*Takes a deep breath*
It’s been a long couple weeks guys, and I’m back again. I’ll explain later about how my car got totaled, then got hit by a drunk driver who actually hit another car so hard it totaled both our cars. It’s a pretty damn weird story.
I’m here to write to you all today about stress management and coping with anxiety. This comes from a guy who, when he misses a call from an unknown number, proceeds to have anxiety about it all day before calling the person back. Also the guy who hears about something going on next month and is anxious about it for the whole month. A want-to-be freelance artist who loves taking photographs but freaks out when a potential client calls him.
Needless to say, I’m well acquainted with the twins Anxiety and Stress. They’ve gotten into my life and dropped their anchor into the depths of my head. Where two years ago I encountered a different kind of stress, this kind lasts for days and can leave a depressing undertone for weeks.
The first thing to realize about Stress and Anxiety is their lack of tangibility. Whatever you are stressed about isn’t going to kill you. It may make your life feel like a living hell, but it won’t kill you. Your anxiety lies almost completely in your mind…
Before we go any further, let’s make a distinction between Stress and Anxiety. When you’re worried about something that you think is going to happen, you are feeling anxiety. You’ll suffer from stress when you have an immediate pressure placed on you. Stress may occur when somebody yells at you and you don’t know how to respond. Therefore, I label anxiety as anticipatory and stress as immediate. Definitions vary but this is how I label the two.
Anxiety, because it is anticipatory, doesn’t have any immediate danger. If I’m anxious, I’m worried about what might happen, not what is actually happening. I can sit in my room and have anxiety all week because I’m anticipating stress.
How do we cope with stress? If it’s an immediate pressure, isn’t that where most of the threat is?
Yes and no. We all cope with stress reasonably well. When there is an immediate danger, we all respond immediately. If a car was flying towards you right now, you would take reasonable actions to get out of its path. Similarly, if your boss is that flying car, you’ll take the necessary tasks to resolve the situation.
Think about it this way: If a stressful event were to physically endanger you, your instincts would take over. There’s no more room for thought – just problem solving. When you deal with someone yelling at you, the stress can feel tremendous. However, because you aren’t physically in danger, the stress you suffer from isn’t actually stress. It’s anxiety.
You’re thinking about all of the possibilities. If he or she did this or that. Now you’re causing your own anxiety. You’re anticipating stress even when there isn’t any. Nothing is going to harm you. Whatever is happening will eventually pass and you will be alright.
Anxiety is a tougher beast to handle because we place so many expectations on the world. It’s so natural to anticipate being able to drive to work without your car breaking down. We do it so often that we don’t even anticipate a problem. Our skills of anticipation make our lives easier because we can start making assumptions. If we drove to work fine yesterday, we should be able to do it tomorrow as well.
These anticipations and assumptions are so easy to make because we create them so often. Anxiety is just a misuse of that skill. We get so used to something that when it changes we immediately assume the worst. We don’t have the comfort of our assumption anymore. In this case, getting to work on time.
Leading back into stress, we assume that we’re going to encounter an insurmountable amount of stress and our life is going to be altered by whatever just happened. Continuing with the car scenario, we think our boss is going to be angry, we’re going to get fired, we think we’re going to have to find a new job, then if that doesn’t work we’ll lose our house or apartment.
This all stems from the anticipation of an insurmountable amount of stress. We anticipate not being able to handle a situation and we become unhappy. We think that our whole life has fallen apart, but in reality, our life usually remains the same. Maybe your boss fires you but you’ll deal with it when it arrives. There’s no reason to anticipate or place expectations on something you can’t control.
Anxiety also comes from the fear of a lack of control. Like I said, we think there is going to be an insurmountable amount of stress. Something we are incapable of handling. However, that is not the case. Whatever stress you’re going to deal with will be handled when it arrives.
Often times I would get anxiety about things I thought were going to happen. I thought I would get in trouble and my mind would go on an escapade. If I get yelled at, I’ll say this. If that happens, I’ll just do this. I would get so involved with my anxieties that I would play whole scenarios out in my head. I tried to establish control over something I didn’t even know if would happen.
When you’re dealing with anxiety, let go of it. Whatever stress you’re anticipating will be dealt with when it arrives. Let go of thinking you can control the situation or anticipate its outcomes. Anxiety is built in anticipation, so stop anticipating. Stress will be dealt with when it arrives. The scenario cannot be altered by you thinking about it too much.
The titled of this post is “ok, go” because this is how I deal with anxiety. When I become worried or anxious, I think “ok” then I move on and let “go”. It emphasizes the need to accept the situation or the anxiety, and then continue on with your life. You need to realized that you have anxiety, then carry on with whatever else you were doing.
When my car broke down and I was stuck on the side of the road, I thought “ok”, my car just broke. Then I carried on with my life and dealt with the situation. I called a tow truck and solved the stress. I didn’t hold onto any anticipations about what it meant to have my car break. I didn’t think about what life would be life without a car. I didn’t imagine how much it would cost to repair – I just let “go”.
There would have been no reason to hang on to that anxiety. I didn’t need to think about what could happen and neither do you. Whatever you’re dealing with probably isn’t in front of you right now. What is in front of you is a computer screen and I hope to god that you’re not in any immediate danger and reading this blog post.
Realize that your stress isn’t in front of you – no matter how real it feels. If you’re afraid of losing your apartment but you’re still in it – no stress. Deal with it as much as you can and anything more is out of your hands. You will deal with the situation later when it arrives.
“Ok, go” was the thing that got me through the past year. I had to learn to accept my stresses/anxieties and then move on with my life. I can’t live my life with the anticipation that everything will go wrong and neither can you. I hope you take these words to heart and let go of your anxieties.
Have a good night all.