Anxiety: Are you my friend, or are you my foe?

Let’s face it; having some level of anxiety is considered normal and pretty common in today’s world.  In my experience, it’s almost considered taboo or unusual if you don’t have anxiety.

Ever have those thoughts- why can’t I be like XYZ (person seems so relaxed it drives you insane), why can’t I go through life without feeling like there is a massive weight on my shoulders or heaviness in my body?  While I believe our culture that emphasizes busyness and success through achievement plays a big role in the anxiety so much of us suffer from, a lot of us aren’t aware of the warning signs and the ways in which we can start to cope and feel better.

Here are signs when your anxiety is a problem, and some ways to begin to get the right help:

Anxiety results in physical symptoms (fatigue, eating and sleeping problems, nausea, etc.)

Waking up feeling like you could sleep forever due to exhaustion?  Feel hungry all the time or not at all?  These are signs of anxiety that you NEED to pay attention to.  So often we don’t want to, because we want to think and believe that we can do it all.  But the constant worry thoughts, the obsessive thinking about what needs to be done; don’t just impact your mind, but also trickle down to our physical health.  Stomach aches, headaches, and trouble with concentration are just a few things you could be experiencing if you don’t take care of your anxiety.

First you need to start listening to your anxiety, what is your anxiety telling you? 

Where in your body are you feeling your anxiety?  Taking the time to listen will help you begin to start identifying the areas you need support.  Giving yourself permission to make time for rest and relaxation (yes you can do it!), getting exercise (can be as little as a ten minute walk), and watching a light-hearted, fun movie are ways to start helping your mind and body recharge.

Anxiety causes you to not go out and avoid spending time with family/friends

Anxiety can cause us to feel so exhausted and so worn down that the last thing we feel like doing is spending time with other people.  At times it makes sense to respect our limits, have “me-time”, and re-charge, and other times it is really important to push ourselves to reconnect with people that we care about and care about us.

A tip that has helped me has been to schedule out “me-time” once a week, whether that be sitting in my pajamas on the couch watching Netflix or going for a quiet walk outside.

I also schedule “family/friends time” once a week, where usually during the weekend or a week night I mentally block out time to reconnect with friends and family, even when I may not feel up for it.  While I may have felt exhausted before, I usually leave that time feeling a sense of relief, positive distraction, and energy to take on the “other stuff” for the week.

Anxiety results in negative self-talk and leads to more emotional suffering than relief

Anxiety usually doesn’t start out as a gentle nudge or a soft whisper in your ear.  It usually starts like this for most people (add in harsh, whiny, critical tone here): Why haven’t you started XYZ task?  When are you gonna have the time to get XYZ done?  Why aren’t you able to keep up like XYZ?  And the questions tend to go on and on.  What we often don’t realize is how a simple re-frame or mantra can not only decrease our anxiety, but also allow us to be kinder toward ourselves and feel better.  How about saying this next time you notice those harsh thoughts:  I know you haven’t gotten around to that, it makes sense given you have been so busy lately; I know it bothers you that you didn’t complete that task,  and focusing on rest and relaxation will help you more now than trying to push through it.  How about using a mantra or coping thought: I’m doing the best I can in each moment; anxiety is not dangerous, it’s just uncomfortable and it will pass over time.  As you begin to work on shifting your language and tone of voice, you can become the master of your anxiety and learn to channel it in a positive way!