Anxiety Part II- Bringin The Point Home!

In my last article I talked about the roots of anxiety, and anxiety's purpose within your body. Today I'm gonna discuss how to apply that to your (non caveman) life in the year 2010. And how YOU can begin to take charge of your own anxiety.

This will directly pick up where we left off, so if you have not read it yet, I suggest you do so... so we're on the same page!
It is my personal theory, that once we understand anxiety's purpose (action) we can find meaningful ways to combat it... and even eventually use it as a force of good in our lives. Your anxiety is usually here to tell you something- and if you stop running and start listening... you just might make peace with it!

Anxiety's Messages- I believe all of anxiety can be boiled down into three categories:
1. "You should act!" - and you should!
2. "You should act!" - but you can't!
3. There is no action to take- what now?

Let's break them down-

1. "You should act!"- and you should!
In the case of number one, your anxiety is working with you. It is your friend here. Your anxiety is your warning system- letting you know: "Hey, something ought to be done here. This isn't working out." This could be simple: like a deadline approaching. It could be complicated: maybe you feel anxiety every time you leave for work. But the result is the same: your anxiety is trying to tell you something worthwhile. If you want it to go away... listen! I believe the majority of your run-of-the-mill-anxiety falls into this category. If you make friends with your anxiety, you just might realize it's time to work on that project of yours, or it's time to make a career move you've been putting off.

2. "You should act!"- but you can't!
Here's the trick for distinguishing #1 and #2: Do you have any ability to change the thing causing you anxiety? If the answer is yes: then see #1 again.  Give yourself a pep talk, and get to it! If the answer is no- then this is where your anxiety has started to go rogue on you. It is trying to be helpful, but silly little anxiety- it's not being! Examples of this would be- anxiety about others (other's feelings, other's actions), or anxiety about unpredictable possibilities (car accidents, air travel, someone you love getting sick) because these things are not within your control. Therefore, you can tell your anxiety- "Thank you, message received. I know you are trying to tell me to act. Usually you're my friend. In this case you're wrong though. I have no control here and you telling me to act will do nothing but cause me harm, so therefore I will let you go."

Sometimes, it's as simple as that. Other times... anxiety is harder to let go of, more pervasive, or more complicated to find the root. In this case, consider...

3. There Is No Action To Take- What Now?
This is what happens when you've gone through step 1 (done what you can), step 2 (released control over what you can't) and STILL can't seem to shake the anxiety. This is when the anxiety is persistent, and won't budge. Maybe you can't even figure out exactly WHAT you're anxious about! What the heck is going on here?

This is where we get into counseling territory. Your "fight or flight" survival instincts have gone haywire and are now bossing YOU around. You want to be free of it, but can't seem to shake it. It impacts your life or your happiness in negative ways, but you don't know what to do. This is where an experienced counselor (me? :) ) can do wonders.

Often (it is my opinion) this anxiety sticks around because there is more to it than meets the eye. Usually there are past experiences, hurts, and fears that are unresolved and are (unknown to you) causing you to now feel plagued by anxiety. By figuring out the true roots of the anxiety, you can try Steps 1 and 2 again- and finally have peace from your nagging friend.

That's all the time I have for now. As always, I welcome your comments or emails.


Anxiety- Why God, Why?

........Anxiety bites.

There, I said it.

If you do not know this, it is because you
a. Don't Have Anxiety, or
b. Don't know someone who does

Otherwise I pretty much assume you know what I'm talking about, and we can go from there.

Here's the rub: some anxiety is good for you. I realize that sounds impossible, but imagine what would happen if you never felt pressure to perform. What if missing your term paper didn't produce any feelings of worry? Or how about your boss's opinion of your performance? You get the point: a little anxiety is necessary for society (and you) to go on functioning. Without it, we would all be a lot like the main character of "Office Space"... good for comedy; not so good if you prefer to have a home and eat food.

But what about when anxiety tips the scales beyond production into true suffering? What then? Well I'm glad you asked, because I have a theory! (Uh-oh, here it comes) But before I can tell it to you, lets review the prehistoric roots of our anxiety, shall we?

Once upon a time....

Our brains had to determine friend from foe... and quickly. When running into an animal in the forest, there was no time to create spread charts of pros vs cons. All we knew is, our survival depended on one thing: action. We didn't always know what the action ought to be... but we knew there ought to be some.

This call to act is now known as: fight or flight response. In other words, when prehistoric man was in an unfamiliar and/or dangerous situation... our prehistoric brains sent signals to our body. The signals went something like: "RED ALERT! RED ALERT! THAT ANIMAL WILL EAT YOU!" and then depending on your odds, the follow up signal was "FIGHT!" or if the predator was large: "RUN!" Our bodies were flooded with everything needed to make us move fast, and survive the fight or the chase. The way we digested food, the way we breathed, the way we heard, even the way our blood pumped... all were used in harmony to ensure our survival for that moment. Many years of human history perfected this operation. Because, as you might have guessed, any human who didn't experience the fight or flight reaction- was often lunch for the faster animals.

How does this apply to anxiety? Well that prehistoric "Fight or Flight" response is now known as anxiety. Modern humankind doesn't often find itself faced with the risk of becoming a meal. But try telling your brain that! You see, the brain is slooooow to evolve. It got the way it is over a long time. It's not going to change quickly.

Okay, how does this help you?
I believe this is good information for one reason: because once you understand your brain, you can make peace with it (little caveman that it is). When you experience anxiety, it is because your brain is telling to you to act. Remember, anxiety is our "Fight or Flight" response... it is a RED ALERT CALL TO ACTION for survival's sake.

Many people suffer under anxiety's weight: silent and still. I submit that this is the exact opposite of what you ought to do, because even in the year 2010- your body is still doing what it would have done in 1010 and 0010 to stay alive: it would have demanded action then, and it's demanding action now. The only way to get relief, therefore, is to give it what it wants....

In my next blog- I'll tell you how to do just that, and how to tell when anxiety is more than just that....

Deep Breaths,
Krysta Dancy