Not all Anxiety is ‘About’ Something
We have this idea that anxiety *should be* about something. It is natural to ask ourselves when we feel anxious, ‘what is this about?’ But anxiety isn’t the same as nerves or anticipation. It is often just there, without external cause.
The problem is, society tells us our anxiety needs to be about something. Baseless anxiety is ‘illogical’ or means you are a snowflake. I’ve heard this comment time and time again when anxiety is mentioned. “What’s she got to be anxious about?” It becomes a statement on the person’s wherewithal.
Here’s the thing, I would love my anxiety to be ‘about something’ I could fix. If I could go out and do something that removed this feeling, I would. But general anxiety isn’t that simple. It is caused by the overactivation of the fight or flight system in the brain (1); not by the choices of the individual effected.
Those of us who have experienced trauma are more likely to experience anxiety. This may be from the use of poor coping mechanisms, to low self esteem, to a cruel internal dialogue (2). It also may be due to a hyperactive system, which come on and stays on in instances where it is not required (1).
In fact, that feels apt. When I am stuck in anxiety, it feels like something has been left on, and I struggle to tell my body to turn the signal off.
How to Help Yourself Manage General Anxiety
Recognize that it is Anxiety
Greet it as such. Its just like Billie Holiday’s song, ‘Good Morning Heartache’. She wakes up to see heartache each morning, and says good night to it at the end of each day- knows it is there, and knows that it will pass. Anxiety is made more painful by us buying into its stories or trying violently to escape its discomfort. We can bear it easier when we see it for what it is; a hyperactive brain. It isn’t trying to hurt us. It isn’t vicious. It is just a brain system that isn’t working as expected.
Make a plan to help yourself
Determine how you can help your body and brain manage the anxiety. This will depend on the degree you struggle with. If your anxiety is low enough to allow you to function in your daily life, this may look like learning meditations to support yourself, or cutting caffeine and alcohol. It may look like joining an anxiety support group. For those of you who need medical or psychological support, seek it.
When you are experiencing a rough patch, engage healthy coping; get your rest, engage in self soothing activities, stay active, reach out for support from community and loved ones. Talk to people! Even people who haven’t experienced anxiety can be supportive if you let them.
Remember, its a Process
Maybe some of you came to this post hoping for a magical fix for anxiety. I am sorry to tell you it doesn’t exist. Mental health is a daily process. We must protect it, we must care for ourselves, we must practice healthy choices every single day. Even this doesn’t render us immune.
I can tell you that you will become more skillful. You will make anxiety’s hold less painful. Like Billie Holiday, we can learn to make even the most painful things accepted friends.