There is a lot of anxiety running rampant in the world right now. It is everywhere and pretty much about everything. The world has entered uncharted territory, and we are uncertain where our lives or our world are going. Uncertainty often produces anxiety. Problem is, thinking about anxiety also makes us anxious.
Many of us are so used to living with anxiety that we don’t give it a lot of thought. We get used to feelings of unease, apprehension, and nervousness. “I’m just feeling a little out of sorts or off center or I’ve got things on my mind but it is no big deal.” Actually, though, it is.
Anxiety, left unaddressed, builds and suffocates you mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, and can eventually destroy your health.
Now, we are going to start with how you even know you’re anxious. If what I said is true — that we become so accustomed to anxiety that we don’t realize we are suffering from it — then how do we learn?
My favorite anxious vice is food — eating when I’m not hungry. Many people call it stress eating; I call it standing in front of the open fridge at 3:30 a.m. looking for the fixin’s for a turkey and cheese sandwich.
The presence of addictions is a sign that we are trying to run off anxiety. There are chemical addictions — food, booze, drugs, coffee, cigarettes, chocolate, sugar. And there are mechanical addictions. The nail biters who will chew their fingers down to the first knuckle. The hair twisters who aren’t even conscious of how much they do it. The jaw clenchers and grinders. The folks who can’t stop jiggling their leg, bouncing that knee up and down at ever-increasing speeds. Some people pick fights, usually about insignificant things, potentially throwing away or damaging a loving relationship just to run off anxiety.
Another way many of us handle our anxiety is to worry about everything. Constantly. It can almost become obsessive.
Some people turn into martyrs. You go to get your COVID-19 vaccine, and even though you have an appointment, they not only keep you waiting, but they take other people first. You believe that they deliberately did that to you. The server refills everybody else’s water glass except yours, and you believe it was premeditated. Martyring yourself is a way to distract from the anxiety you are feeling.
Some people fall into depression. The weight of the depression gets so heavy that they can’t get out from under it. Others go into self-righteousness and blame. There is a lot of this out in the world right now, but it gets to the point of absurdity: “The world is going to hell in a handbasket because the rotten liberals are a bunch of satanic, cannibalistic pedophiles, blah, blah, blah.” If I had known I was a cannibal, I could have saved a fortune at Kroger over the years! In the 10,000 years of recorded human history, blame has never solved anything. Accountability, yes. Blame, no.
And, finally, there’s procrastination. The people who let the mail pile up for weeks or months — but they’re gonna get to it! That closet that I’ve been meaning to clean out and sort through forever, but I keep throwing stuff in there instead. That two-minute phone call that I need to make for work, but I can’t make it on Monday because they are just getting back to work and I don’t want to bother them. The bill I need to pay.
If any of this sounds familiar, good, because one of the steps to escaping your anxiety is to know you have it and to be aware of what you do to run it off. Then you can start looking for alternative, less destructive ways to express it.
Living Skills offers positive psychology counseling, spiritual counseling and life coaching services in Atlanta for the LGBTQ community. Also available by Skype. If you have questions, comments or want to find out about our services, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.livingskills.pro.