This is Part One of a two-part series dedicated to anxiety-related content. It will provide a general analysis of anxiety, addressing why you might have it, what the feelings consist of and the overall effects it can have on you.
Anxiety fueled the motive behind the creation of Flourish.
I have anxiety. Nearly 40 million adults in the U.S. (18.1% of our population) do too.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the country and can have detrimental effects on your quality of life.
Anxiety is defined as distress or uneasiness of the mind caused by fear of danger or misfortune. It’s a state of apprehension and psychic tension occurring in some forms of mental disorder.
To sum that up, it’s feeling tense, overwhelmed, worried and agitated, frequently deriving from the thought of an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. These feelings can exist both in the body and the mind.
Rapid heart rate, palpitations, chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea, and many other symptoms are associated with anxiety. Panic attacks can occur when symptoms become overpowering.
Short term, these symptoms are uncomfortable and affect how we choose to live our lives depending on severity. Long term, they can get worse and lead to greater risk for more health issues if they are not controlled.
Why does anxiety exist?
It manifests itself in many ways. It can be brought on by our biology and genetic predisposition, a pile up of everyday stress, the fear of past or future happenings, coping mechanisms, and much more.
The mind can also become anxious without an identifiable fear. This is normally hard to grasp when you convince yourself there is nothing wrong.
People often get a barrage of medical tests done when they first experience anxiety, only to have them all come back normal. It’s hard to accept a clean bill of health and being told that anxiety is the root of your issues, especially when you’re confused about what is causing the anxiety in the first place.
But only you know the hidden ‘why’ behind your thoughts and feelings, and while it might be difficult to figure out, there usually is an underlying reason.
Your mind is a powerful instrument, and as soon as you’re convinced that something is off, it can escalate with every thought that comes after.
This makes focusing on identifying the reason an essential first step towards the quest to freedom and avoiding further mental distress.
During a guided meditation, I heard an excerpt that stuck with me regarding how anxiety can arise from our thoughts:
“It’s easy for us to jump to conclusions, foreseeing the worst, and predicting all kinds of catastrophes that haven’t happened and likely never will. The reason we do this is because we view predicting things as a way of controlling the unknown, which of course is impossible to do. Even though our worst fears rarely actualize, we still play out scenarios in our mind and believe our thoughts. We imagine embarrassments, rejections and failures. These thoughts send us into a tailspin of anxiety.
But if we were able to put a pause on these projections – stop and observe our thoughts, identifying them as just that, thoughts, and nothing else – they lose their power. Picture yourself lying on the grass, watching the clouds above. You calmly observe the many shapes and sizes, watching them pass by freely. That’s how we should observe our thoughts, letting them come and go freely. We should observe them with acceptance and objectivity, rather than with our usual automatic knee-jerk reactions.”
This concept is something that a lot of us fall victim to; we allow it to form as the roots of our anxiety. Once we bring these thoughts into our minds and they prompt an immediate negative reaction, anxious feelings surface and it’s a downward spiral from there. It also makes it harder to reverse the trend in the future.
It can be very difficult to overcome anxiety. When you dedicate your thoughts solely to coming up with ways to stop this feeling, it can enhance them and only makes things worse.
So, how do we go about reducing stress and defeating anxiety?
It has to start in your mind with small, positive changes. A total rewire of your brain is eventually required in order to flush out the anxious thoughts and replace them with positivity and happiness.
“You cannot control the circumstances, but you can always control what you think of them.”
It’s simple, yet so challenging at the same time. Healing from anxiety requires healthy thoughts. Your problem is not your problem; it is the way you look at it.
When anxiety is constantly on your mind, weighing you down, you have little-to-no energy to invest in personal development. Instead, your focus is glued on simply surviving the day. It makes the ability to flourish nearly impossible.
Part II of this series, coming next week, will shift the focus to how we can combat anxiety, offering ways to heal yourself in order to create a new beginning filled with positivity and peace rather than stress and worry.
Until then, stay positive and practice identifying your main sources of anxiety so that healing from them becomes quicker and easier.