Creating ANXIETY ABOUT ANXIETY is about as helpful as getting angry at angry people.
When we become the very thing we are so fearful of and self righteous about judging, the cycle continues from one relationship to another.
Recently during a peaceful wander at a shopping centre I have been frequenting in Bris Vegas since I was a teenager, I needed to make my routine visit to the ladies’ room. As I shut the toilet door, the face of a terrified woman on an advertisement was staring back at me. The message was promoting a service specializing in ANXIETY treatments. The slogan inferred that one could never escape it and it would always be like a “boogey monster” waiting to get you anytime, anywhere. I stood transfixed looking at the desperation on the woman’s face, ignoring my full bladder, remembering those black chapters in my life as a suicidal teen, single divorced mother, and an addict in early recovery when ANXIETY was a consistent state of being. I would wander aimlessly around this very shopping centre emotionally crippled by the fear-based belief that I always was, and would be a hopeless, incompetent mess. I was relieved that during those phases of my life, advertisements like these designed to offer help were not on the back of this pale green toilet door.
We all hear the new age mantras that tell us to “let go” and “hold on” but these generalisations often feed anziety if we don’t know how to apply them. Does one hold onto an abusive relationship or let go of the right to visit their children? Wisdom they say is knowledge applied - but if we don’t have healthy guidance on how to apply the knowledge how can we act wisely, face our fears and overcome anxiety?
Can I please offer a suggestion that always works for me? I view anxiety as an essential emotional traffic light.
Anxiety in my view is like a healthy inbuilt human alarm - like an internal yellow traffic light indicating the simple need to be cautious and listen to our truth. I share this little analogy with my Emotional Fitness Clients often. Consider that perhaps our heart speaks to us with energy-charged signals like a set of traffic lights; red is for stop, it is unsafe to continue along this path; yellow is for caution, slow down check for safety; green means we are safe and good to go.
A wise elder will encourage an anxious teen to take their time, and check for safety reminding them that anxiety is their friend. Butterflies are our anxiety in action helping us prepare to take flight and enter new territory. However too many of us during our rites of passage were not educated about the ways that anxiety can work for us, not against us.
It can be a gift instead of a burden.
Many teens (including myself at that age) opt to numb off our anxiety with booze, drugs, and food or destructive spending looking for emotional relief. “Dutch courage” is all about numbing healthy anxiety with booze, we mentioned that in last weeks word vitamin. Sure it might work short term. But many teens take this short cut deep into adult life. If we keep avoiding our anxiety homework, we will never build heartfelt confidence.
Constructive outcomes result when we honour our anxiety without shame. Facing our fears is how we master self-confidence. Therefore anxiety can be used as a useful key to unlock that heavy door of fear. Waiting on the other side is a rare and beautiful freedom and self-respect only discovered when we are brave enough to face our anxiety with compassion rather than suppress it with self-criticism. Anxiety is a normal and healthy component of being a human.
For people like myself, we were never taught that anxiety is a healthy signal from our heart to slow down, take a deep breath and maybe even decide not to decide if we feel like we need more time. We develop panic attacks, which are big blocks of frozen anxiety thawing out and knocking us down like an emotional tsunami.
After facing many years of being afraid and ANXIOUS ABOUT ANXIETY I have learned to be thankful for my hearts yellow light. When we are driving at night and see yellow lights flashing like yellow butterflies what do we do? Slow down, pay attention, become emotionally present rather than distracted and check for safety. Once we are sure we are safe we continue on our journey, but sometimes we decide it’s wiser to do a complete U turn.
Whenever I am anxious these days and my butterflies start fluttering within I slow down, pay attention, become emotionally present rather than distracted and check for safety. Sometimes all I need to do is take some deep breaths.
If a child is anxious, we would be tender, patient and kind talking them through their fears. We adults also deserve the same treatment. So with the week that lies before us let’s try to remember that anxiety always accompanies us when we are entering new territory and emotionally growing. ANXIETY can become our friend as we unlock ourselves from past fears and claim the life we have always dreamed of living.
In the wise words of Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard …
“Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom”