Danielle Aubin, LCSW
This Is What Anxiety Can Be Like
Anxiety is a feeling like the other shoe is about to drop, that something horrible is just about to happen. Constantly. You have to prepare and over-prepare and even then, the feeling is still there. And it robs life of joy, spontaneity, and happiness. How can you fully enjoy a sunset if you are worried about 500 bad things happening or you are ruminating about some misfortune that either happened or will happen? How can you enjoy the moment when you have an uneasy feeling in your stomach 24 hours a day?
The worst part of anxiety is that it robs you of the ability to fully show up to the present moment and enjoy your life. You are constantly analyzing everything, how you interacted with others and you play the scenario over and over again in your head. You analyze every interaction you have ever had and every bad experience you have experienced. Anxiety never gets satiated, even if one of the bad things you are worried about actually happens, anxiety will find something else to worry about.
This can alienate people in your life, especially if they don't understand what dealing with anxiety on daily basis is like. You can come off as negative or not fun to be around. You can be perceived as hypercritical because that is how you operate in life, you are critical so that you can strive toward some perfect ideal of a protective life (spoiler: you never achieve it because it doesn't exist). Your fear and anxiety push you to criticize others as a way to protect them and yourself (if only they did everything perfectly, they would be safe and I would be safe from the devastation of losing them) but of course, this pushes other people away from you (including your children).
Anxiety can trick us into believing that it is necessary in order to live, that you need the anxiety to survive. If you didn't have this feeling nipping at your heels 24 hours per day, you might miss something and terrible things will happen! Anxiety sits there, in the pit of our stomach, in our chest, in our shoulders, keeping us hyperalert and hyperfocused on the negative. If we don't shake it, it will devour our lives through its peddling of fear and mistrust of life. Anxiety ultimately is a distrust of life and everyone and everything in it. Everything in life is out to get us, to harm us and we must remain distrustful and focused on the negative 24/7.
So how do you shake it? The antithesis to anxiety is gratitude. If you experience anxiety then you are already "practicing" anxiety 24/7 so you might as well try some gratitude practice. It can be as simple as watching a sunset and repeating a mantra to yourself "this is a precious moment, a gift. I will enjoy this gift in the here and now. Nothing else is needed from me. This moment is complete." Anxiety will have us believe that we are not perfect the way we are and that the moment is not perfect the way it is. There is no room in anxiety for gratefulness because anxiety pushes you to constantly be monitoring your life and looking for the negative so you can "prepare for the worst." This is all future-focused with theft of the present because you use up your time now to worry and prepare for a negative future. Gratitude returns us to the present moment, the only moment we actually live in, and just lets us rest there. There is no rest with anxiety, we are constantly spinning our wheels. Practice stillness. Practice gratitude.