Anxiety & Chronic Worry
Feeling anxious and worrying are part of the human condition, so when do we know it's too much?
Anxiety and worry become too much when it will not leave and it is interfering in enjoying your life. Anxiety can prevent you from living your daily life by keeping you worrying about the future. Your mind may be unable to rest and is constantly busy by thinking of everything that can go wrong. It can be a nagging in your mind about tomorrow, next week, next month, or can be experienced as a fear or phobia. It is often experienced in the body through physical symptoms. It can be a headache that always comes back, an upset stomach, feeling tired, overly stressed, or uncomfortable nervous energy.
It may even make you feel like you have to think of all the possible future problems in order to gain control over it. However, the worrying does not provide you with a sense of relief and is robbing you of feeling at peace, relaxed and able to enjoy the things you used to find pleasure in.
Anxiety is an extremely common problem although it may leave you feeling very alone. Our brains are doing what they are wired to do. They are looking for obstacles and danger in life, however, this can go awry when our mind and body do not realize we are not in real danger. When this happens it shapes our daily thoughts and behaviors, often in a way that reinforces our anxiety. For example, when a parent gives a crying child a candy bar this will alleviate the crying and provide both child and parent with temporary relief. Since this has alleviated stress for both the child and parent, they are both likely to repeat this interaction as the child has learned crying can get candy and the parent has found that candy will alleviate the crying.
Anxiety works off of this same premise. If our behaviors give us the illusion of taking away discomfort we are likely to continue those behaviors and patterns of thinking, even if not conscious to us. If we are nervous about work and call out sick, this teaches our body that calling out sick removes the sense of danger. If we are nervous about socializing with others and cancel our plans, this teaches our body that canceling plans removes the panic and you are likely to repeat this behavior. These seemingly small behaviors to avoid discomfort seem insignificant but over time they can snowball into bigger problems that will affect other areas of your life.
If it's a problem that you can't control, your mind may feel that you must continue to think about the problem to gain a sense of doing something about it mentally.
There is much hope for feeling better and retraining our minds and bodies to work differently so we can begin living our life in a more present, engaged and enjoyable way again.