wayne Dyer
The Shift

We attract difficult situations because there is something of value for us to learn; they give us the opportunity to be of service to others. Such situations create anxiety because they mirror unresolved issues we carry inside of us.…Experiences come into our lives to serve as a reflection of who we are; they allow us to integrate the challenges that remain unresolved.20

— Mira Kelley
Beyond Past Lives

Practicing mindfulness can bring about a whole new dimension of being. We can transform our anger and anxiety, and cultivate our energy of peace, understanding, and compassion as the basis for action.21

— Thich Nhat Hanh
The Art of Living

When we’re anxious, worried, or angry, we can’t make good decisions. When we’re free, we make better decisions. This freedom is something we can attain whenever we like with the practice of breathing in mindfulness, walking in mindfulness.22

— Thich Nhat Hanh
How to Relax

We can notice whether we are anxious about accidents or misfortunes, and how much anger, irritation, fear, anxiety, or worry are still in us. As we become aware of the feelings in us, our self-understanding will deepen.23

— Thich Nhat Hanh
How to Love

Sometimes we eat, but we aren’t thinking of our food. We’re thinking of the past or the future or mulling over some worry or anxiety again and again. Don’t chew your worries, your fear, or your anger. If you chew your planning and your anxiety, it’s difficult to feel grateful for each piece of food. Just chew your food.24

— Thich Nhat Hanh
How to Eat

Anxiety is the handmaiden of contemporary ambition, for our livelihoods and esteem rest on…unpredictable elements.25

— Alain de Botton
Status Anxiety

Life seems to be a process of replacing one anxiety with another and substituting one desire for another—which is not to say that we should never strive to overcome any of our anxieties or fulfil any of our desires, but rather to suggest that we should perhaps build into our strivings an awareness of the way our goals promise us a respite and a resolution that they cannot, by definition, deliver.25

— Alain de Botton
Status Anxiety

Anxiety is our fundamental state for well-founded reasons: because we are intensely vulnerable physical beings…we have insufficient information upon which to make most major life decisions…because the trajectories of our careers and of our finances are plotted within the tough-minded, competitive, destructive, random workings of an uncontained economic engine; because we rely for our self-esteem and sense of comfort on the love of people we cannot control and whose needs and hopes will never align seamlessly with our own.26

— Alain de Botton and The School of Life
The School of Life

Anxiety is not a sign of sickness, a weakness of the mind or an error for which we should always seek a medical solution. It is mostly a hugely reasonable and sensitive response to the genuine strangeness, terror, uncertainty and riskiness of existence.26

— Alain de Botton and The School of Life
The School of Life

Anxiety is simply insight that we haven’t yet found a productive use for, that hasn’t yet made its way into art or philosophy.26

— Alain de Botton and The School of Life
The School of Life

There is no need…to be anxious that we are anxious. The mood is no sign that our lives have gone wrong, merely that we are alive.26

— Alain de Botton and The School of Life
The School of Life

No matter what problems we struggle with—anxiety, depression, negative rumination, self-doubt, chronic pain—they do not have to keep us from acting in a way that brings our lives meaning and purpose.27

— Steven Hayes
A Liberated Mind

… although anxiety is a part of life, never let it control you.

— Paulo Coelho
Manuscript Found in Accra

There is nothing wrong with anxiety. Although we cannot control God’s time, it is part of the human condition to want to receive the thing we are waiting for as quickly as possible.28

— Paulo Coelho
Manuscript Found in Accra

Anxiety was born in the very same moment of mankind. And since we will never be able to master it, we will have to learn to live with it — just as we have we have learned to live with storms.28

— Paulo Coelho
Manuscript Found in Accra

Anxiety is love’s greatest killer. It creates the failures. It makes others feel as you might when a drowning man holds on to you. You want to save him, but you know he will strangle you with his panic.29

— Anais Nin
The Diary of Anais Nin vol. 4

Anxiety is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.

— Attributed to Arthur Somers Roche

Do not let your difficulties fill you with anxiety, after all it is only in the darkest nights that stars shine more brightly.

— Attributed to Imam Ali ibn-Abi-Talib

Good humor is a tonic for mind and body. It is the best antidote for anxiety and depression. It is a business asset. It attracts and keeps friends. It lightens human burdens. It is the direct route to serenity and contentment.

— Attributed to Grenville Kleiser

Man is not worried by real problems so much as by his imagined anxieties about real problems.

— Attributed to Epictitus

Hopefully, these insights from throughout history can be helpful for us in navigating our own experiences and relationship with anxiety.

References

  1. Black, D. W., & Grant, J. E. (2014). DSM-5® guidebook: The essential companion to the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, fifth edition. American Psychiatric Association Publishing.
  2. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.).
  3. Paul, S. (2019). Wisdom of anxiety: How worry and intrusive thoughts are gifts to help you heal. Sounds True Inc.
  4. Richie, H., & Roser, M. (2018, April). Mental health.
    https://ourworldindata.org/mental-health
  5. World Bank Group and World Health Organization. (2016). Out of the Shadows, Making Mental Health a Global Development Priority.
  6. Korb, A. (2015). The upward spiral: Using neuroscience to reverse the course of depression, one small change at a time. New Harbinger Publications.
  7. Brackett, M. (2019). Permission to feel: Unlocking the power of emotions to help our kids, ourselves, and our society thrive. Celadon Books.
  8. Lucado, M. (2017). Anxious for nothing: Finding calm in a chaotic world. Thomas Nelson.
  9. May, R. (2015). The meaning of anxiety. W. W. Norton.
  10. Simon, T. (Ed.). (2016). The self-acceptance project: How to be kind and compassionate toward yourself in any situation. Sounds True.
  11. Moore, T. (2016). Care of the soul: A guide for cultivating depth and sacredness in everyday life. Harper Perennial.
  12. Brach, T. (2004). Radical acceptance: Embracing your life with the heart of a Buddha. Bantam.
  13. Tolle, E. (2004). The power of now: A guide to spiritual enlightenment. New World Library.
  14. Brown, B. (2015). Daring greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. Avery.
  15. Brown, B. (2010). The gifts of imperfection: Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are. Hazelden Publishing.
  16. Dyer, W. W. (2020). The power of awakening: Mindfulness practices and spiritual tools to transform your life. Hay House.
  17. Dyer, W. W. (2018). You are what you think: 365 Meditations for extraordinary Living. Hay House.
  18. Dyer, W. W. (2012). 21 days to master success and inner peace. Hay House.
  19. Dyer, W. W. (2019). The shift: Taking your life from ambition to meaning. Hay House.
  20. Kelley, M. (2015). Beyond past lives: What parallel realities can teach us about relationships, healing, and transformation. Hay House.
  21. Hanh, T. N. (2017). The art of living: Peace and freedom in the here and now. HarperOne.
  22. Hanh, T. N. (2015). How to relax. Parallax Press.
  23. Hanh, T. N. (2014). How to love. Parallax Press.
  24. Hanh, T. N. (2014). How to eat. Parallax Press.
  25. De Botton, A. (2005). Status anxiety. Vintage.
  26. De Botton, A., & The School of Life. (2020). The School of Life: An Emotional Education. The School of Life Press.
  27. Hayes, S. C. (2020). A liberated mind: How to pivot toward what matters. Avery.
  28. Coelho, P. (2013). Manuscript Found in Accra. Vintage.
  29. Nin, A. (1973). The Diary of Anais Nin Volume 4. Mariner Books.

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