Decode Your Anxiety

The results of a 2023 poll conducted by the American Psychiatric Association show that 70% of U.S. adults said they feel anxious or extremely anxious about keeping themselves or their families safe.

Overall, 37% of adults said they feel more anxious than they were this time last year. About one-third (30%) of adults said the have talked with a mental health care professional about mental health issues.

On several key issues:

  • 70% were anxious about keeping themselves or their families safe.
  • 68% were anxious about keeping their identity safe.
  • 66% were anxious about their health.
  • 65% were anxious about paying bills or expenses.
  • 59% were anxious about the impact of climate change on the planet.
  • 50% were anxious about the opioid epidemic.
  • 45% were anxious about the impact of emerging technology on daily life.

Thank you to Dr. Sandra Parker and to Dr. Todd Pressman for valuable resources on this topic.

How many different words are there for anxiety? How about: unrest, fear, unease, tense, tight, twitchy, jumpy, fluttery, trembly, fidgety, agitated, annoyed, afraid, scared, worried, concerned.

All these descriptions can make it more complicated to understand anxiety. But they all have one thing in common: they affect your body the same way.. Your muscles tense and your heartrate and breathing speed up. They all activate the same nervous system pathway in your body.

The point is that anxiety is ingrained into our society and into our individual lives. Can you imagine your life without anxiety? Or even a healthy level of anxiety that doesn’t interfere with how you live and actually helps you?

There are a great many strategies, tactics, approaches and therapies for alleviating anxiety. But none of them seen to work very well. Why?

Perhaps it’s because we don’t understand it very well. More importantly, perhaps you don’t understand your anxiety very well.

There is a Buddhist saying that most suffering is caused by wanting reality to be different than it is. You can replace the word “suffering” with “anxiety”, and it remains true.

Underlying all these feelings is the same issue. Something is not as it should be.

I’ll make two suggestions here. One is a series of specific questions to ask yourself. The other is about confronting your fears using a different type of questioning.

Try asking yourself these questions when you feel anxious:

  • What is making me anxious?
  • Why is that upsetting to me?
  • What am I afraid will happen?
  • What is the worst thing that could happen?
  • How likely is it to happen?
  • What am I afraid I will miss or lose?

These questions help you understand yourself and make sense of your anxiety. Then you can figure out what to do about it. And you may not need to do anything.

Next, let’s look at fear and its relationship to anxiety. When we shine a light on our fears, it takes away much of their power. It also gives you something to work with and something to understand. Importantly, it allows you to take action.

Resolving fear is a good place to start. What are you afraid of? Since we avoid what we are afraid of, what are you avoiding?

Fear distorts truth and reality. By deconstructing anxiety, we can resolve fear’s distortions, opening the way back to absolute truth and returning us to our natural state of fulfillment.

We have many fears in common, such as death, illness and failure. But these are too generic. What precisely are you afraid of? You must drill down and get very specific. After identifying a fear, keep asking yourself “why” until you can’t go any further. Eventually, ou will be at or close to the foundation of your fear.

Once you get there, ask yourself if your fear is justified. Does it make sense? Is it well founded? Can you do anything about it?

The search here is, once again, for understanding and the application of reality. Once you know at a deep level what is making you anxious, you can assess and evaluate what you need to do.

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