Each week I pay attention to things going on around me to see if I can find a topic of conversation for this week’s blog. I have always been interested in what makes people tick, with myself often being first in line for dissection. This week I want to talk about a subject that is close to home in many ways. Anxiety. I see so many people suffering from anxiety and the way it disrupts their lives. Are we more anxious today than ever before?
It seems that more and more people are suffering from anxiety in one form or another. In the nursing facility where I work, it affects many of the residents and sometimes even the staff. Is it because there is more stress or have we lost some of our coping skills? Many people use different medications, either prescription or other substances, which they use to help them cope. The irony is that the medications do not seem to be relieving the anxiety and may, in fact, even be making the situation worse.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am an advocate for medication use when someone is really suffering. I think it has a place in helping people get through the really tough times. It seems when we rely totally on medications and stop trying to find other solutions that things begin to go awry. Often, the medications begin to back fire resulting in more anxiety not less. When our bodies become tolerant of the drug and it is no longer providing the relief we found in the beginning, we go the doctor and ask for more.
As someone who has suffered from periods of anxiety from mild to moderate, I am speaking from experience. Anxiety is a horrible, debilitating feeling. When it starts, I just want it to go away. During the time in my life when it was an almost constant companion, I would’ve taken any pill offered to get some relief. Anxiety takes over your body and any rational thoughts you may have. That irrationality is the cornerstone of anxiety and over time, you begin to fear the fear itself, creating an even deeper hole out of which you must climb. When in this state, fight or flight mode takes over. It becomes a matter of survival. While this fight or flight mode is important in real situations of danger, our body doesn’t seem to be able to recognize that the danger is created in our mind. Our mind tells us that we are in trouble and puts us in reactionary mode. Simply telling someone in this state that everything is okay doesn’t matter. They cannot feel it inside.
I received a call from a woman the other day that was in the midst of experiencing an increasingly unpleasant state of anxiety. I recognized the fearful tone in her voice. I have felt what she was feeling. Over the years, I have worked to become less afraid of anxiety, both in myself and others. What I heard from her was a fear of something that might be, a “what-if” thought pattern that was causing her to feel out of control.
Enter something from my “what-if” toolbox. This is from Rick Carson’s, A Master Class in Gremlin-Taming book. I asked her to answer the following four questions regarding her situation.
1. What’s so?
2. So what?
3. So what?
4. What now?
She answered the first question and was brought back to the present of what is happening now and out of the “what-if” future. The second question brought about an answer filled with anxiety and fear. When asked the question again, the answer became more positive and from a place of knowing. She answered the last question calmly and realistically, without any trace of fear or feeling out of control. By answering these four questions, she allowed herself the time to get in touch with what she knows, not what her mind was telling her. Will this cure her anxiety for good? Probably not, but it does give her some tools to use to get through the anxious moments. The rest of the conversation was spent going over a plan that would help her get through the weekend until she learned more information about her situation. When she has more information, she can then come up with a plan from there. While nothing had changed about her situation during our phone call, she was able to change her thinking about it. When we learn to master our mind and our emotions we will become less prone to feeling anxiety over what we hear and feel.
As I was driving home today, I found myself stuck in traffic and feeling anxious. I remembered my conversation from last night and started the process of checking in about what I was feeling. I then took the steps I needed to bring myself to a place of calm. Knowing yourself is key to this process. If you can recognize your feelings of anxiety before they become catastrophic, you will be more likely to be able to relieve them by using relaxation techniques or by observing the patterns of thought that are creating the feelings of anxiety and taking the steps to change them.
Take some time to develop a greater awareness of your feelings and get in touch with them. You are always the best source of knowledge about yourself and your needs. Learn some tools to help you relieve your anxiety and practice them on a regular basis. Take care of your mind and your body. When you live your life in balance and health, you can then go forth and live your life on purpose.
Yours in transformation,
This information is being provided, not as a cure for anxiety, but as a tool to use to help with those moments when your mind takes over and you begin to feel out of control and anxious. In cases of severe anxiety, there are qualified professionals who work with people who suffer from debilitating anxiety disorders and doctors who can prescribe the appropriate medication to provide relief. If you have any questions or are suffering from anxiety, please contact your doctor.