by: Libby Weicker
I want to begin this column by saying that I personally do not suffer from or experience anxiety regularly. I have had a couple panic attacks in my life, but they have been situationally conceived; therefore, I cannot speak from extreme experience in this article. Because of this, I have reached out to a few of my close friends who have expressed their struggles with anxiety to me. Below, I have included their responses to this question because I believe that comfort comes from understanding that you are not the only one dealing with a problem, and I think they can answer this question from experience better than I can.
To start, I want to define what anxiety is. According to anxiety.org, anxiety disorders share a general feature of excessive fear (i.e. emotional response to perceived or real threat) and/or anxiety (i.e. anticipation of future threat) and demonstrate behavioral and functional disturbances as a result. Panic attacks and anxiety attacks are features that can occur in the context of many anxiety disorders and are similar in that both can cause one to feel dizzy, short of breath, or as though there is some sort of impending doom, however panic attacks will last on average 30 minutes, while anxiety attacks can last for days, weeks, or even months. There are numerous strategies for trying to conquer or even just tolerate these attacks, which one of my friends commented on by saying, “Mentally, this year I decided to just relax and take it easy and surround myself with the right people and people that I wanted to talk to versus who I thought was necessarily popular or the coolest to everyone but me. I tried my best to stay calm and collected after tests and quizzes, but yes it is very difficult to deal with severe anxiety.”
Many doctors have different ideas of treating anxiety as well, including mediation, breathing techniques, and therapy. There is nothing wrong with trying to get the help you need to thrive in life. There is no shame in going to counseling or therapy or being prescribed medication, if your doctors deem this potentially helpful with their expert knowledge. In my limited experience with anxiety, meditation and breathing techniques really made all the difference. When it felt like I had absolutely no control over my life or anything in it, I really tried to take deep breaths and remember the truths about my life, and what I knew was constant and stable. Anxiety has the power to control your life, which is the terrifying aspect to it. It can hinder us from truly living out our lives how we want and need to.
I found the second half of your question particularly curious and intriguing. I had never really considered that there could be positives to anxiety. I asked another friend who struggles with anxiety about this and she responded by saying, “The good is that it shows you’re human and that you have cares and fears. Where it becomes dangerous is when it is controlling your life.” She is completely accurate. Having anxiety about something means you have something that you care about, which is a good thing to a degree. Ensuring that it doesn’t control your thoughts and actions is the tricky part. Overall, I believe that there are varying levels of anxiety and everyone experiences anxiety differently. Different techniques of dealing with it work for different people, so I would recommend trying a bunch of different ideas. Give yourself more alone time. Light some candles. Turn on some relaxing music. Take a moment to sit down and hand write a list of things or people that you're grateful for. Don’t be scared to see a doctor and ask for his or her recommendations. Understand yourself. Accept yourself. Be yourself. Believe that you don’t have to control everything for it to turn out correctly.