Anxiety is the worst. And the best. Way back when I had these absurd phobias of being in social situations (generally with boys) but figured it was nothing to worry about. I’m sound of mind right? My moral compass was set to north and I was living life with zero bees in bonnets and cats amongst the pigeons.
So when things actually started heating up in the kitchen with a certain someone, I knew I needed to face these road blocks by looking them in the eye and swearing it wouldn’t define me or any future relationships that may skip my way.
I started by writing about it (naturally) because it was SUPER hard to explain to your average Joe. And I wanted to write because now I believe that dealing with your anxiety no matter how small or mammoth is such an intensely positive thing. And while it really, most definitely hurts, so does tackling all of the other important beasts and challenges in our life. Re framing something like anxiety in a positive light and not letting it define you helps you grow, heal, move forward, and ultimately be more happier and confident. (And like waaaaay better at attracting quality relationships in the future and getting the most out of your current ones too).
I feel like anxiety has wielded far too much power over us for far too long, and it needs to be taught a godamn lesson.
Plus, around 80% of the advice that’s out there is to breathe, eat a well balanced meal and count to ten. And the resources are either pretty scarce or a bit naff and Americany and Sign Up To My 30-Day Course-y. Or just dull, cliche and easily ignorable and therefore redundant.
Here’s my take on it –
Anxiety is an inbuilt alarm system developed over thousands of years to protect us all from harm. Then hundreds of years ago, those with a healthy anxiety and respect for sabre tooth tigers and other hazards survived and passed their genetic footprint onto us. Today though, those increased anxiety levels now cause us harm, rather than protect us.
And it sucks.
You think you’re fine and then the heart rate increases and you start comparing yourself, and your date to something that doesn’t even exist. And then you find any excuse under the sun not to go through with it. And find yourself happily content, alone in your sweet little snuggly bubble forever. So as with any other emotion, anxiety is those cascade of thoughts, the neurotransmitters that speed up the heart rate and pump the blood to those muscles that focus on the impending threat ahead.
But having anxiety in a shark diving encounter can reverse that evolutionary advantage we have. Because the shark can sense our increase in heart rate. They can sense the fear.
We can have an irrational fear on anything in life based on our thoughts and beliefs. But learning how to control those thoughts and that shark is the key to controlling our anxiety.
When we Google our brain, we recall events that generate anxiety and often, it’s not the event we begin to fear, but the anxiety itself. SO we engage in avoidance behaviour that reinforces the anxiety, creating a loop that fuels the fire and the response, such as a fear of flying, heights or social situations.
So 2018 became the year (with a lovingly gentle push from friends and a male) to put the time, headspace and focus into the anxiety project. And then I realised that I should share this on the internet. After all, the world wide web is where the fresh anxious of us live. Where their anguish and anger rises, and all their painful memories are housed, and where their stalking of superiors is far too easily enabled, and, of course, where their terrible drunken texting and mixed messaging occurs.
The title of this post suggests a change in stigma. And here’s why: It’s not about me, or what I love, or what you might love. (Croissants, beer, massages.) Plus when your stomach is in the back of your throat and your cheeks are lava hot, a jubilant and nauseatingly optimistic title like Top Tips to Manage Anxiety might make you want to vomit or throw something for fear that you’ll never be able to kick your anxiety’s arse and relinquish all of it’s power.
And Anxiety Shmangxiety is exactly what it should be called. It’s a purposefully empowering term, to remind you that anxiety is a mere blimp in the universe, and it isn’t the boss, YOU are.
Social anxiety, generally speaking, and there are always exceptions, take over our lives, personalities, work, diet, TV-watching choices and desire for alcoholic beverages to take the edge off, excuses from A-Z, and this has to stop. YOU can take charge. YOU can be the box of your anxiety. YOU can choose to make it a time of growth and emotional evolution. Life is too short (wah wah wah I know) not to learn and grow from our social upheavals. Then once you’ve jumped off the deep end without the floatation devices (aka your best friend that you can hide behind for everything), you can move the hell forward.
I have had my fair share of grim, scary and sad social situations that I would rather just avoid than embrace with open arms, and my attempt at anything more than just a one night stand was atrociously bad at one point. But then it changed and I became good at it. I grew up a lot, I sought advice from the ones who knew how to give it without the god awful cliches and once I knew what I wanted, (or more crucially, what I did not) and who I was, now I am one of those insufferable smug loved up jerks who wants to go everywhere and writes about telling people who are in my position what to do. Cute!
So, you can take my musings or be miserable forever. But seriously, taking control of your insecurities in life is liberating. It’s your own personal victory and a high five in the air. And it makes you feel a happiness you didn’t even know existed.
Give it a go, and swim with the shark.