Anxiety: From 911 to 411
Anxiety can be a challenging, sometimes consuming, experience, but once we understand what is really happening, it can help alleviate some of the discomfort and provide an opening for change. Anxiety comes from the subconscious mind’s need to protect us. Another way to think of anxiety is that it is the body’s fight or flight response. If the mind believes that there is a danger, it tries to prepare us by creating that fight or flight response. But for many situations, there isn’t a real danger or threat to our safety. Instead, there may be discomfort, or a fear of what may happen, or a fear of having to go through something uncomfortable again. In most cases, this is what the subconscious mind is trying to protect us from – a perceived threat to our safety, including the safety of our feelings and experiences.
Anxiety can also be compounded by negative self-talk. Anxiety voices can be so loud and they want us to believe certain things to maintain the anxiety – to maintain the protection. Maybe some of these thoughts seem familiar to you:
I am wrong.
There is something wrong with me.
I am the only one who experiences this (or in this way).
Everyone else has it figured out, but I can’t seem to get there.
This is always happening.
I’m here again, this is never going to get better.
I’m losing control.
This is embarrassing.
I have failed.
I am causing a fuss for others (or I am a burden, or I am putting others out.)
I am asking for too much.
I could ask for help, but I don’t even know what to say or ask for.
If I could just (fill in the blank), then this will be better.
If you have had any of these thoughts, you are not even close to being alone. These kinds of thoughts are very common with anxiety (and without!).
If anxiety disrupts your everyday life – work, relationships, mood, activities – it is a good idea to get help from your family doctor, a psychologist, counsellor or therapist. Help can come in many forms, including medication, counselling, acupuncture, naturopathy, and much more. Medical professionals can also offer a plan or ideas for a path forward, and that alone can provide an immense relief.
I have had some of the thoughts listed above, and they kept me in the cycle of anxiety. It was difficult to reach out and talk about what was happening, especially when I felt my lowest and most vulnerable, but I have found the most relief when I have spoken about my experience and asked for help. I have been truly amazed at the compassion and kindness that has met me in those times. There is tremendous power in opening up and being heard, accepted and validated. This can come from anyone or anywhere in your life, even unexpected people and places. There is a shared human experience. People know what it is like to struggle, to repeat a cycle, and to desperately want something different.
And so, if you recognize your experience in any of this post, I can tell you that what you are going through is normal, there is an explanation for what is happening, and there is a path forward.