Karen Kleiman MSW, LCSW
This Isn't What I Expected
4 Reasons You Might Want to LOVE Your Anxiety.
It's about balance.
Posted Jun 27, 2016
Anyone with significant anxiety understands only too well how unsettling it can feel at best and how crippling it can be, at its worst. We all know the downside to anxiety. It can keep you from moving forward. It can interfere with the best of intentions. It can keep you living in fear. It can make you feel like you are dying. It can hold you back from taking risks and finding new pleasures. It can tease your brain into believing that you are too nervous, too incapable, too unprepared for whatever it is you are facing. In short, it can get in the way of almost anything and everything you do or think about.
Most people with acute anxiety, free-floating anxiety, or general anxiety disorder, whether you have an "official" diagnosis, or find your oscillating back and forth from your own intrusive thoughts without a clue as to how they got there or how to get rid of them -- eventually learn to live with a constant state of pending doom, or they seek professional support.
What if you could reframe that anxiety and actually learn to believe that it is one of the best parts of who you are?
So, we get it, too much anxiety is not good; when anxiety reaches the point where it impedes your day-to-day functioning, that's too much anxiety; and we accept the fact that anxiety has roots in evolutionary terms, enabling adaptive responses that can be life-saving.
That may be all well and good, but it is not always helpful in the midst of an anxiety attack. Right?
If you find yourself seeking the right words or messages to help you come to terms with your anxiety (because it is best to understand that you can manage it, rather than "cure" it), see if the tips below resonate for you.
1) It makes you more sensitive. I know, this is a double edged sword. Being too sensitive is part of the reason you feel bad sometimes. It makes you susceptible to all kinds of pain, such as pangs of too much empathy, too much compassion, too much worry about others, too much fretting about the how's, the why's, and the what if's. Still, being sensitive is what makes you in sync with your baby, your children, with your partner, with the world around you. It is an emblem of your integrity and the regard you have for others. Learning how to harness this energy so that you can experience the world around you with greater awareness while you simultaneously let go of the unnecessary rumination, is a goal you can work toward. Embracing your sensitivity as one of your most appealing characteristics can help you see that your moments of vulnerability are simply moments when you care too much. You can begin to regulate your emotional response by understanding and accepting that the anxiety is there.
2) It can make you more creative and lovable. People with heightened anxiety frequently choose to use that energy to engage in activities or relationships that might otherwise not be available to them. While it may sound briefly comforting, isolating is not good for anxious minds and actually, people with anxiety tend to be better at reaching out of the anxious grip than they give themselves credit for. Sometimes, in an effort to flee from anxious thoughts, people report that when they reach out, do something, make something, tell someone, they tend to feel better, even if it is difficult for them at the time. Creative juices can flow when you release yourself from that which restricts you. Playing, interacting, laughing, singing, dancing, humming, drawing, are all wonderful distractions that really do work to turn your anxiety into something more desirable.
3) Being vulnerable is good. It is honest, it is authentic. It is who you are at that moment. Pretending to be anything else will increase your anxiety. While you might argue that excessive over-thinking and ruminating is unhealthy and stressful, once identified you can learn how to access this vulnerability with warmth, intelligence and balance in order to help you get what you need. Owning your anxiety, naming it, sharing it with others, can liberate you from the distorted belief that no one would understand or that you are the only one who feels this way. Anxiety is a universal phenomenon which reminds us that we are all fundamentally prone to the raw pain of overexposure. It's about being human.
4) You get things done. People who are anxious tend to be focused (hypervigilant?), motivated (guilty?), reliable (perfectionistic?), responsible (obsessive?) Clearly, too much of anything is not good, but if you consider that smaller amounts of your anxious traits are awesome parts of who you are, the key is to monitor them. When you are overwhelmed or compromised in some way, your anxiety might skyrocket out of control. Understanding that it is a part of you that also makes you wonderful, will help you accept those scary moments for what they are and allow you to settle yourself down a bit easier than if you push back by resisting the anxiety.
There are tons of reasons you may want to reduce your anxiety. Most likely, you have made an enemy out of your anxiety and see it as a toxic reminder that you are held hostage by its persistent grip. Why not try to re-calibrate and celebrate that part of who you are so you are in a better position to carry it along with the rest of you instead of wishing it away? Learning to accept and cope with traits that have always been and will continue to be parts of who we are, begins with the understanding that these traits may, in fact, be related to our most endearing qualities.
It's time to start liking yourself again.
Copyright Karen Kleiman, MSW, LCSW The Postpartum Stress Center