Anxiety is real. It's not just being a worry-wort or a planner. It's not just being a perfectionist or socially awkward. Anxiety is one of the most common mental struggles in our population and it impacts everything: work, relationships, financial stability, self-care, sleep, and physical health.
Having anxiety is also not something to be ashamed of. Since anxiety distorts thinking, anxiety sufferers oftentimes believe that they are alone in their anxiety and feel isolated and misunderstood. Whether you yourself struggle from anxiety or have a loved one who has anxiety, it's important to recognize that anxiety is common and there are always people who can relate.
By talking about what anxiety is for you, it not only connects you to others' experiences but also starts to normalize the experience. Anxiety does a great job at making you feel different, inferior, and not-enough through the spiral of thoughts. Anxiety does feel and look unique for everyone, but there are common threads amongst anxiety sufferers.
There are general thought themes with anxiety:
- jumping to conclusions (assuming what's going to happen...usually the worst case scenario)
- catastrophizing (ruminating about the worst case scenario)
- overgeneralizing (assuming if someone happens one way, it will happen again that way)
- personalizing (believing everything is about you, everyone is talking about you)
- should statements (what we like to say, "shoulding all over yourself"
Through working with many anxious clients, we've developed a list of what anxiety feels like mentally and physically. No one needs to feel alone in this struggle.
What Anxiety Feels Like
...a 1000000 pound elephant constantly sitting on your chest, making it so difficult to breathe you start panicking about not being able to breathe and subsequently can't breathe even more.
...suddenly waking up in the middle of the night trying to remember if you've locked the door and because you're too anxious to get up and check, you stay up for the rest of the night listening to every single sound picturing an axe-murderer coming through your door at any moment.
...getting an email from your boss asking for a meeting and immediately jumping to the conclusion that you're going to be fired and your work is terrible even though your last performance review was excellent.
...spending an extreme amount of time in the shower going over every single conversation from the day and rehearsing different responses, berating yourself for how you answered questions and acted and thinking about how you could have done everything all day differently.
...before the day begins going through your entire schedule and planning out conversations over and over and over in your head, conversations that may never happen but trying to plan for every possible situation.
...every time coming home to an empty house without knowing exactly where every family member is just assuming they all are dead in the closets.
...seeing a group of people and just assuming they are all talking badly about you and judging you, even if you've never even met them.
...checking for locked doors, sinks off, irons unplugged, phones charging, alarms on, purse on you, shoes clean, oven off...over and over and over again.
...replaying in your head on repeat the death of your dog and how you're going to react and what you're going to say at it's funeral, even though it's perfectly healthy and only 3 years old.
...sitting in your car before going into a party and rehearsing topic starters, where to stand, what to drink, questions and potential answers to questions in conversations you may or may not have with the other guests.
...being unable to go to a new grocery store because you do not know the lay out and you don't want the store employees to judge you for not knowing where anything is, so you just keep going to the same store even though they don't have the things you like.
...having a real, visceral reaction to the worst case scenario of something you've imagined in your head and making yourself physically ill just by the story you've created.
...not knowing how to put your feelings into words but just feeling off and tired and energetic and unbalanced and just melting down, snapping at everyone and wanting to be alone but also wanting to be around other people.
...spending 5 hours planning your food, exercise and social schedule for the week knowing full well you'll never actually stick to it because you'll be too anxious to actually show up for anything you've planned.
...constantly scrolling through social media looking at how much better everyone else is than you, as you sit there knowing you too have a great thing going on, but the thoughts in your head keep telling you that you'll never, ever be enough.
...the constant dread of waiting for the other shoe to drop anytime anything good happens in your life.
Anxiety is real.
Anxiety is not something to be fixed or cured.
Anxiety is something that can be managed, accepted and requires on-going support and practice.
You can find relief. We're here to help.