Monday, September 29, 2008

Anxiety and Worry

Worry seems to be an inherent human condition. Most of us worry about things we cannot control and many of us attempt to anticipate all eventualities. Those of us that grow up in alcoholic/addictive families learn to worry well and often from a very early age. We live in a continuously stressful environment where the only certainty is uncertainty. The alcoholic/addictive parent is unpredictable and as young children we spend a great deal of time attempting to avoid and control their uncertain behavior. We are doomed to failure and the result is frustration, shame and guilt. The belief that we have somehow caused the unhappiness of the alcoholic/addict leads us to the conclusion that we do not deserve to be happy. We spend a great deal of time trying to find a solution and create a happy life. We are anxious and worry all the time and as a result we often are irritable and angry. Anxiety and the worry that result from it are punishing and deprive us of happiness. Many of us seek happiness through alcohol, drugs, food, sex, work and other addictive, self defeating behaviors.

The sad news is that there is not enough alcohol, drugs, food, sex and money in the world to relieve the anxiety and worry. Many of us loose control of these behaviors which ultimately serves to increase our frustration, shame and guilt. They handicap and diminish us, obstruct our thinking and distort our reality. The result is our anxiety and worries become exaggerated.

Anxiety and worry can make it difficult or in some instances impossible to function. We can become overwhelmed and often paralyzed with fear over some insignificant or misinterpreted incident. We begin to question our own ability and judgment which can lead to an inability to act in our own behalf or to self- sabotage. We become vulnerable to manipulation. A good example is the current financial situation that permeates the news recently. We are being bombarded with doom and gloom. It is entirely possible that many of us will experience some financial problems. If we allow our anxiety to cause us to react we may not make the right decision for our self. This is a time to follow my basic rules: keep your head where your feet are; for today you probably have what you need. Do what is right for you; don’t make decisions while you are anxious, make sure you think before you act. Finally stay away from people that don’t make you feel good about yourself. People are afraid and fear can be contagious, try to avoid conversations that are full of someone else’s anxiety. Talk to people who are knowledgeable and sensible.

The good news is that we do deserve to be happy and while we may be powerless we are not helpless. We worry because we want to avoid pain by preventing or resisting some undesirable outcome. While it is not possible to avoid life’s realities we can relieve anxiety by taking responsibility for ourselves and being aware of our anxiety triggers. It is important to be aware that many of the things we project happening are usually unrealistic. Life events are mostly random and that it is a waste our precious time to try to control the outcome. Additionally, if we focus on managing our anxiety and worry when there is a crisis will be better able to cope.

When we are feeling anxious it helps to take action. Probably the most important thing to remember is to breathe. When we are anxious we tend to breathe short shallow breaths. Taking a few minutes to do some deep breathing it will help the anxious feeling. Some people use exercise, yoga or meditation to relieve stress and anxiety. It can be helpful to listen to music, read a good book or do some other activity that will distract us from the focus of our anxiety. Twelve step meetings and professional counseling can help us to learn tools and exercises to cope with stress and anxiety.

Remember: Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy. ~Leo Buscaglia

No comments: