Over the years, I have learned so much about my anxiety, not only through formal education, but also simply through taking the time to analyze what I am going through. Some might say that that is just a part of dealing with anxiety – the overthinking, the constant overanalyzing of what you feel, think, and do. But I think it has also been helpful because it has helped me recognize my triggers and symptoms. It has also helped me figure out things I can do that are helpful for me. One of those things is leaning into my anxiety instead of running away from it.
Living with Anxiety
After years of coping with anxiety and trying to understand it, I've learned that one of the things that affect how I feel is how others feel. In other words, I've found myself quite empathic towards the feelings of others. For me, empathy and anxiety occur together.
If you often deal with anxiety, sometimes it might seem as though it is difficult to be happy and anxious. While anxiety is not the same as depression, I think that dealing with it can sometimes lead to depression because, when you're anxious, you may find that you experience negative emotions that lead to a general feeling of sadness. You might also find that you focus more on those negative feelings than other ones.
Something I've learned about my anxiety is that sometimes, instead of being consumed by worries about the future, it is possible to be overwhelmed by the past to the point that my memories trigger anxiety symptoms.
As someone who has experienced anxiety for a long time, I’ve become aware of specific situations that trigger feeling anxious. One situation that can trigger my anxiety is when I make a mistake, and then anxiety makes me focus on that mistake. The problem with this is that, as we know, mistakes happen often. There, this can sometimes be something that’s continuously troubling.
Being anxious does not automatically mean you are an introvert, just like being an introvert does not automatically mean that you are a chronically anxious person. But in my experience, this has gone hand in hand, and sometimes it feels like it is hard to separate the two.
One of the hardest things that I have found about dealing with anxiety is the second-guessing that happens when making decisions. It becomes so hard to make decisions because I find myself wondering if it's the right choice or the wrong choice. Then, when I make a decision, I second-guess it and question whether I should have made a different choice. The problem with that is, even if I had made a different choice, I would still question that one anyway. As a result, my thoughts will spin out of control, and my anxiety will overtake my logical thought process.
When I am anxious, one of the main symptoms I experience is a loss of sleep. And this is due to a couple of reasons -- first of all, my heart rate increases when I'm anxious, especially if I've had a panic attack. When this happens, it is hard to fall asleep and stay asleep. The other reason is that I will find myself thinking about whatever I'm worried or stressed about, and those racing thoughts make it difficult to sleep as my mind works overtime. Even if I fall asleep, I will wake up in the middle of the night and have a hard time going back to sleep, and so I might find myself fully awake before dawn.
When you are chronically anxious, one of the effects you might often deal with is feeling exhausted. Depending on the situation, if I have experienced a very stressful situation, I tend to feel exhausted when my body starts to wind down from the physical effects of stress. And so, I might find myself quite fatigued from anxiety, but at the same time, I might have a hard time sleeping as well, also because of anxiety. So it becomes a cycle of inadequate sleep and anxiety that seems to be never-ending. Then, if I haven't gotten a good night's rest for a long time, what I find is that I deal with the effects of fatigue. This includes having a hard time concentrating and having a hard time focusing. I also find that it affects my memory, and it affects my mood as well. Ultimately, fatigue can affect me in several ways.
When I feel anxious, I tend to be very aware of the multiple anxiety symptoms I experience, including struggles with my confidence. However, because anxiety is something I've struggled with for years, this also means that keeping my self-confidence and self-esteem up has been a struggle for me for years as well.