Anxiety – It’s All in How You Look At It

I have always struggled with anxiety, but it took me a while to realize what I was dealing with. It wasn’t until I started having panic attacks after Madison was born that I finally realized what was going on. If you don’t understand yourself, your mind, and your body, it is difficult to move forward and develop the coping techniques that you need to live successfully.

I can remember simple things from when I was a child, such as the extreme case of “butterflies” I would get the night before an anticipated event. The feeling would carry over into the next morning and I would be unable to eat breakfast. My whole body would be physically affected. As I got older I had constant pain and knots in my shoulder; apparently this was where I was holding all my stress and anxiety. I am not one to open up and so I would hold things in for as long as possible and then usually lose it on the person closest to me. The teenage and early twenties me was one hot mess! 🙂

My stress and anxiety, more often than not, was based solely on other’s opinions of me and my inability to control a situation and its outcome. Control freak much? Yes, I am kind of the Queen of Control Freaks. I still am to a certain point; however, I am learning ways to tone it down and gain perspective on the WHOLE situation. There’s no rush! There’s nothing you are going to miss out on just because the details are a bit different than you expected. Trust the process.

This morning I was listening to something and was really struck by this concept: “There is a benefit to anxiety … it means you care about yourself and others.” The key to actually benefiting from anxiety is balance. Worry just enough so that you are safe but, not in a way that it inhibits your ability to live authentically. According to licensed counselor, Megan Sutherland, the benefits of anxiety are as follows:

  • Alerts Us to Danger – The “fight or flight” response is adaptive.
  • Improves Self-Knowledge and Awareness – Anxiety can alert us to things we need to change in our lives, or about ourselves.
  • Increases Motivation, Purpose and Quality of Life – Because it can feel so awful, anxiety can be the catalyst that causes us to do something meaningful about ourselves and aspects of our lives that we’re not happy with.
  • Improves Confidence – We realize our strength when we learn to move through it effectively.

So instead of seeing anxiety as a negative thing, learn to manage it effectively and use it wisely.

I have learned and am still learning, to manage my own anxiety by opening up to a friend, taking time to meditate, taking time for myself, and for me the most important way has been through exercise. Michael Hopkins, a graduate student affiliated with the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory Laboratory at Dartmouth, is part of a team researching how exercise effects the mind and emotions. He states, “It looks more and more like the positive stress of exercise prepares cells and structures and pathways within the brain so that they’re more equipped to handle stress in other forms,” I think that’s pretty amazing! When you exercise you are not only enhancing your physical strength but your mental and emotional strength as well. I always viewed my exercise as emotional release when in fact it has been building emotional endurance instead. Results are not instantaneous; but, like everything else that’s worth it in life, it requires patience and determination to get out of your own head and into your best self.

The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering.   –  Ben Okri

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