Anxiety Isn't Your Fault, But It IS Your Responsibility

Depression is often preceded by anxiety.

Depression is often preceded by anxiety.

Many people I talk to about anxiety, raise the concern that it’s just part of their personality. Looking back, they were an anxious child and this trait has followed them into adulthood. Or maybe it’s genetic - their parents had anxiety too - so this is just their lot in life. I’m here to tell you that these are myths. Urban legends. Experiencing anxiety is neither a form of personal failure, nor a fixed state of being. Stress and anxiety is an evolutionary requirement to keep us safe, so it’s never going to go away fully. But we can start to work on when and how these feelings express themselves. Often there is a level of shame around anxiety - particularly when we worry obsessively about something that doesn’t end up happening. Sometimes we look back at the thing we were so worried about and realise it was totally irrational. Of course, when we are feeling relaxed, worry seems illogical. We know that no amount of worry will change a situation, or that the worst-case scenario rarely eventuates. But what about when we are halfway down the vortex?

I’m here to tell you that you can regain control over spiraling thoughts that manifest in physical symptoms of a pounding heart, sweats, difficulty thinking straight, shaking and shortness of breath. It’s not your fault that your brain has taken shortcuts to form memories around negative experiences and jumps into action before you’ve even had a chance to respond rationally. It’s not your fault that childhood experiences affect how your nervous system is wired to respond. It’s not your fault that your brain can’t tell the difference between a snake and strict work deadline. Your body is simply having a normal response in the wrong situations – you’re in a fight or flight state when maybe you should just be in a ‘its okay I’ll get this done and nobody is going to die’ state. But your brain doesn’t really know the difference because the amygdala just isn’t that logical ! The brain likes to jump to conclusions and at this point our thoughts have already begun to present as those uncomfortably physical feelings. But what can we do about it?

We have just established that you are a normal human being expressing a normal human response to stress. Anxiety is inevitable and that’s okay. You’re not to blame for your spiraling brain, but you are responsible for initiating change! The brain is totally capable of changing for the better. Imagine what you could achieve if anxiety wasn’t holding you back. Imagine the life you could live without the limitations that anxiety and panic have over your life. Imagine the positive impact on your friends and family to see you not only surviving but thriving! Depending at how long you have been experiencing and to what severity, you might not even be able to imagine just yet.

Do you use anxiety as an excuse?

Sometimes identifying as an anxious person can be advantageous. Sometimes we consciously or subconsciously use anxiety to justify our behaviour. It’s called secondary benefit syndrome, when you put off getting better because then you might have to be accountable for your own life. You might stop getting special treatment or understanding, and a free pass from not attending social events or whatever you might be avoiding. This is really limiting because we let feelings of anxiety keep us small, instead of going out there and getting what we want in life.

You might be surprised to find that there are a lot of tiny actions you can take in your day to day life, that add up to make a whole lot of difference. 

Talking to a professional about your thought processes and anxiety is really something that everyone can benefit from. Going to a theapist really should be more like going for a check up at your GP. Heading to your GP for a mental health plan and a referral to a psychologist is also a boss move. While talk therapy has certainly helped a lot of people, it’s not the only option for treatment. Making an appointment with a Naturopath to identify and address the complex physiological processes or nutritional deficiencies that may be at play can be of huge benefit. Sometimes we need an objective look at our thoughts, beliefs and health. There are many herbs and nutrients that can help you crawl out of the vat of anxiety so that you can actually get on top of the foundational stuff like diet and lifestyle habits.   Anxiety is multi-faceted and you stand a better chance if you have a team around you. Know that the discomfort is temporary and that you (and your pesky mind) are capable of change. 

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Alexandra McPhee