Anxiety can be your best friend or your worst ennemy
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Anxiety can be your best friend or your worst ennemy
According to Mark Twain, there are two types of speakers: those who get nervous and those who think they are not.
Which one do you consider yourself is?
For those who consider themselves as not nervous when speaking in public, Mark Twain categorizes you as liars.
Liars because no one can feel a 100% confident when confronted to an audience. Whether this audience is the one you’re confronting during a school project, a work meeting or when taking public transports.
But this nervous/anxious feeling has many stages going from a normal type of stress you can feel when confronted to a certain situation, to a paralyzing stress not allowing you to do the most basic/normal things, and some of you may suffer from this daily.
Stress is a common feeling, but sometimes your head doesn’t react normally to this stress and is overwhelmed which makes your brain freeze and not able to think rationally.
This is what we call “anxiety” or “general anxiety disorder”.
When diagnosed with anxiety, you feel like you’re being separated from ordinary life by a piece of glass. Your self-worth decreases and you beat yourself up over the same things thinking you are not “normal”.
You are perfectly conscious that those worries are not worth it, that they are "fake problems" but you also feel that you have no power over them.
And in these moments, you must remind yourself that “the thought of a tiger is not a tiger”.
By this, I mean that what you fear is not concrete. It is just an abstract thought that you gave importance to and by doing this you gave it the power to be real in your eyes.
This anxiety will make you feel intense sensations such as a pounding heart, a tight chest or a dizzy sensation even when doing some things that people consider as random like going grocery shopping or asking for directions in the street. But remember that these are only normal reactions of your body that you need to control. Your head is probably saying the opposite making you think that something is going wrong.
But this is just the start of what we will call the anxiety loop.
The anxiety loop is the one thing that makes people think that anxiety is an overwhelming challenge, that it is unhealable.
The anxiety loop is a pure representation of a mental trap, the worst one, as it is a vicious cycle of fearing fear.
You constantly apprehend having another panic attack.
Oh! Sorry, some of you may have never heard of this…
What are panic attacks?
To explain this phenomenon, we will start by saying that on a scale of 1 to 10, a person with general anxiety might score between a 5 and a 7, depending on the current life situation.
When that person tops the scale around an 8 or a 9, they have what is known as a panic attack. And trust me, these are very intense anxiety experiences.
At the core of panic attacks is a type of catastrophic thinking that says “this might just kill me”.
When experiencing a panic attack, you feel several sensations such as sweating, shaking, shortness of breath, chest pain or even nausea.
You can understand now why people tend to avoid situations that might trigger this and how powerful the anxiety loop can be.
When the fear of fear sets in, you start reminiscing all these thoughts and you ask yourself:
- “What if I lose control and do something crazy?”
- “What if those sensations come back again while I’m in a meeting?”
- “What if it’s a sign of a serious health problem?”
But you need to know that no matter how terrifying it feels, you are safe. Your body and brain are safe places.
You are not going to suffocate or die. It may feel unpleasant but it will never be dangerous.
There’s an ancient Chinese phrase known as “ZHILAOHU” that translates as “paper tiger”.
It refers to something that seems threatening but is ineffectual and unable to withstand challenge. That is exactly what a panic attack represents, a paper tiger, scary but harmless.
And this has even been proven by science. Dr. Harry Barry, an Irish medical doctor and expert in the area of mental health, has this to say about panic attacks:
“The job of your stress system is to keep you safe and alive not to kill you. The symptoms of anxiety are uncomfortable but they are not dangerous. You have my word as a doctor – this adrenaline rush will not kill you.”
Now, even if all this seems “normal” and less frightening you still have another though crossing your mind and it is, why anxiety is a problem for you and not others, especially if it came totally out of the blue.
Here is when you need to know that you are not alone. You may have talked about this with your surroundings. You may have heard people saying “I’m stressed too” but deep inside you know that they have no idea of how consuming it can be or how hard a panic attack can feel. And then you feel a lack of comprehension, like if you weren’t fitting in a specie you belong to.
But this shouldn’t be a curb. Millions of perfectly sane people suffer from the same problem.
In the United States only, 40 million adults aged from 18 suffer from anxiety which represents 18% of the population every year. It’s the century’s most common illness.
We are not here to make you feel bad.
We are not here to remind you of what you already know and feel.
We are here to change things.
And by changing things, I am not talking about your feelings/sensations but about your perception.
You will probably find this very cliché or stupid but you are the cure.
You are the only person capable of wiping out all of this.
You need to remember that the most rewarding journeys are the ones we start within ourselves but they can also be the toughest ones to start.
It will never be easy, but it will always be worth it.
Each and every one of us is unique and in this case one your specificities is your anxiety. It can be your biggest strength you only need to allow it to be.
You may ask yourself how can I allow this consuming thing to be my power?
How can my head be the cure of something it is imposing to itself?
But remember, you are the only killer and victim here.
Killer of joyfulness and opportunities.
Victim of stress and sadness.
But you are also the only lionheart.
It is as simple as this and as hard as it sounds.
Stop waiting for that understanding person.
Stop waiting for that spark that will guide you and start now.
Start from scratch, from writing to do lists to clear your mind, to going out and talking to strangers.
Remind yourself that each feeling is legitimate.
You can’t control the way you feel, only the way you react.
Take a step back and face it.
Shake your head.
Face your anxiety.
Make it sit next to you and talk to it.
No, you are not losing your mind. You are befriending it.
Empower yourself, use these paralyzing thoughts and sensations and make it your fuel.
Your everyday motivation.
Your everyday fight.
And by this we are not saying that your life is all about anxiety.
We are making you aware of how empowering your anxiety can be.
You have nothing more or less than another human being; you are as powerful and worth it as any other person.
So remember to embrace yourself, you are precious.