The more time I spend in the clinical setting, self-evaluate, and try to understand people, I’ve concluded that we all experience some level of anxiety. In our world, expressing that you suffer from anxiety tends to be dismissed and often frowned upon. The more we internalize it, down play it or hide, it only seems to grow, become more haunting and for some, “larger than life.”
Webster dictionary defines anxiety as “an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physical signs (such as tension, sweating, and increased pulse rate), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it.”
When we slow down and self-evaluate, I think most of us can identify a trigger that manifest a stress response; you know, that thing, lack of thing or inner complex that seems to randomly rise up and cascade. It’s that intense feeling in your chest when you’re sitting at your desk and start thinking about how bad you want out of your relationship, but you’re afraid to leave. It’s the moment you’re having lunch with your boss and pretending to love a job you secretly HATE, and can feel your palms drenched in sweat. It’s when you’re home with your children all day on summer break and you feel like your whole body becomes a monument of tension. These are just some things that can trigger and cause us to yield to the ALMIGHTY anxiety.
Anxiety is not always of great magnitude or even noticeable; It can be triggered in response to fears, traumatic events, financial mishap, relationship struggles, or even family. Some of us fight the nomenclature, resist the term and refuse the diagnosis, but in some form it’s there for all of us. Maybe it’s that you have a mild anxiety, which you prefer to call stress. It’s not that you don’t have or ever experience it, you’ve probably just naturally learned to guide and navigate the associated symptoms.
But how is it that we know we’re stressed out? Is it a feeling? Is it mental?…… What is that thing??! When we actually look at the physiological response that occurs, it’s multi- faceted. When we feel elevated, threatened or overwhelmed, the body starts secreting naturally occurring chemicals that trigger a cascade of events, which signals the body to have a symptomatic and measurable response. Some individuals will experience heavy breathing, slight trembles, increased heart rate, flushed skin and sometimes even difficulty focusing.
For some individuals, the response is severe and in the moment, paralyzing. These patients often report that “walls are closing in, muffled sound and blurred lights when the revered ANXIETY peaks. The individuals that only identify anxiety as a monumental event are likely suffering with the same condition, just at a varying degree… I can identify.
I like to describe myself as a happy, loving, upbeat, and a charismatic guy, with very little worry in a day. I had an EXCELLENT childhood and no memorable traumas. From early adulthood, I quickly learned that being stuck in the house or getting home to early, triggered an anxiety response. In my head, there’s always more to see, more people to meet and more experiences to be had. Home is a great place to sleep; but just hanging at the house is simply…..BORING! When I’m not out and engaged in activity or socializing, the intensity of boredom and restlessness significantly increase for me- Provoking that “stir-crazy” sensation. I’m not sure why it’s there, its origin, or how long it will last, but I’ve come to identify this as my anxiety. No, there’s nothing wrong at home, my relationship is amazing, and our foster sons and pups keep us smiling.
Anxiety is personal to everyone with experiences ranging from a slight increase in heart rate with sweaty palms to carpopedal spasms, hyperventilation and possible hospitalization; but, the good news is, that it doesn’t have to stay that way. Therapists, use a variety of methods to modify the behavioral response when you’re under stress, while other forms of treatment consist of pharmaceutical control.
I firmly believe that we all have varying degrees of anxiety
running in our backgrounds throughout the day.
I firmly believe that we all have varying degrees of anxiety running in our backgrounds throughout the day, but it’s our level of acceptance and awareness that can “pull the reins” or “tip the scales.” I guess we could relate it to any other behaviors that we learn to control throughout life.
But, to challenge our thoughts, what if a part of us is drawn to that anxious feeling? We all have that friend that enjoys a little drama and almost needs a little to function. How about the adrenaline junkie who is always seeking the next biggest thrill? Or what about having a good argument with our significant other? All of these forms of stimuli excite us to an extent and may even dare to say, feels good at times. After these thrills are over, it’s almost like a reset happens; we calm down a little, usually rest a little better or even have……. Well, you know….Hot, make-up sex. So, would it be extreme to think that a little anxiety may “feel good” or even provide a little excitement for us? After all, we are secreting some of the same hormones associated with thrill and adventure.
In all, anxiety is not bad and doesn’t have to be something we’re running from or embarrassed about. In fact, we can use it to our advantage and as a motivator to meet deadlines, to focus, and to elevate performances. I personally tell myself I’m excited, ready, and anticipating something great- this can be you too. Own your anxiety and use it to your advantage instead of disadvantage. It’s when it occurs on a daily basis and prevents you from living a “normal life,” that you may need a little intervention- still not a bad thing. For my patients that fear their anxieties, I provide them with council, direction, and evaluate for possible contributing external or internal dysfunction that “tip the scales.”
For most individuals, anxiety is a low grade, beneficial experience, which can aid in focus, awareness, and excitement. It’s when it becomes greater than, overwhelming and an element of defeat that we have to learn to re-align our approach and potentially seek additional guidance. For me, I’ve learned to channel this sympathetic hype into something positive, energizing and enjoyable. It’s not that I don’t want to be home, it’s that when I’m home I feel like there’s always something to do (things not so exciting): fold clothes, paint something, clean baseboards, clean the pool, organize mail, cook dinner…etc. But through trial and error, I’ve learned how to modulate my inherent response on early evenings and rainy days. Now, I come home, change clothes, deep breathe, defuse essential oil, dim all lights, play Sade radio and enjoy a minimum of 8oz of Red wine… LOL. Our External environmental variables such as lighting, smell, sounds, and sights play a huge role in behavior. By down regulating the intensity of these stimulants, it ques and signals our brain to prepare for rest- naturally decreasing the intensity of anxiety almost immediately.
I, like many, have adopted the phrase, YOLO (you only live once). In this one life I want to maximize it and make every day count. I want to feel in control, live freely and help my patients experience life in a new way.
To you my dear friends, I hope this blog offers some insight and allows you to re-evaluate the way you view and manage your anxiety. The best news…. There are many alternative and quick solutions for symptomatic anxiety. And remember, tomorrow is never promised, so, let’s maximize today and enjoy this very moment!
Dr. Martin Booth, D.C.
“Redefining the way we approach medicine, relationships and personal battles.”
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