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Anxiety is something you understand or you don’t. If you don’t understand anxiety then you are lucky because you do not have this affliction. I do. There have been times in my life when it has caused great suffering, even physical illness. Now I have a decent handle on it and want to share the two most important things needed for redemption.
The most important thing about anxiety is awareness. It is critical to know that you are suffering from anxiety while it is happening. Otherwise, and by the very nature of the disease, you can attribute a host of other things to what ails you. For example, and this is likely the most common scenario, you might develop a health issue that you spend piles of money and years of your life trying to resolve. After multiple medical tests, dozens of diets and supplements, four therapists, and god knows what else, you discover you were anxious. You probably do not believe me or at least think I am oversimplifying, but I am not.
Here is my story about how I became aware of my anxious state causing all manner of health and quality of life issues. It started when I was about seventeen, what should be the pinnacle of my healthy life. My stomach was so upset all the time I could not function. That does not sound so bad, stomach upset is common. But it is bad, it is the most horrible thing you can imagine when it is constant and lasts days and months. Of all the upset stomach episodes that I have had during my life, nothing was so bad as the years in my late teens and early twenties. Nothing. I took dozens of tests, went through every type of therapy, took every supplement, and made every dietary change, Nada. Zip. Although to be fair, one of the therapists probably understood what was going on and tried to help but I was not ready or capable of becoming aware at that time.
But I got over it and have never had that type of stomach issue since. How? Life stepped in and took care of me. I had children. Having children, provided you like them, forces you to focus your attention on them and not yourself. This allowed me to stop worrying which fueled my anxiety. Where previously I had literally run off a plane as they closed the doors due to anxiety, and had never sat anywhere but an aisle for five years, I could travel comfortably in airplanes occupying the middle seat with two toddlers on my lap. No claustrophobia, no worry, no anxiety. Because there was no time, I had other creatures to take care of. The important part about this is that I finally understood that my health issues were related to anxiety and that I suffered from anxiety. I became aware.
Once you are aware of your anxiety the next most important step is to make a decision that you will do what is needed to minimize or eliminate the anxiety. It is easy to complain about it, decide that there is nothing you can do about it, believe some authority that there is no cure or not much to do about it, or believe that anecdotal tools are someone else’s fantasy and not truly effective. Those are all valid decisions but not the best decision if you want to minimize your anxiety. You must decide that you will accept that you have this tendency but also that you have control over this mental outlook and your mind. This is a good point to mention that if you take anything too literally or to any extreme you are setting yourself up for failure. Control over your mind is not black and white, on and off, or one hundred percent. It is an art, a talent, that you build upon and get better over time. At first, you may only be able to get your thoughts and feelings under control five percent of the time, but you will get better and better the more you practice. You also have to accept there are some deeper issues and genetic safety mechanisms you may never get control over. Could you if you sat on a mountain for eighty years devoted to that one thing? I don’t know, maybe. The point is that you have to decide to learn how, and then take the actions required, to control your mind.
After you become aware, and make the decision to learn how to control your mind (it is impossible without these two things), you can make progress with anxiety. More accurately, and importantly, you will begin learning how to control your thoughts, feelings, and actions. Control your mind.