“Physical and mental fatigue”
“Intrigue that I’m not doing something I should”
“An uneasy state of mind with physical and psychological repercussions”
“Not knowing what to do in times of stress”
“Irrational fear of an uncertain future”
“Feeling of lack of control”
Recently, the word anxiety has become more and more relevant. This can cause two things, normalize this feeling or wring it. The latter leads not only to misinterpretations or confusion, but to labeling an emotional state as pathological when it’s not necessarily the case.
It was very difficult to find a meaning for anxiety since it can be a feeling, a symptom, a syndrome, or an illness…but according to Oxford dictionary, it can be defined as a mental state characterized by great restlessness, an intense excitement, and extreme insecurity. Let’s break down this definition.
A mental state…anxiety is a mental state; it may be accompanied by some physical symptoms but the root, so to speak, is in our mind and can bring with it lack of attention, forgetfulness, or rumiant thoughts.
Characterized by great restlessness…this refers to the fact that some of the characteristics of anxiety are feelings of excessive worry, uncertainty and uneasiness.
…intense excitement…here we refer to physiological reactions such as muscle tension, shortness of breath, tachycardia, dizziness, upset stomach, headaches…Basically, our nervous system is active. This explains why when we feel anxious, there’s an inability to relax.
…and extreme insecurity. This has to do with how we think and feel. Usually by feeling anxious, we magnify things and focus on the worst. Thoughts arise about something bad happening or losing control. There’s little security and confidence in ourselves.
But hey, what is that we call anxiety? It comes as a mix of the elements described above. However, it’s not always a disorder or disease as such. Anxiety comes from a basic emotion, fear. Unlike what is thought, fear is not bad, it’s rather very good because its job is to protect us. Worries are like small fears and they’re normal, but we can fall into the mistake of labeling them as anxiety, aggravating what we feel. For example, if we didn’t worry about getting COVID-19, we wouldn’t take the necessary protective measures. Another example, more abstract, if we weren’t afraid to fail, we wouldn’t take an active role in our lives preventing that from happening. Do we see then that fear is good? Furthermore, it’s normal and expected to feel this way during this pandemic. These are uncertain times in every way because we don’t quite know when or how everything will end; our routine continues to change and constantly we are demanded to readapt.
Knowing that worrying is normal and even necessary to solve problems, we can find ways to deal with that which worries us so much. However, excessive worry can turn into anxiety and this is where it can cause some trouble, for when we feel anxious, we worry about being worried. Therefore, instead of worrying about what we can do, we focus on that worry, causing us to worry even more. And so a vicious worry cycle begins. A little twisted, isn’t it?
Personally, I’ve suffered from panic attacks and anxiety symptoms and I know the discomfort they can cause. You literally think you’re going crazy, and this feeling leads us to force ourselves not to feel this way. We fight with these symptoms and the only thing this causes is for them to increase. All this irrational struggle causes mental and physical fatigue and a feeling of lack of control. In fact, our urgent efforts in wanting to control what we feel are futile and only reinforce the vicious cycle.
Then, what can we do? First, determine if what we’re feeling is worry or anxiety. If we can specifically identify the situation that makes us feel this way, we can focus on finding strategies to deal with it. The better we visualize how to handle that situation, the more we can reduce the feeling of uncertainty. Now, if there’s no concrete cause, if we only feel that way just because, we already know that fighting incessantly with that feeling, even if it feels right, simply doesn’t work. What’s left to do? Embrace that anxiety; accept it, not reject it. Acknowledge it as an emotion that can come for no reason, but in that same way it can go. And of course, if we think that it’s already out of our hands and interfering with our daily functioning, seek help.
At the beginning, we can read what anxiety means for some members of the community A dose of Sofi. We see how their definitions relate directly to what has already been discussed. Thank you so much for contributing and I hope this helps you to better identify this emotion so that it can be properly understood and managed. It’s very important not to label daily or expected worries as anxiety as this only leads us to pathologize something that really isn’t. There’s a big difference between “I am anxious” and “I am worried” and it’s all due to one single world.
If you liked this writing and think it can help someone, feel free to share it.