There was a time that I felt I needed to avoid anything that caused anxiety. Whether it was a long-term trigger or something that was making me feel uncomfortable at the moment, I felt that I needed to avoid the situation to keep from experiencing any unpleasant feelings as a result of anxiety.
Living with Anxiety
Last time, I wrote about setting goals and using tasks to focus on to help channel my anxiety. But what happens when things get less busy in my life, and it is time to relax? How do I relax when you're anxious?
With anxiety, I often feel as though I don't have a handle on my circumstances and surroundings. This sense of a lack of control over my environment causes my anxiety to jump into overdrive, to the point that I can't stop my racing or intrusive thoughts. One of the things I've found helpful is to have something to focus on.
I've learned something about anxiety and conflict. For fear of the discomfort that accompanies conflict, I will often try to do my best to avoid any situation that might result in opposition, tension, or some sort of disagreement.
One of the most important things that I have learned to recognize about my anxiety, and something that I often talk about in terms of coping, is what I do when my anxiety gets triggered. This has been important because I've learned ways to avoid or confront the triggers. And so, throughout this process, I've also learned how to recognize the anxiety symptoms that I most often experience.
An area of my anxiety that has been difficult to overcome has been productivity anxiety. Since I was young, I've held myself to high standards that I've found unreachable. When I was younger, these standards meant getting good grades and succeeding in school. As I got older, these standards extended to every other area of life. The problem with constantly chasing standards like this is that they get bigger, higher, and seemingly less realistic, to the point that trying to get there becomes a source of stress and anxiety. In my experience, this has looked like the need to be constantly productive. But the anxiety I experience about productivity means it always feels like what I do is never enough.
It's hard to be happy when you struggle with anxiety. Anxiety, in and of itself, contradicts happiness. If you think about it, when you're happy, you're experiencing positive emotions. But when you're anxious, you're experiencing fear, uncertainty, worry, and doubt.
I've learned that it's difficult to fight self-doubt when you are often anxious. Unfortunately, naturally, anxiety and self-doubt go hand in hand. Because of this, my anxiety can affect my decision-making. In other words, when trying to make a choice, I often doubt myself and my ability to make a good decision.
When I experience anxiety, one of the main symptoms I have is anticipatory anxiety, which is excessive worry about what will happen in the future. It is this symptom that keeps me up at night when I'm not sleeping well and often results in intrusive thoughts that interrupt my concentration when I'm trying to focus.
When you struggle with anxiety, it is sometimes inevitable that you will also cope with depression. The constant worry, the feelings of insecurity, the fears, feeling overwhelmed, and most noticeable for me, the feelings of exhaustion from the anxiety -- all of these things can lead to suddenly feeling down. What has concerned me about this in the past has been that if I feel down and continue to feel this way, the depression may become severe to the point that it is difficult to pull myself out. So I've had to be mindful of taking care of myself in order to avoid anxiety becoming depression.