I’m not anxious, you are!
I truly believe most human beings have anxiety. Maybe it’s not always extreme but they have it.
Anxiety is the physical reaction to nervousness, like when our pulse quickens, we panic sweat, maybe feel nauseas! We can be anxious before a big meeting. We can be anxious before walking down the aisle.
Anxiety is not evil, it is a natural imperative to stress situations! It is there to keep us safe, but when it becomes long-term, or limits our capacity for growth, change or development, that’s when it becomes an issue.
“Anxiety can be understood as a self-created experience of fear that is derived from focusing on unwanted future events.” — Simone Smith
By this definition is it really a surprise that almost everyone has anxiety right now? We’ve experienced huge change through a global pandemic and being in social isolation, and are still recovering from not being able to escape ourselves or our own thoughts and fears.
The past few years has affected each one of us very differently.
At its worst, anxiety can be paralysing. We focus on the negativity of a situation which drives us further into unpleasant bodily sensations and catastrophic thinking.
If it is extreme and impacting your life then you need to find a way to contend with it and manage it so it does not negatively impact your health and life.
. . .
I hate to admit I have anxiety, because I used to view anxiety as a weakness. When I finally saw a therapist about unrelated trauma, and she said: “What you are describing is an anxiety attack, you are having anxiety attacks.”
I. Did. Not. React. Well.
Here’s my truth. I manage my anxiety. Now.
I am a thinker, an over thinker. I am logical, structured and practical. I mean in any discipline you can find, I come up as a mind-driven personality.
In psychological and personality methodologies I am a Type A personality, that is driven to achieve and a left brain thinker with a rational and focused mind. To illustrate, at 21 I scored in the top 2% of the population for logical thinking, and recently at 44 I tested again and still logic topped the charts (yeah not the top 2%, I’m slipping!) I am an INFJ which is characterised by decisiveness and being strong-willed.
There is no escaping who we fundamentally are!
Don’t get me wrong I am highly sensitive and highly empathetic — a blessing and a curse — but when it comes to everyday life, I am a thinker, a creative and logical thinker.
What does this mean? It means that if I worry about something, I can create that scenario in my mind in such detail and with such realistic precision that I can convince my subconscious that it is actually happening to me.
It means that as an introvert going to a party at 25 years old, I could imagine being so uncomfortable and doing something so socially unacceptable, saying something so stupid that I could envision being outcast forever. I could actually create that scenario so clearly that I could bring myself to tears… and I hadn’t even gone to the party yet!
Drama queen right? …well maybe not.
It was so extreme that if I was nervous about a work situation, I could actually create the worst case scenario and outcome in my head as I was walking to work, to the point that I was SO inside my own head and imagination that I sometimes had walked the entire way to work on automatic without actually realising it.
Now take a moment with that. I walked to work without remembering doing it. I crossed streets, roads packed with cars, cyclists, pedestrians and don’t remember doing it. Thank goodness my subconscious knew to walk on green walk signals!
Okay so it was not drama, it was a serious issue.
So when that therapist said it was an “anxiety attack” I balked because I am a thinker! I am logical! I know this is not actually happening! However that’s the crux of anxiety, we always think we can manage our worry, and control circumstances we cannot— and we think we have a handle on it.
I didn’t. And so I learned to manage my anxiety.
It’s been quite a journey. I have been exposed to many tools, found the ones that work for me, and now find myself quite calm in what can be uncertain times.
I check in with the people I care about. I exercise. I eat well. I meditate. I work. I write. And above all, recognise that what will happen will happen, I can only control myself and my actions, so don’t worry about it so much.
Easier said than done but with practice not as difficult as you might think!
One of the tools I used is Circle of Concern vs. Circle of Influence. I intend to continue to share all the tools I have been exposed to, in the hopes that anyone who is experiencing heightened anxiety can find the one that works for them and find a way through. Follow GetCalmStayCalm publication and I will continue to share there.
It’s okay to have anxiety, but it is crucial to find a way to manage it, especially now that our situations have most likely changed in some way. The long-term effects are detrimental. Worry is allowed. Anxiety is allowed. Just don’t let it impact your health — physical, emotional or mental.
Create calm so you can not only survive this, but come out more balanced at the other end of it. I’m with you!
Content supplemented by: Simone Smith, Psychotherapist, Ba Hons Dip Couns NCS registered, Choice Counselling UK