Anxiety can feel like many things: nausea and vomiting, over-thinking, not being able to relax, panic, excessive worry, skin reactions, excessive sweating, and feelings of suffocating. We all have anxiety, and some people even joke about their anxiety within their family and friend groups. However, people also want their anxiety to lessen or calm-down, because, the bottom line is anxiety often keeps people from fully enjoying their life, the situation they are in, or things they want to do. If you can relate, read on.
Four Keys to Understanding Anxiety and Panic
1) There is no one way to best deal with anxiety. We are all different people, from different family systems. Something that works for your friend, may not work for you. That does not mean there is something "wrong" with you. It just means people are different. However, something that is very important for everyone to do, or be willing to do as often as they can, is notice when they begin to feel anxious, worried, or panicky.
Sometimes in learning to notice your anxiety, you first notice the behavior the anxiety is causing i.e. you notice you are screaming at your kids, or you notice that you are picking at your skin and causing it to bleed. You may notice you feel terrible or feel like you want to crawl in a hole or bed and stay there. Important here is that you are noticing, because until you start noticing your anxiety and how it affects you, you cannot do anything about it or practice other management tools.
2) People talk about "triggers", so I want to say something about this topic. Unless you have a diagnosable condition, like PTSD, and you are being treated by provider or more than one provider, "triggers" are being used to blame and perpetuate your perceived "inability" to do anything about your anxiety. Now, triggers can be real, but you can also have anxiety and panic for "no" reason. You don't need a trigger, nor do you have to find something to blame for your anxiety. It just is. That's perfectly okay. You have an unsettling feeling, and you notice it. Having said that, people do have "triggers" or something that can "set off" their anxiety, and yet, I want to challenge you to think about the fact that you actually have the power to manage your anxiety in the context of these triggers, and this does not involve avoiding things you want to do. This is a good reason to go to therapy - to understand this on a whole new level. It is empowering when you do.
3) It is helpful to understand the difference between a trauma response or the flaring of "flight-fight-freeze" response, called arousal response, or a disassociation response, compared to generalized anxiety. There are also people who have both of these going on at the same time. Understanding this for YOU helps in understanding what will help your anxiety and panic. Knowing this also helps you understand why something that works for your friend does not work for you. Again, this is why you go to therapy or seek professional assistance. Yes, your friends are your best confidants, but a professional, someone you trust who is trained in this area, can bring about more awareness and coping than talking to friends and co-workers. Also, you don't have to be in a crisis to go to therapy; you just have to want to be a better, happier you.
4) We live in a time period on this earth, where more and more people are anxious, and fewer and fewer people are able to fully relax and be present. Because this is happening all around us, anxiety has become "normalized". This means that everyone can joke about their anxiety, and go on as if it is normal and okay to feel so miserable or to withdraw from life due to "triggers". Regardless of "why" this is happening though (e.g. some people blame cell phones for example), the truth is people have grown to believe in their lack of power to do anything about how they feel. People have learned to give away their personal power at a very young age. We now somehow enjoy sharing our stories of being a victim of life more than we enjoy learning how to manage our emotions. This is mostly because we do not understand what is happening inside ourselves and what we can do about it.
We also have learned to expect immediate results and immediate feedback in many areas, and if this does not happen, we assume there is no hope. We assume we truly are victims, and there is no way we can change or find relief. This is a fallacy. Change is a process. Growth takes building a new road or "pathway" in the brain or "pattern" in our behavior. Commitment to a happier you is ongoing. However, some relief from anxiety can be realized fairly quickly with the right help and support, and the right mindset. The mindset needed is the mindset that you deserve to no longer be a victim of your anxiety. And even if you just want to believe this and don't quite feel "deserving" yet, you are on the path toward self healing.