Let’s talk about it.
It seems as if more and more every day, I’m meeting people who say that one or more anxiety disorders play a very regular part in their lives. Statistically, anxiety affects about 40 million adults, which is nearly 18% of the American population. When you add in those who are either misdiagnosed or undiagnosed, that number grows closer to 30%, making anxiety disorders the most common form of mental illness in the U.S. Surprising? Not really.
There’s a quote that says that “anxiety waits in the future”. While there can be many other factors at play, there is something to be said about our tendency to be constantly thinking about what’s next and the climbing rates of anxiety sufferers. Think about how often we find ourselves consuming endless amounts of words and images, reminding us of what we could have, where we could be, how we could be doing more, and so on. I certainly do it. A day doesn’t go by without my asking what I could be doing better, which then leads to the consumption of even more information to help me answer that question.
In an endless effort to predict … plan … prepare … pursue … acquire … achieve … evolve … we’ve left the certainty of the present moment behind. Instead, we pour all of our energy into what we don’t yet know to be real or true. Why wouldn’t we be anxious?
“What’s coming will come and we’ll meet it when it does”
So what can we do?
How about starting with mindfulness? Through it, we can learn many things, like how to breathe intentionally, tune out distracting thoughts, accept what we’re feeling, balance changes in our mood, and of course, focus in on the present moment. While I am nowhere near being anxiety-free, my mindfulness practice has completely changed how I experience anxiety. It is a solution that has immediate effects, which makes all difference when you’re right smack in the middle of a triggering situation and need to get out quick.
Best of all, mindfulness is not difficult and doesn’t not require memorization or preparation. It is simply an opportunity to stop, breathe, and lean on what you already know. So when you find yourself in another moment of anxiety, here’s what you should know:
Know that what is in front of you is what’s real — what you can see, touch, and smell. Everything else that is happening inside your head is not.
Know that feelings are temporary and that while they’re here, you should sit with them.
Know that you just need to keep breathing. (This may be one of the most important things that you’ll ever need to know.)
Know that it isn’t just you. There are a lot of us having this experience, maybe not all at the same time. So don’t waste an ounce of energy trying to push it down or hide it.
Know that your plan is already in motion. Your bigger plan, that is. This moment will not change that. This means that you should also know that everything is not under your control, which is probably for the best.