In the corner of my home office I have a 20 gallon aquarium.

I've got all kinds of plants in there. It really looks like an underwater jungle. I've got a couple varieties of fish, as well as a few dozen shrimp. Whenever I get stressed out at work, I like to go sit in front of my aquarium and just watch small lives play themselves out. Sitting mere inches from a vibrant and living ecosystem is a meditative experience.

Shrimp are interesting little animals. There are big ones (big is relative for shrimp) and small ones, bright red ones and mostly-clear ones. The babies are perfect little clones of their mama, just shrunk down to a smaller scale. In a way, they're cute. They use their shrimpy little arms to brush micro-flora and fauna off the surface of leaves and gravel and pull it up to their shrimpy little mouths. Shrimp eat detritus - leftover fish flakes, dead plant matter, and yes, even fish poop.

But the thing about shrimp is that they never stop eating. They can't. Their food source has so little nutritional value and their mouths are so small that they basically have to be eating nonstop. And their bodies are so small and fragile that they flee at even the smallest disturbance. So much as a shift in current sends them bolting through the water, retreating to anywhere-but-where-they-just-were.

In the wild, being a shrimp means to be a meal for something bigger.

The irony of course is that my shrimp aren't in the wild; they're perfectly safe. I take care to make sure their water is always clean. There are no natural predators to shrimp in my tank. They have ample room to move around, tons of places to hide, and plentiful food.

But shrimp are driven by instinct, and they don't know any of that.

So they stick to habit. They never rest, they never stop looking for the next meal, they're always looking over their metaphorical shrimpy little shoulders on the lookout for something with a taste for scampi.

When you suffer from anxiety, it can often be environment independent. It doesn't always make sense to an outside observer. Even when you're in a safe and comfortable space, anxiety can drive you.

Because like a shrimp, anxiety can be instinct.

Anxious thoughts can creep in in any context. You can be anywhere: lying in bed with the person you love, doing something you've done a thousand times before like making dinner of doing your job, or doing something you've never done before.

Anxiety doesn't care. Instinct doesn't care.

Tackling your anxiety means acknowledging that you're a shrimp. And knowing what your instincts are is the first step to changing them.