We all experience anxiety at certain points throughout our lives. Some of us will experience it more often and more intensely than others, though we all experience it. Anxiety is an emotion and chemical reaction that is part of being human, the same way we all occasionally experience fear, excitement, or being nervous (a product of anxiety). Attempting to deny or altogether rid yourself of your anxiety can lead to a vicious cycle of increasing its power over you. One thing is for certain, anxiety is here to stay, and you need to learn to live with it.
Think of anxiety as your new BFF. Sometimes she’ll show up unannounced. Sometimes she’ll ask for your attention right before you’re about to do something important. Sometimes you’ll thank her and sometimes you’ll swear you never want to see her again. Deep down, you know you can’t get through life without her, and here’s how to make the journey better.
ANXIETY SERVES A PURPOSE
Dave Chappelle recently said, “there is no such thing as an anxiety-free life,” in his interview with David Letterman on My Next Guest Is, and he’s right. While the idea of never again experiencing anxiety sounds pleasant and tempting, it’s not realistic. Though often categorized as a negative emotion, anxiety serves a purpose in our lives.
Anxiety can serve as a warning sign and is something to bring your awareness to when it arises. Anxiety can serve as a powerful tool when managed properly. See it as a motivator that you care about what is happening and want to be more prepared to face challenges that arise. Research has reported over the years those who experience and manage anxiety can actually perform better creatively, in sports, and while taking tests.
Anxiety can help you to put in extra effort towards something you care about, such as a job interview, presentation, or social gathering. Anxiety can arise in all sorts of different life events. The next time you feel anxiety come on, become aware of it early, and see if you can use it to help with your self-growth.
WHEN TO TAKE ACTION
Anxiety can become a disorder and eventually lead to anxiety and/or panic attacks. When it interferes with your life in a consequential way that affects your health and safety, please reach out to your doctor. Having recurring nervousness, worry, fear, and anxiety can impede you from living your fullest, happiest, and healthiest life. While the next part of this section will help you to manage and cope with anxiety, some people will also need medication in order to lead a better quality of life.
It is important to reframe our thinking of anxiety. It does not have to been seen as an inhibitor or something negative. People with anxiety tend to be more understanding and empathetic because it is a heightened sense of caring. People with anxiety often tend to do well in leadership roles, sports, and creative careers because they tend to be more careful when it comes to thinking and preparing for the things they most care about.
Social anxiety is largely common as well. While it may feel at times like social anxiety is keeping you from being your best self, when you accept it, it can make you a better friend because it shows how much you care. However, as mentioned above, when anxiety feels like it is stopping you from living your life or becoming a threat to your mental wellness, safety, and health, please seek out help from a doctor. They will be able to professionally assist in creating a proper treatment plan for your personal struggle with anxiety.
Mindfulness is the most helpful form of self-practice one can use to cope with anxiety. Mindfulness is about self-awareness, learning to recognize, accept, and feel our emotions early before they overtake us. We can practice this by meditating, journaling, and working through CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) with a licensed practitioner. Journaling is another way to practice mindfulness. By writing down our emotions when we experience them, we are accepting them, enhancing our self-awareness, and getting to the source of why we feel the way we do.
The next time anxiety rolls up announced to hang out, acknowledge her, let her know how you feel about her, and proceed in a way that feels best to you. After all, she’s not in charge of your life, you are.