Anxiety is the most popular or frequent mental health issue that people face at 10% of the population experiencing a chronic anxiety condition. The same energy can manifest as a multitude of disorders such as:
- Generalised Anxiety Disorder
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
- Panic Disorder
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
These are all slightly different outcomes, but they all involve anxiety.
Anxiety comes from the German root word 'angst' which means fear. So anxiety basically means feeling afraid, and in a clinical context has come to mean a feeling of being afraid that doesn't go away and that interferes with day-to-day functioning. Here we will focus on generalized anxiety. The major aspect of this condition is compulsive worrying.
Anxiety boils down to the messages you have received over the course of your life and the messages you are currently giving yourself now. When you are anxious you are focussing on fear-based messages from the outside world; looking for danger and potential threats. This selective bias of attention filters out all the safety signals and messages of peace and tranquility. The underlying belief is that 'If something can go wrong or is going wrong I need to look out for that so I'm not caught off guard. In fact I will think about all the worse case scenarios that might happen as much as possible'.
The only problem with this is that you will anticipate fearful events most of the time - because there is always somthing to anticipate that might go wrong. Anticipatory anxiety, or worry, provides a sense of control over what might happen. The secondary gain (benefit) that comes from excessive worry is control and predictable outcomes. The worrier tells her self: 'If I focus on what might go wrong I will be prepared for it'. The worrier likes to be in control and doesn't like being caught off guard. This is essentially the main problem. To use a military analogy, your troops are rallying even in peace time to the point where you might even provoke you sleeping enemy. You can worry about things needlessly, and either way, whether something bad happens or not it might as well, because you are experiencing the anxiety either way!
You need to learn to balance your attention with the good and bad. It amazes me how much people under-rate the power of their own focus and attention. I am also shocked that people don't understand how powerful auto-messages are; the self-talk that accompanies your day from the moment you wake up to the moment you fall asleep. All of these messages that you hear from others and especially the messages you give yourself , are creating the emotions you feel. These messages hypnotise you and program you into a field of consciousness, a perspective that generates anxiety. This is a vicious circle that needs a conscious decision to stop it. The remedy is as simple as the cause. Focus, purposefully, on the signs of safety and success. If you anticipate danger, do what you can to prepare for it, then relax as any additional worry is unhelpful. Notice what is safe in your environment, laboriously, point out to yourself the signs that things may be going well. If you focus on what you can do, rather than what you can't do you will feel empowered. Sometimes feeling empowered and courageous is the only reward. At least you'd feel better in the mean time even if the worst case scenario happens. Essentially you need to understand that you have been wrong for so long: WORRY DOES NOT HELP YOU OR ANYONE ELSE! Being conscientious and doing what you can do to prepare for various outcomes, being thoughtful and organised, is helpful. But incessantly ruminating about worst case scenarios is completely counterproductive. Learn to re-harnass the worrying energy into effective activity. Then purposefully reassure yourself that you have done your best, and now the best thing you can do is relax or do something else that you enjoy. Stop wasting your time and energy. Stop wasting your thoughts on worry and focus them on real achievement or relaxation.
Retrospectively, look back over your life and ask yourself 'how often did the worst case scenario (that I predicted) actually happen?' You will find it to be about 5%. So 95% of the time you were wrong. You worried needlessly and created a stir for your own inner peace as well as for those around you. There is something quite obsessive about this worry, something akin to a junky seeking his next hit. Compulsive worriers will work themselves up into a kind of hypnotic trance. The worry is always there to accompany them and distract them from the endless doldrums of their unfulfilled lives, distracting them from their own responsibilites or in deed their deeper fears. Deeper fears may include one's own vulnerability, and deeper still one's own mortality and the meaning of life and nature of the universe. The intollerable 'alone-ness' that we all feel from time to time. Of course this is all based on perspective. At other times and with a different outlook you will see that we are all, in fact, intimately connected like nodes in an infinite network of ecology, consciousness, and dare I say it - spirit. Identity masks the underlying nature: that we are all one. Afterall we live in a 'universe' not a 'poly-verse'. Take heart in our togetherness and unity. Whilst we experience the paradox of being separate yet together, alone yet connected, we all pine for each other with the same voice, and seek the same individuality that effectively becomes the whole.
A person with anxiety suffers because he does not reassure himself enough and his attentional focus has gone AWOL. Learn to reign in your attention and be sensible. Articulate consciously your underlying concerns and in the hearing of these concerns you will realise you may be seeing things in a distorted light or making a bigger deal of things than is necessary. Talk to someone you trust about your worries; this is what we call the survey method. Other people will give you all kinds of helpful responses - unless you talk to other compulsive worriers who will just make things worse! Learn to keep counsel with someone wise, who you trust because they are level-headed, not just because they agree with you and 'misery loves company'.
Consciously and purposefully reassure yourself. Balance your fears by saying to yourself that things will work out in the long run. Tell yourself 'this too is passing'. Write down what is going well in your life and what you like about it, rather than incessantly focussing on gloomy predictions. Think about what good could happen. Ask yourself 'is it really a bad thing to have spontaneous surprises?'. Why do you need to have so much within your control? Learn to enjoy the spontaneity of the moment, for afterall, this is how it is. Things will happen that will surprise you. Learn to trust your ability to respond effectively. Invest your energy in responding in the best way possible, rather than being right or wrong about predicting worse case scenarios.
Practice wellness by actively reassuring yourself when you feel afraid. Talk to someone who cares and is wise about your underlying worries. A problem shared is a problem aired. Learn to focus on safety signals as well as danger signals. Do what you can to make you and those you care about safe, then learn to relax and enjoy life. Practice the breathing exercises and mindful practices on this site to focus your mind if it keeps running away with you. Exercise physically to blow off steam - a cardiovascular workout 3 times per week or more will do the trick; elevating your heart rate and perspiring for half an hour each time. Drink plenty of water and get decent sleep. Reduce sugar and processed food. Eat more natural raw food, plenty of fruits and vegetables. Vitamin B is also helpful to reduce stress. Don't take too much on board in your life. Reduce your stress and schedule regular rest and relaxation in your life. Don't put off what you are able to take care of now - deal with things when they occur, if you can, to prevent things festering. Learn to laugh. Cry as well if you need to. Get your emotional energy out by expressing it in a safe way. Don't take yourself so seriously. For adults: enjoy an active sex life as supressed sexual energy can obviously manifest as tension and anxiety. Watch comedies and read light-hearted books. Do the right thing by others and prevent the gaining of enemies. Enjoy easy-going activities like taking a stroll or watching birds play in a fountain. Get engrossed in a fun hobby. Give your mind some rest from all the extreme and angst-provoking activites that you may also be involved in. Relax!