Anxiety has had awful PR for nearly all of human existence. It’s viewed as this horrible thing that we need to eradicate in order to live our best lives.
That’s not what it is. Yes, it can be annoying, obnoxious, and problematic, but it’s necessary.
I cannot tell you how many times after I’ve mentioned what I do for a living, that people will say,
“You know, I have anxiety.”
I typically respond with, “We all have anxiety. It’s what keeps us alive.”
(I say this with deliberate kindness and sincerity, as sarcasm is my second language.)
I then give the ‘elevator pitch’ about anxiety and its role in the human body.
Obviously, I’m trying to get the gig as anxiety’s publicist.
To be fair, if anyone should be handed that role on a silver platter, it’s Katy and Laura. They have made it their life’s work to show people that anxiety itself is not the problem, rather it’s the symptoms that are the issue.
Whether your anxiety symptoms are present in your brain, body, or your behavior, they can throw a monkey wrench into your day, depending on their severity.
At the very least, they can affect your overall vibe, and when they present in your body; either as heart palpitations or shallow breathing, tingling or lightheadedness, it can and does get scary.
Anxiety symptoms present differently for every one of us, and at times, they can be hard to discern from other ailments. At ARC, we can get pushback when we suggest to people to observe their symptoms, pay attention to where they are showing up and what is going on when they do. It’s understandable, no one wants to sit with the things that are making us feel bad. We just want it to STOP.
But that’s not how any of this works.
For better or worse, your anxiety symptoms are trying to get your attention, and the more you try to ignore them, the louder they get. In fact, you exacerbate the perceived threat when you try to make your symptoms GO AWAY.
Simply put, you can’t run away from your brain.
The most effective thing to do is acknowledge your symptoms and do a little detective work to figure out why they are showing up. Start by making a list of all of the things that are bothering you; big, small, significant, and petty, they all make the list.
Then, think about how these things are making you feel, emotionally. Are your stressors making you feel frustrated, exhausted, trapped, scared, angry, helpless? Notice them, name them. Write them down if you need to.
Then, work one of the techniques that you have in your personal toolbox to help move past your symptoms. I like to either put on music or one of my favorite podcasts. I’ll even re-listen to a favorite episode like I’m having a conversation with friends.
Of course, meditating does wonders for me as well. Making myself sit quietly and watch my thoughts float by helps me understand how temporary they are, even the bad ones.
I watched Katy do this process in real-time after a lengthy back and forth with an insurance company (Can you feel your own symptoms revving up at the mention of an insurance company?) She described the physical symptoms that she was feeling after she got off the phone, and then went into the corresponding emotions.
Then guess what happened? She was able to get her anxiety back to a manageable level.
It all sounds like a lot, and at first, it does take some time, but like everything that we talk about at Anxiety Resource Center, the longer you do it, the more natural it becomes.
We don’t always like looking at our stressors because we feel like we’re opening some sort of Pandora’s Box of emotions.
We also may be reluctant to list the things that are bothering us because they seem insignificant, but those small things add up.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; it was the straw that broke the camel’s back, not the anvil.
Acknowledging how you are feeling and what may be causing it is vital in learning how to coexist with your anxiety.
When your home alarm system is malfunctioning, you don’t just ignore the blaring until you simply cannot take it anymore. You also don’t tear the control pad off of the wall and throw it into the street every time there is a problem. You figure out what the problem is and how best to fix it so that the alarm is working properly.
If you try on your own, using manuals and YouTube tutorials, and you still find the alarm going off at random, you call the company and have an expert come check it out.
It’s the same with your brain.
If you feel like your anxiety symptoms are chronic and/or debilitating; if they are getting in the way of you living your day-to-day life, it’s time to seek out help.
Your brain is perfectly designed to protect you, but because it is an overachiever in this, you will have hiccups. Our world is evolving so much faster than our brains, and we are taking in so much more stimuli than we were even 20 years ago that you can’t blame your brain, or your anxiety, for needing fine-tuning from time to time.
It’s all helping your brain to better help you. It takes practice and patience, but it can be done.