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I Can't Keep Calm Because I Have Anxiety. Say What?

October 23, 2013 Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC

Have you seen those posters or t-shirts that read: “I Can’t Stay Calm Because I Have Anxiety”? They’re a play off the trendy t-shirts, posters and other items with the royal crown and the directive to “keep calm and…”.

As those of us who experience any form of anxiety are aware, merely reading a sign that tells us to "keep calm" is too simple—easier said than done. On the other hand, don’t believe “I Can’t Keep Calm Because I Have Anxiety.” It’s just not true!

How Do You Keep Calm With Anxiety?

[caption id="attachment_1281" align="alignright" width="224" caption="Anxiety is a bully that wants you to think you aren't in control."]I can't keep calm because I have anxiety, reads a poster. That's untrue. Even with anxiety, you can keep calm[/caption]

To be sure, there’s a lot to “keeping calm.” It’s tricky. However, to believe the assertion in the image here, that “I can’t keep calm because of anxiety, would be tragic. The statement implies that anxiety has complete control over us. That’s simply not true. It is possible to keep calm despite anxiety, even near-debilitating anxiety. Here’s why:

Statements such as “I can’t keep calm because I have anxiety” are the results of our thoughts playing tricks on us.

Anxiety is real. It isn’t something we’re talking ourselves into. But it doesn’t have to rule us, like a queen with her crown. When we’re in a situation that makes us fearful or fills us with dread, anxiety symptoms skyrocket. Our thoughts about the situation matter. We can work with our minds to think in new ways, to think about the situation differently. That way, when our anxiety hits, we don’t have to give into it. We can keep calm.

Don't Let Anxiety Bully You

Stay Calm

In telling us we can’t keep calm, that we don’t have a say in the matter, anxiety is being a bully.

Did you ever have a playground bully? Or perhaps currently a workplace bully or a neighborhood bully? I did. Do. If you did/do, too, think about said bullies. What were they like? Mine wanted to feel superior and to intimate and to control and to get their way and to push me aside so they could do whatever they wanted. Sound familiar? Sound at all like anxiety? When we let anxiety rule us, we’re acting as our own worse bully. I don’t want to be told that I can’t be calm. Perhaps you, too, are tired of being bullied by anxiety.

Keeping Calm Despite Anxiety

There are ways to reduce the power of the anxiety bully. Stare her down. When she tells you to rev up rather than calm down, stare her in the face and tell her why you really can handle an intimidating situation. Come up with as many reasons as you can. Another way to deal with the anxiety bully within? Ignore him. Take away his power. Yes, the symptoms of anxiety are hard to ignore, but when we focus on all the strengths we have that allow us to survive, we aren’t focusing so much on the bully.

As a bully, anxiety likes to hang around. But we don’t have to give the bully power over us. We can keep calm despite our anxiety. How do you stare down your anxiety bully?

You can also connect with Tanya J. Peterson on her website, Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Pinterest.

APA Reference
NCC, T. (2013, October 23). I Can't Keep Calm Because I Have Anxiety. Say What?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, July 15 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2013/10/how-to-keep-calm-dont-let-anxiety-bully-you



Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC

Tanya J. Peterson is the author of The Mindfulness Journal for Anxiety, The Mindfulness Workbook for Anxiety, Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 steps, and five critically-acclaimed, award-winning novels about mental health challenges. She speaks nationally about mental health, and she has a curriculum for middle and high schools. Find her on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Julia Jamieson
says:
November, 29 2017 at 3:24 am
I have anxiety, but I like the shirt. It's another way of letting others know that they're not the only ones
David Obonyo
says:
March, 20 2015 at 1:05 pm
I can face anxiety, isn't it? But everything has a price tog to it. You are always going to handle anxiety, put up the price!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

March, 20 2015 at 1:15 pm
Hello David,
You are quite right. Everything in life does have some sort of a price tag, be it effort or a trade-off of some sort, actual financial cost, etc. The decisions we make for our own lives are very personal. We can indeed choose to face anxiety, and then we can decide what we need to do to get there. It's a process, but one worth doing.
Claire
says:
May, 24 2014 at 11:55 pm
Yes anxiety is a difficult to defeat... If thats what our choice.. It just like a exam in school if you don't mastred the tactics then you will be failed! But if you mastered if ans know the tactics you will passed! Just like anxiety we just have to understand and mastered so we can survive!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

May, 25 2014 at 10:08 am
Hi Claire!
What a great analogy! In many ways, anxiety is similar to tests in school (which of course can be anxiety-provoking). As difficult and daunting as any school test may be, it is possible to take control over it by learning and studying and preparing and persevering. This works for anxiety, too, and we can understand it, master it, and survive! Thank you for sharing your insight.
Florence
says:
October, 29 2013 at 12:00 pm
Anxiety robs one of being centered and composed. Its robs one of sleep and correct thinking. It is a bully and people should get more tips on keeping it at bay.....we need more pep statements to fight this...

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

October, 30 2013 at 12:30 am
You're so right -- it does rob us of things like sleep and correct thinking. Thanks for mentioning the need for more tips and statements. I like knowing what people might find helpful. It helps reduce my anxiety! :)
Amir
says:
October, 29 2013 at 11:13 am
Interesting post. Keeping calm is just so difficult to implement with an anxiety disorder. No doubt. And yes, for every problem there is a solution. I hope that I'm able to apply the tactics to stay calm and some have been able to do. But trying to stay calm has become a stressor and the idea isn't very relaxing :)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

October, 30 2013 at 12:32 am
I agree that just "trying" to stay calm is indeed stressful. When we think we have to do something or should be able to do something, it creates something like performance anxiety. I'm hopeful that Anxiety Schmanxiety will continue to be a helpful resource and forum for discussion.

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