Anxiety permeates all facets of our lives and is our constant companion. It shows up on test day in the classroom, it’s there when called upon to give a presentation, on the first date anxiety is ever-present, and even in trying to escape the troubles of life, it’s there, nagging about the need to do more productive work. It is death’s best prophet always reminding us of what is to come, the fate that we are all destined for. Our culture would tell us that this companion of ours is to be despised. We must take it down once and for all and courageously conquer it in the battle for the heart. We collect and read our self-help books like they are training regiments to become the elite soldier that can defeat the great foe. If we just gather enough information. If we just work hard enough and build our strength then once and for all we can rise victorious over anxiety and the call of death. You complete your training and then at last, in the final great battle, just as you are about to bring down your fatal swing, your great enemy calls for mercy.
The battle is over and the victory is won as you look around at the carnage of the battleground as you revel in your victory with your enemy on the ground below you. It’s only then that you notice the rain starting to fall as small droplets rest upon your defeated foe. It is only now that you begin to see the enemy that has been with you through all the struggles of life in a new light. You don’t see a great enemy but a companion that called for you to wake up and seize each day, that pushed you to run further than you had before, that made you into the great warrior you are today. Sorrow now comes to your side and you are filled with regret. You realize now that anxiety was never the enemy, but a loyal and trusted friend. Always there helping you to survive, encouraging you to become your best self. The real enemy was always yourself. It was you that hated death and wanted to destroy the natural way of things. That wanted the ultimate power of life all to yourself. After some time, you reach for anxiety’s hand and pull her up off the ground. It’s time you settled each other’s differences and accepted the fate of death. It’s time to finally listen and enjoy the world before you with your newfound friend.
A New Perspective
Anxiety has always been a difficult thing for me to deal with. It’s hard to not want it to just go away. Most contemporary views on anxiety will point out that its evolutionary trajectory has not been so beneficial in the modern age. Anxiety was better understood in a time when we were faced with immediate dangers. Anxiety helped us to fend off the lion leaping at us with its teeth baring out. Our adrenaline would rise and our focus clear as we dealt with the danger at hand. It helped us to survive the dangerous aspects of life that the human race faced before this post-industrial age. Now our relationship with anxiety is not so clear. The biggest problem is that we face a lot of unique troubles today such as the need to pay off debt, take tests, solve social unrest, and meet our everyday goals. All these problems create stress and anxiety but they don’t allow for its immediate release. When we faced the lions of a past age and were able to escape the danger or defeat our enemy there was an immediate release of our anxiety. We could let out a triumphant, scream, rest from our high physical activity, and think at last I am safe. Today we have more chronic anxiety but it is best if we deal with it the same way that our ancestors dealt with their anxiety. We need to make our enemies more tangible and allow for a release of our anxiety.
Dealing with Chronic anxiety
The biggest problem today is that we don’t always allow for a release of our anxiety. Our anxiety motivates us to attack and take on the difficult tasks of the day. Maybe it’s a test coming up that needs to be studied for, or it’s a presentation, an issue with a close relationship that needs to be dealt with, or all of the above. The problem is we don’t allow for a release and feeling of safety to come back when we deal with our problems. We just move on to the next one and eventually, we come to a point where there is just too much to deal with. We just can’t handle it anymore and we kill our anxiety and lose our meaning in life. We burn out or freeze up and no longer feel motivated to handle the problems of the day, and the joy is just plain sucked out of us. The first step is recognizing the problem of chronic anxiety. Now here are some ways that I have been able to deal with my anxiety and make it work for me not against me.
Ways of releasing anxiety
I would go into a deep paragraph explaining how to release anxiety but honestly, a simple list suffices. Surely this isn’t going to be an exhaustive list and I’ll leave it to you to discover why each one works and find other possible ways to release anxiety.
- letting out a scream or sighing relief
- physical exercise
- mindfulness or meditation
- talking with a friend or therapist
- take a planned break for however long
- stay organized, and set times to deal with each problem
- keep a clean environment, and an environment conducive to maintaining good habits
Know why you get anxious and find out how to release it
The final thing that I would like to point out is sometimes we don’t even know where our anxiety is coming from. It’s just there or it is coming from so many different directions that we don’t even know what is stressing us out. It takes practice to be in tune with yourself and your anxiety triggers. You have to be able to do some self psychoanalysis and come to a deeper understanding of how you are feeling throughout the day. This doesn’t just help with anxiety either. It can help any dealing with anger, sorrow, or any emotions that you feel. The trick is just to pay attention to your body. Learn to recognize when you are feeling stressed and figure out where it’s coming from. I have been working at this for years and now I can quickly recognize what I am feeling and why. I have been doing it since I was young and often I find myself having a difficult time living in the moment. It’s important to find a balance of living in the moment and taking time to step outside of yourself and do some meta-analysis. You might find that you just like to do it at the end of the day as a way of winding down through meditation. However, you come to recognize what triggers your anxiety doing so will allow you to then find ways to release it and continue without burning yourself out.
if you have the time I would recommend reading this book by Emily Nagoski. She’s amazing and her other books are great as well. She also taught me a lot about sex and I plan on doing a blog post about that in the future.