My palms are sweaty, and my arms? My arms are heavy… moms spaghetti.
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), has been an all to familiar weight on my shoulder for as long as I can remember.
I’m surprised more people haven’t brought it to my attention, with all the staggering in my voice, and the uneasiness in my smile.
It’s because of this that I’ve decided to do some research on the topic. In search for a solution, I’ve discovered ways to better cope with my anxiety.
What helped me most was practicing mindful meditation. I would spend 10-15 minutes each morning, tucked way on a beige love couch, following my breath in and out. More on that in a bit.
For the most part, anxiety is pretty common normal.
Anxiety before a date is to be expected. We anticipate a text or phone call, then our hearts race upon receiving one. I think this is perfectly fine.
But sometimes too much anxiety can interfere with our daily lives.
I find comfort in knowing that I’m not alone. A lot of us feel the same way. Perhaps you don’t feel like this, but maybe you know someone who does.
Anxiety affects 40 million adults in the US per year. That’s 18.1 % of the population. The two most common being Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). There’s also evidence that a lot of the same people deal with some form of depression.
Anxiety Can Stem From Brain Chemistry, Personality and Life Events
Allow me to elaborate;
It’s the third time this week that a book you’ve ordered has a crease on it. It’s only a small one but this feels personal. You swear it would been better if it had fallen in a tub of ketchup.
To make matters worse you’re running late, again. You were tossing and turning the entire night, wondering if the mailman who delivered this monstrosity is a monster himself, perhaps he was spawned from hell just to make your life miserable.
You stagger into the bathroom and stare into the mirror for 5 minutes. “What is this creature?” you ask yourself, “It looks oddly familiar.”
You notice your hair is a mess, and you’ve grown a five o-clock shadow that suggests you’ve been drinking all night, although you’ve stood away from alcohol for an entire month.
Congrats. Maybe celebrate with a glass of Buchanan’s? you think.
Your belt hangs, barely attached to your waist. Your shirt –which sat in the dryer all night– is wrinkled and resembles an old napkin you kept in your pocket for an entire week. Or am I the only one who does that?…
You step out the door, pausing half way to the car, slouched and defeated, you turn around and retrace your steps, because of course, you forgot your keys on the counter. And just like every good love story, you’re caught in traffic.
You begin to question your existence. Everyone seems suspect to you. You’re convinced the entire state of Texas is in on it, and the mailman is running the whole gig– just a huge elaborate scheme to make your life a living hell.
Did you even lock the door? Too late, to hell with the consequences.
To top it off off, you’ve been arriving late to work all month, and you’re worried that this may be your last week on the job.
You’re stressed, depressed and anxious.
Too much anxiety can reshape the structure and neural pathways of our brain. This process is called neuroplasticity.
The more we’re subject to situations like this, the more common our triggers.
What Should I Do If I’m An Anxious Mess?
For now, Breath.
We’ll get more into detail in a few minutes. But for now, try this while you reading the rest.
Breath in through your nose, feel the air flowing through it, how natural and soft it is.
You can feel your lungs expand with each new breath. Notice how it fills with air, each inhale slightly different from the last.
Then, just like everything else, released back into the world.
You’ve just experienced a form of mindful meditation.
There’s no rush, time your time with it. Do this as many times are you’d like.
Introducing The Amygdala
Two almond shaped masses of nuculi. It sits close to the hippocampus, in the frontal portion of the temporal lobe. You and I both come equipped with two.
The amygdala processes our senses, memory decisions and mood.
Too much stress and the brain goes haywire. Too much anxiety, the more irrational the amygdala responds.
What’s worse is those whom already have SAD and Panic Disorder (PD), may respond more strongly in their amygdala.
Mindful Meditation And Anxiety
Those who practice mindfulness show an increase in grey matter in the amygdala. Grey matter is shown to increase in areas of the brain that are associated with learning and memory, emotional regulation and perspective taking.
When we meditate the amygdala shrinks. As that’s happening the prefrontal cortex –the area that governs our awareness– becomes thicker, and more resilient.
What this means is that over time, we become more adept in taking control of our anxiety. Allowing us to live a more balanced life.
My Personal Experience
From the moment I step outside my door, until the moment I step back in, I can feel a wave of anxiety flush in my direction.
I feel it when I step into a store, when I go for a run, and sometimes when I throw away the trash.
Meditation helped me, as did cutting out the midnight snacks. Shifting my diet a bit more towards the healthier side has it’s benefits.
That being said, chances are your experience may be different than mine. I suggest you search for what helps you best.
Here’s are a few other approaches you can take:
Questions I sometimes ask myself;
What if anxiety wasn’t a thing in my life?
Would I be somewhere else, maybe in a different state? Perhaps in a relationship, maybe even married? Kids?
Perhaps I would follow Nike’s slogan and just do it. I think I would have a life filled with adventure.
Maybe I’m over exaggerating.
But then again, here I am, basing my next move off of what I think someone else is thinking. Is it selfish of me to think that someone else is judging the shoes on my feet?
I doubt most people are that observant.
From what I’ve learned, the average person is more concerned with their own outfit, not mine.
That being said, the struggle is still very real.
Nevertheless, I’m convinced to remain mindful, and to write with purpose–with you in mind.
This is only a handful of information I’ve come across, there’s so much more out there.
If you enjoyed reading this, as much as I enjoyed writing it, let me know! There’s much more to come on topics surrounding anxiety, stress, and depression.
I’m curious, what areas in life do you struggle the most with anxiety, and what do you do to overcome it?