Tips on How to Live with Anxiety

Everyone experiences anxiety. When we have a test to take, when we have a job interview, when we ice skate for the first time. Some level of anxiety prompts us to pay attention, and that can be helpful. Ethel Barrymore, a famous actress (who most readers have no awareness of because she performed umpteen years ago), said that she would not go on stage unless she was anxious because it prompted her to remember her lines. 

For others, anxiety can be debilitating. 

Biochemical anxiety is when one has inherited the gene. A parent or more distant relative also has anxiety. It is a feeling that prevails even when the situation does not seem to warrant it. Often it interferes with the ability to focus, thus it can exist in children and explain why learning is a problem. In adults it can prompt a fear of making commitments to relationships or work responsibilities. It can lead to fears or phobias, such as driving over bridges or leaving the home. 

The first goal is to be able to diagnose the feeling and behavior. It is often difficult for people to disclose how they feel or recognize that their feeling is worth telling someone about. Often one is criticized for not behaving a certain way and no one recognizes the underlying feeling that debilitates the performance.

Once diagnosed, learning about anxiety is helpful. A person is liberated from feeling they are intentionally causing the feeling of anxiety. 

Learning new behaviors is important. The human body cannot be anxious and relaxed at the same time, so relaxation techniques are great resources. There are breathing exercises, numerical exercises and fantasy escape places to go in one’s mind. There are new ways to think, like stopping oneself from thinking ahead about potentially scary experiences and staying more in the present. The list goes on. 

If the new skills are not effective enough, medication can be a wise choice. It does not do away with the anxiety, but it serves as a foundation to exercise the learned skills and new ways of thinking. 

For those who do not have biochemical depression, anxiety can also affect behavior. I tell clients of my own anxiety about going to a new location. I cannot explain the source of this, but when I have somewhere to go in a new area, I have steps that I take to proceed. I check out the location on a map, and I review the directions. And I give myself a bit more time to get there. Once I have gone, I can return easily with no anxiety. 

What is valuable for me, is that I have just accepted this way of being. I do not judge myself and I know that I need to go once to conquer the anxiety. It has become a way of life. I do not seek other drivers and I do not avoid going. 

We do have unique characteristics. Talk to someone if you are concerned.

 

Editor’s note: Ethel Barrymore (1879-1959), the great-aunt of well-known, current-day actress Drew Barrymore, was said to have appeared at Alameda’s Neptune Beach amusement park which operated from 1917 to 1939.