Let’s talk about ANXIETY. It may be said that anxiety is the result of stress and virtually everybody experiences stress to some degree. In the most general sense, stress is, in fact, a normal part of life. Stress, simply put, is the pressure to act. Without some stress, there is no reason to get out of bed in the morning, go to school or get a job, or have a relationship. Stress is a necessity of normal everyday living…unless it becomes too intense, lasts too long, or has no resolution.
“Stress” has become a modern catch-all. It can make you sick, cause depression or result in depression, bring on a heart attack or ulcer. Stress can even decrease your sex drive, ruin your memory, and damage your relationships. Sounds pretty serious, doesn’t it? When stress has reached the level where it can have these impacts, it is definitely a collection of symptoms we refer to as anxiety.
The Purpose of Anxiety
When we take a closer look at anxiety, it is a straight forward physical process of the body and mind getting ready to act for survival. You probably know the common phrase used to describe such a situation: “Fight or flight”. The muscles tense, breathing becomes more rapid and shallow, the heartbeat quickens. For some, thinking becomes more difficult, memory is impaired, legs or hands may shake, and some even experience nausea. All of these symptoms, and others not mentioned, are in response to the perceived need for defense.
Changes in heart rate and breathing allow more blood and oxygen to be sent to the muscles for rapid action. Analytical thinking is NOT needed if survival depends on swift action, and nausea, which could lead to vomiting is the body’s way of lightening its load and making the person less appealing to a would-be predator. All these symptoms are the result of thousands of years of humans being at the mercy of predators larger than us, equipped with sharp fangs and claws.
An Out-dated Over-reaction
While anxiety was useful to keep you on your toes in a primitive and dangerous environment, it can cause problems for modern man (and woman). Anxiety is still useful when you find yourself in unknown circumstances but our modern brain tends to over-react when, for example, the boss asks to see you. When your honey says, “We need to talk,” it only FEELS life-threatening.
So the goal isn’t to be rid of all anxiety. After all, a little anxiety can spur you to prepare a really outstanding business presentation, ask your boss for a raise, make the effort to learn a new sport, or ask the one you love to spend eternity with you.
Since we clearly need some anxiety but too much is, simply that, too much, the goal should be learning to tap into the useful amount and limit or prevent the damaging amount (or type).
Next time we’ll talk about the different types of anxiety, or the several different ways excess anxiety can complicate and compromise everyday living. Join me on this journey. If you recognize the symptoms of excess anxiety in your life and you are ready to regain control