Anxiety Wants You in a Box: Getting Out and Staying Well

August 7, 2011 Kate White

Anxiety likes to keep us in boxes. Little boxes, with four walls and a steady stream of same, same, similar, same. Don't stray too far now. Don't, should, must,... and after a while your mind stops using the windows, let alone the door. One doesn't think there's anything wrong with the same, if it feels safe, safer, or like it's somehow protecting you no matter how unsafe we actually feel, every single day. Up to a point it's fine. Of course it's fine. Of course then it's easy to miss the point that it's not fine, too.

Rebel: it's good for anxiety

I'm not saying become a punk, out of nowhere, or further marginalize yourself, but do do things differently than usual, to the way that anxiety dictates you should, will, must. In neurological terms it's a bit of 'use it or lose it' thing. The ability to fight anxiety, manage it, cure it, treat it, comes from consistently, continuously challenging the walls it erects around and within us.

The 'breakthrough' moments I've had in treating anxiety have ALL come about when I rebelled against the neat little structures in my head- the ones that said, don't, don't, don't, you're safe here, mustn't do those other things, shouldn't go out there, you'll hate it, you'll die, whatever you do don't bend the rules and don't even think about breaking them.

The more 'rules' I can give up- even temporarily- the less panic I experience in ordinary situations which, naturally, require me to be far more flexible than anxiety desires.

Anxiety is a b*tch

Anxiety wants to lock you up so tight you don't breathe then call that safe and sound. It wants to tell you that the walls are so close-in because that's the only way you can go on, that's the only way you can survive this life of living oh so very dangerously, no matter how safe you think you are. No matter how many rational ways out life might offer you, or how many times you tell yourself you're OK. Anxiety doesn't like the rational. It wants you to stop thinking and listen only to the thudding in your chest, to the fear you can hear in the wind, to the fire that might come if you're not careful, if you don't build more walls around the barricades already holding in your heart.

A little box sounds innocuous enough and on its own it is. But this business of building boxes is a frightfully treacherous thing. Because you want more, because it doesn't make you safe. Because when in some form or other you're anxious 99% of the time that feeling of being always, ever on the verge of being safe, that world those boxes promise, can easily become all that you desire.

APA Reference
White, K. (2011, August 7). Anxiety Wants You in a Box: Getting Out and Staying Well, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Author: Kate White

April, 3 2014 at 7:44 pm

Thanks Kate. I will have to revisit this article time and time again since my box is to tight rebelling to the point where my anxiety is gone is not going to be easy. I constantly catch my self thinking of new ways to make my box tighter. I also want to thank Sue and Norm whose comments I could really identify with.

May, 23 2012 at 9:26 am

i started crieng as i read this article. this is exactly how my social anxiety makes me feel. been struggling with it since i was a teen. im 30 and still trieng to beat it.

Norm Miner
August, 24 2011 at 9:56 am

Kate, thanks for the great article. I am becoming aware that my anxiety has many dimentions with profound ramifications. I have given up fighting.
I have started showing up consciously aware of the walls my anxiety erects. I am vocalizing the "Rebel" in my psychiatrist's and my psychologist's office and this "giving up of old rules" has not only been liberating but stimulating as well. The self loathing, never enough chatter is now supplanted by a new energy and motivation caught up in self loving renewal. Some of my friends might say: Norm, are you taking your Meds.? To which I would reply, "How else could a Bipolar with anxiety disorder pull this off?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kate White
August, 24 2011 at 3:00 pm

Hi Norm,
LOL Good come-back. And thanks.
Yeah, I think it's really important to make those kinds of mental shifts. I'd be way farther behind in dealing with mine if I hadn't.

August, 18 2011 at 9:58 am

It's a wonderful article. My anxiety box starts tightening Sunday thinking about the work week. I work in a nice place and have nice coworkers and supervisors finally after many years. But, I still have to push myself and then spend 3/4 of the morning at my desk fighting tears, hyperventilation and the desire to leave and get back home. I'm exhausted from the physical sensations and from the contant self talk to keep myself here. Some days are better than others. Your article sheds an angle that I will put in my self-help toolbox.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kate White
August, 18 2011 at 10:09 am

Thanks, Sue!
Yeah, I think a lot of people who don't have to deal with it don't get how physically exhausting the anxiety really can be. Here's hoping the week goes smoothly for you.

August, 14 2011 at 7:19 am

Ah, yes: Tom Waits. "Hold On" has kept me out of the coffin more than once ;-)

Lady Delphinium
August, 14 2011 at 4:29 am

This is such a powerful article. Wow. It is so true! I'm glad I found your blog and I'll be back to read more!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kate White
August, 14 2011 at 4:35 am

Hi Lady Delphinium.
Thank you!

August, 13 2011 at 11:47 am

Kate, you're a godsend. "Rebel: It's good for anxiety" -- agreed. A revolution of self-mercy, despite all, is also good medicine when self-loathing wants us in a coffin. So is a collection of anthems: today, songs of Don Henley, Bruce Springsteen, Melissa Etheridge.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kate White
August, 14 2011 at 4:35 am

Jaliya, my love. Now that I have never been called before! 'a revolution of self-mercy'. Yes, yes, and yes! Lately it has been Tom Waits, Janis and Country Joe for me.

Ann Becker-Schutte
August, 11 2011 at 3:54 pm

Wonderful. I'll be adding this to my "recommended reading list." It's such a good description of how anxiety feels, and acts. Thanks for this!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kate White
August, 11 2011 at 4:10 pm

Hi Ann, and thank you!

Depression Treatment Center
August, 10 2011 at 7:48 am

What an engaging article! And, what great advice-mixing it up a little, rebelling a bit is a great way to side-step the anxiety voice that boxes us in! Doing at least one thing differently everyday can increase ones courage and loosen anxiety's grip.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kate White
August, 10 2011 at 8:12 am

Thank you!

Sharon Riley
August, 9 2011 at 7:41 am

The article & dogwatcher both describe where anxiety has taken me so accurately.
I didn't know this before, I did know that I was getting more & more limited & I isolate. It's a big deal if I go anywhere & when I do, it's a last minute decision that I've postponed for some time. I thought it was due to my getting older, old people do this. Yet, I knew better.
Thank you so much for the accurate discription. I feel understood, for one thing, for another, I know what to do.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kate White
August, 9 2011 at 8:16 am

you're very welcome, Sharon. thanks for commenting.

August, 7 2011 at 6:00 am

excellent article. i do feel like i'm constantly challenging the anxiety box just to stay in place. i'm not making progress in any really sense, i'm just holding my own in an anxious place. i feel like i am punished by more symptoms when i try to do anything outside my routine. i feel like a prisoner.
i still have hope tho and i try to make slow changes, little steps outside the box.
thank you for the accurate description.

Leave a reply