Many of us deal with day to day stresses in our lives, but at what point does it become more than that? But at what point does it switch from just everyday stressors to anxiety? Some of us suffer from chronic worry. This is mostly free-floating and we imagine every bad scenario possible. But then there are others who fear very specific situations. Maybe they dread being in a social setting? Maybe they feel like their child is always in some kind of danger when they’re not? Whatever the case may be, to those of us experiencing it, the situation can feel as real as eating breakfast in the morning. To the rest of the world, it can appear to be irrational.
When it comes to anxiety itself, some can be brought on by recollections of past trauma. And others may suffer from debilitating panic attacks, which are marked by a racing heart, breathing difficulties, sweating, trembling and dizziness. If left untreated, or poorly managed, excess anxiety can have a big impact on your life. The good news is that anxiety can be treated – either with medication, psychotherapy or a combination of both.
What happens when you feel anxiety coming on? You might be out in the real world – minding your own business. Your day might be going all fine and well, but then your body becomes a frenzy of symptoms. You are breathing hard, you get dizzy and lightheaded. Your heart is beating faster and harder than you ever thought it could, and you ultimately feel like you’re going crazy. During the anxiety, you feel like you are moving in a linear direction. If you don’t do anything, your anxiety will continue to increase indefinitely.
But that’s not exactly true. Think of your panic symptoms like they are shaped like an inverted “U”. If you are able to stay with the symptoms past the point of discomfort, they will continue to escalate for a while, but not forever. After a while, they will level off and then decline. What’s interesting about this is that those of us with anxiety don’t usually get this far, because we tend to escape the situation before it becomes that bad. And, unfortunately, that’s not helping anyone. In order for our bodies to understand that the anxiety won’t get worse, we have to stick with it past that point of discomfort.
Easier said than done, though. When your body and your brain think that you’re in some kind of danger – right now – it’s hard to be strong enough to stay with it for any length of time. The other piece to all of this is how we think about ourselves. Feeling anxious, or having anxiety doesn’t necessarily make you bad. It simply means you’re having a hard time. Rejecting yourself as you are, doesn’t necessarily lead to self-improvement. In order to correct this mistake, you need to recognize that you are not your feelings. Your feelings are a symptom of something greater. Like a bad day, or a repressed memory. These aren’t necessarily reflective of you as a human being.
Lastly, I think that it’s important to understand that life isn’t going to be perfect at all times. Even if you don’t experience some kind of mental health issue in your life, it’s not always going to be perfect. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t have a good life, and still experience discomfort. I know that I’ve been struggling with this aspect for quite some time. I have an idea in my head of what my life should look like, and what kind of person I should be. But that’s not realistic. What I have to learn is that life is always going to throw me lemons. And even though its cliche, I need to be able to figure out how to make lemonade when it does.
Anxiety, while uncomfortable, and horribly debilitating at times, is an opportunity to practice being uncomfortable. It might sound silly, but in a way, you’re taking some of the power away from it. In general, we tend to avoid facing our fears, but the real way to address our fears is to face them head-on. None of these things are necessarily easy, but we threaten our growth by at least not trying.