Coping with Anxiety

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Bonus material today.  This discussion is about anxiety.  It’s the feeling at 8:30 on a Sunday night when your mind is racing with absolutely unnecessary thoughts about it being 8:30 and what if the new puppy has to pee in the middle of the night and we can’t get to her in time and what if I don’t get enough sleep, freaking out over taking care of the dog in the morning and then leaving her here all day by herself.  What is going to happen to the cats and will they be ok with no one checking on them all day?

Yeah, all of those thoughts went through my head in about 20 seconds.  And they play on repeat over and over again.  It’s always fear at night, stress at night, repeating useless thoughts at night.  Then that is what keeps me up and what makes me angry the next day.

I just want to add a little context here that there is a long history of anxiety and depression in my family.  We tend to not focus on anything in the moment, rather we focus on every potential issue and if whatever we are doing doesn’t go exactly to plan, the whole world falls apart.  It leads us to control and to self-martyr and self-sabotage and to lose focus on what we really want.  We dedicate more time to thinking about what we don’t want rather than focus on what we do want. Put the cherry of needing people to like you on top of the anxiety sundae and you have a recipe for disaster.

So why do we have anxiety?  Buddhists say that if you’re depressed you’re living in the past, if you’re anxious you’re living in the future and this is something that I wholeheartedly believe as I have experienced it nearly every day of my life.  I’ve suffered from anxiety for so many years that I feel it is absolutely just who I am—though I no longer want it to be a defining trait of my personality.  I have gotten myself so worked up from pre-imagined, pre-spoken, pre-non-existent events that I have managed to talk myself into absolute fits of anger nearly every day of my life because I am never just present.  I can’t say what chemical imbalance it is in my brain that makes me short-circuit, but it has definitely been more of a hindrance in my life than it should be.

Honestly I felt so broken.  My relationships were either completely one sided, non existent, or entirely strained because I could never explain all that I was going through.  Truly, anxiety is painful.  You’re locked in your mind with damaging thoughts on repeat, always finding yourself in the worst case scenario, and feeling like you have 0 control over it.  On top of that, anxiety is incredibly isolating because you never know how to behave in nearly any situation and you always feel like people think you’re crazy or they’re judging you in some other way.

The truth is it’s a hyper-sensitivity and a pre-programed reaction left over from pre-historic days when you constantly lived in survival mode.  I can logically tell myself this and believe it, but that doesn’t stop my brain from still going into that state of survival unnecessarily.  It becomes a waste of time and energy because you’re not doing the things you want to do, you’re worrying about things that haven’t even happened and more than likely won’t happen.

One way that I’ve regained some semblance of control over my thoughts is to understand that I’m working from a place that doesn’t serve any of my goals.  I want to operate from a place where my actions serve a purpose, not a needless worry.  Plus seeing what anxiety has done to the women in my family has highly motivated me to face the demon head on.  The challenge is always there—in fact, there are days it feels even trickier because I’m aware that I am fighting this beast but it still wins.  So while it is an uphill battle, I still have hope that it can always be won.

I am taking it one day at a time, one moment at a time and trying to do things that I enjoy rather than fixating on the things that I don’t.  Logically, I know I am a strong woman, I know this is a matter of controlling emotions, and I know that is something I can do.  It’s the moments of feeling out of control and feeling uncertain about the next steps that we can find what we really want in our lives.  Take those moments, learn from them, and keep going.

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