Anxious & Aware
For many of us, anxiety can be a paralyzing experience. It fills our bodies with fear, clouds our heads, and subconsciously tears apart our hopes and dreams with its criticism and doubt. What I found most infuriating about anxiety, is how it would keep me stuck. It’s as if I were in a chokehold. For years, I perceived anxiety as the worst thing in the world. Anxiety was the devil itself. Unfortunately, this perspective didn’t get me very far.
What was even more maddening was how ineffective I was with coping with it. For years, I would try to “control” my anxiety, which really meant trying to control every other aspect of my life - my relationships, work, eating and exercising, other people – you name it, I tried controlling it. It also meant distracting myself, whether it was bingeing on reality TV, obsessing over other people’s problems, becoming overwhelmed with all my work-related tasks - essentially anything that encouraged my not paying attention to myself. Spoiler alert – it never worked, and it certainly never helped to ease my anxiety. In fact, it made it a whole lot worse. While avoiding our anxiety initially results in short term gain, it definitely results in long term pain.
However, with some great guidance, I was actually able to find a silver lining within my anxiety. Please – don’t puke – I swear I am a pessimist, so hear me out. The silver lining of my anxiety is that it is my body’s intrinsic alarm. It’s a signal between my brain and body that something is very off. Can it be loud, annoying and disruptive? Hell, yes. But chances are, if it weren’t so disruptive and annoying, I wouldn’t take it seriously. It’s meant to get my attention, but I don’t believe it’s meant to harm me. It’s my body’s way of telling me there’s something I’m neglecting, have been avoiding - that there is something in dire need of attention.
Therefore, what I’ve learned and am continuing to learn is that instead of running away from anxiety, the key is to slow down, turn inwards – and gently explore what is going on. In other words, just become aware. Breathing can really help with the slowing down part, and with some time and practice, you may find you aren’t so inclined to run. While it may sound cliché, it’s hard to know where we’re in need of healing until we know where we’re bleeding. Running away from our anxiety is the same as running away from ourselves, and I don’t believe we’re meant to be run away from. Rather, we’re meant to be explored, loved and deeply cared for.
Now, I don’t want to minimize how very challenging confronting our anxiety can be, but do want to emphasize that we are all capable of confronting it. Start by getting connected with good supports, such as friends, physicians or counsellors. Then, once you feel ready, start walking towards those alarms, and explore with kindness – what all the commotion is about. I promise - you are worthy of the time and attention. And in time, this will lead to greater self-awareness, self-acceptance and ultimately, self-care.
I’m passionate about my work and am privileged to support those living with anxiety.