AN ANXIOUS MIND
I overthink almost everything – Was I awkward bumping into that person while walking the dog? What happens if I lose my day job? What if my cat _______ and dies (fill in the blank, Sebastian is a curious and naughty one)? How long will it be until part of my deck falls off? When will the wellness center be back to a pre-pandemic schedule? What am I going to want in 5 years? What will my partner want in 5 years, and will I want the same? It is exhausting and frankly not productive. As much as I tell myself this is my way of preparing for the worst and then being pleasantly surprised everything works out, anxiety hinders me from enjoying the present.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports. A recent US Census Household Pulse Survey found that nearly 40% of adults in the US have symptoms of anxiety or depression, showing a surge during the pandemic. Although treatable, only about a third of people receive treatment for anxiety. This disorder also heightens your risk of developing depression.
General anxiety is our brain’s way of reacting to stress to avoid danger. In some instances, this can be a good thing, but when anxiety becomes a constant or ever-present benchmark to how we feel, it can become a problem. There is a misconception that anxiety is normal if you can hide your worries or fears and it isn’t impacting your work life. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Anxiety can take many forms and although I’ve known people around me that have had anxiety, I didn’t realize until recently that my racing mind was also – you got it – anxiety.
While most people are aware of general anxiety, for many it is undiagnosed. Other types of anxiety include social, separation, and different phobias. Anxiety symptoms can include sleeping issues, feelings of panic, fear, or uneasiness, having a hard time staying calm, racing heart or mind, needing things to be perfect, and/or issues with concentration.
When Jason and I first started dating, he told me a story about how he was on a dog walk and his dog moseyed over to sniff a cat and seemed very interested in the cat. This was probably date three and, in my head, I went to a place where his dog would go after my cats. I thought, whelp, this will never work – neither of us are going to give up our animals, I should just walk away. I kept thinking about all the ways we couldn’t work out, worrying what the future would hold instead of being present and realizing that I loved my day to day with him. If I had continued overthinking and worrying about what the relationship would become (and not talked it out with others as a gut check), I would never have this smart, funny, ridiculous, handsome, nerdy, and a little bit socially awkward man by my side that I can now call my life partner in crime (we recently eloped). Oh, and our animals get along just fine.
Similar to me, you may not realize anxiety is impacting you. If any of this sounds familiar fortunately, there are many things you can do to manage anxiety – learn about what anxiety is and start to recognize when it is percolating, limit caffeine, alcohol and drugs, exercise, eat healthy and avoid sugary foods, learn how to relax by practicing meditation, have a nighttime routine before sleep, and seek support from friends and professionals. Maybe like me, you’ll be able to sleep better, enjoy the moment a bit more, and not stress the small stuff.