Staying positive is something that we all hear is important. But how does positive thinking help anxiety? I used to think about this quite a bit when I was younger and lacked the tools to manage my anxiety. I would often wonder how having a positive outlook and being optimistic could be helpful for me. I often thought that no one understood what I went through, that the worries that consumed me, and all of my racing thoughts, could not be put to rest simply by thinking positive thoughts.
I have talked a lot about using self-care as an important strategy for managing anxiety. And I'm sure you have read a lot about it and seen a lot about it on TV as well as on social media. We are constantly inundated every day with tips and strategies for self-care. But does self-care truly help anxiety?
When you experience chronic anxiety, it is probably difficult to imagine you could distract yourself from that anxiety. With anxiety, you may find that you become overwhelmed with worry and racing thoughts. This can be difficult when it results in many physical symptoms, such as a racing heart rate, headaches, and stomach problems. It can become even more problematic when it interferes with your daily life, and you find that you are having a hard time concentrating, having a hard time sleeping, or constantly on high alert.
When you struggle with chronic anxiety, it can be hard to confront your triggers. But, anxiety occurs as our body's response to stress that we are experiencing or have experienced. Chronic anxiety means that your body keeps experiencing anxious symptoms, even if the stress is no longer present. Meaning, when you experience chronic anxiety, your body is constantly on high alert.
If you experience chronic anxiety, you may have found that, over the past year or so, it has increased due to these uncertain times in the pandemic. And perhaps quite a bit of your anxiety has been related to uncertainties surrounding the circumstances. This is something that has impacted me. I found that, particularly in the early months, I felt very anxious because there were so many things that were unknown.
It's important to develop self-compassion when you live with anxiety. One of the things I have found challenging about dealing with anxiety is feeling as though I should simply be able to stop feeling anxious. When I can't stop the endless string of intrusive thoughts and fears, or I can't stop worrying, I feel even more anxious and upset with myself because I feel like I should just be able to change my feelings.
Struggling with chronic anxiety involves experiencing symptoms such as headaches, shakiness, a rapid heart rate, uncomfortable stomach issues, and feelings of dread. Often, these feelings are unexplainable, and the feelings may come on unexpectedly. This is something that I know I experience, and then, as a result, I find I try to figure out what is causing the anxiety. This sometimes results in identifying certain anxious thoughts. An effective coping mechanism has been to challenge those anxious thoughts and reframe some of them.
I've learned how to self-care in 30 seconds or less because the last few months have been really hectic for me. I've been getting up to speed on several projects in my Ph.D. program, learning new statistical techniques, keeping up with coursework, and it's been really tough to build in time to focus on my own wellbeing. For me, it's been difficult having most of my work time at home because I really like working in a designated workspace and just using my home as a place to relax, so having my work and relaxation spaces completely overlap has made it even more difficult to create a space for self-care for 30 seconds or any other length of time.
Anxiety and anger feel a lot alike. An increased heart rate, feeling flushed, tense muscles, uncomfortable stomach issues -- these symptoms may be familiar to you if you experience chronic anxiety. They may also sound like things you felt the last time you were angry.
One of the challenges I experience is when the past makes me anxious. I sometimes find that if I think about events from the past, and those events made me anxious, I tend to feel immersed in my memories. I find that it is almost as though I am reliving those events and experiencing all of the emotions all over again. I often compare it to watching a movie or an "episode" of my "show" over and over again.