It is true, anxiety much like fear has a real purpose.
Without anxiety, no one would be concerned about their actions or responsibilities and the probability of self-destruction would be very high.
I remember when I was in nursing school, I was so anxious about doing the right thing.
I would prepare the night before my clinical practicum, learning all I could about my patient(s). Reading their medical charts, studying their lab/x-ray results, reviewing their medical diagnosis, trying to understand why the doctor prescribed a certain medication.
All this prep work would take hours.
I was faithful and diligent.
What was my driving force to stay focused? Anxiety! I worried to the extreme. After all, I did not want to kill someone!
That underlying fear of causing harm to the point of death is called anxiety. However, the reality was, that as a student nurse, all my contact with my patients was under direct supervision. I always had a Registered Nurse watching over my every move.
Knowing this made little difference. I continued to push myself to learn as much as I could.
The problem was that I pushed so hard trying to stay on top of the patient information, that my sleep, diet, and family suffered.
You see, at this time, I was married and had two little children less than 3 years old.
My anxiety to “know everything” placed a real strain on my marriage Looking back, I have little memory of those years when my babies were babies.
But wait…I thought anxieties saved the world?
True enough, it is when they are out of control that we have a problem.
Anxiety is a natural response to a perceived fear.
Think about your caveman ancestor. In order to remain alive, our caveman peeps needed to react quickly to that approaching sabertooth tiger.
The caveman would sense the danger, his eyes would focus sharply, his heart would begin to beat faster to send the much need blood to his leg muscles, his breathing would become rapid to supply his lungs with the needed oxygen, the blood supply to the gut would be diverted away to support all the blood needed for his muscles and his brain. He might even have to urinate. With all this activity going on in the cardiovascular system, he would get sweaty while standing still ….. paralyzed in fear or ready to run away from the saber-tooth tiger.
Although we are not cavemen, our bodies continue to respond to fear in the same way.
The only problem is that there is no saber-tooth tiger.
We will have times in our life when there is a real danger, and our reaction is fueled by the same biological system as our caveman ancestor. Referred to as “the fight or flight response”.
I remember when I was working as an emergency room registered nurse, and the paramedic would call into the ER to alert us that a patient was being brought to the hospital and was not breathing.
I would immediately have to go to the bathroom.
My heart would begin to beat faster and I would begin to prepare for their arrival. Once arrived, I would begin life-saving CPR. My own heart rate would increase, my brain precisely in focused, aware of what else was going on with the medical team in place. In this setting, my anxiety was effective, under control and helped me to do my duty to provide life-saving measures to this patient.
Set boundaries on your anxiety.
Like most things, you need to set boundaries with your anxiety.
Left on its own, anxiety will take over and begin to take you on a journey of fear and misery.
Left unattended, anxiety will begin to place thoughts in your head of “what if” and “I can’t because”.
Anxiety becomes the weight that keeps you tethered to your safe place.
You set boundaries by challenging your beliefs regarding the perceived fear.
The best way to challenge those beliefs is to reflect on the “why” behind your thoughts.
Those with anxiety out of control are typically aware of their state. Making excuses not to attend social events that you really would like to attend, or giving your anxiety strength by having to explain to those around you “I am sorry but I have anxiety..”
When I first moved to Japan, I thought I would never drive a car. After all, they drive on the left side of the road, the road signs are in Japanese and the steering wheel is on the wrong side! How could I ever learn to drive under those conditions?
What if I took the wrong road?
What if I drove on the wrong side of the street?
What if I parked in a “no parking zone” and I got towed? I would not even know how to retrieve my car.
So my master plan was just to have my husband drive me everywhere., but that plan never worked.
If I let my anxiety take control I would have become even more fearful of other experiences in Japan.
The truth is, I had to get a drivers license, I had to take an exam and I had to pass.
Well..I passed and the first time I drove I was genuinely scared. But I did it! I challenged my belief and faced my fear. Within one week, I was driving without a concern. Much like driving in the United States.
When anxiety gets out of control
Left on its own, anxiety will grow and birth panic into your daily life.
What is panic?
AGW…. Anxieties gone wild.
Your heart beats crazy fast as if you are running for your life.
Your breath becomes rapid and it is difficult to catch your breath.
As the blood is diverted away from your gut and from your extremities, you get nauseous and some even vomit.
You have a real sense of impending doom or death.
It is easy to think you are having a heart attack, but you are not.
Although, while experiencing a panic attack, you may believe that you are dying ….. you are not.
For those that are able to identify that anxiety has gotten out of control and that it is difficult to establish boundaries with your anxiety, it is easy to assume those around will provide help.
If you are able, seek professional mental health support to help you regain your life.
I have seen too many relationships crash and burn because of anxiety.
Your assumptions need to be challenged by a professional; someone that is not afraid to question your core beliefs.
Don’t put that burden on your partner, parent or co-worker.
The end result will be a continued state of anxiety with panic along with a lost relationship.