Today, I will attempt to describe for you the ugly face of anxiety. In part one of this three-part series, I glamorized anxiety a bit by drawing attention to the fact that some degree of anxiety can be good, and serve us quite well. I encourage you to go back and read that blog if you missed it. http://www.cosdavis.com/anxious
We are certainly living in difficult times. This information (included in last week’s blog) is a stark reminder that anxiety is showing its ugly face in the lives of many people.
WebMd (March 10, 2022) has a report with this headline, “Most Americans Report overwhelming Stress Levels: Poll”. Here is the opening statement from this report,
” A large majority of Americans are reporting high stress levels due to financial concerns, inflation, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine according to a new poll from the American Psychological Association.” You can read the report at https://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/news/20220310/americans-report-overwhelming-stress-poll#:~:text=March%2010%2C%202022%20–%20A,from%20th
God has created us as emotional people. Our emotions are intended for good, but need to be understood and used wisely. It is a good thing to be able to become anxious because that can prompt us to take actions that keep us from harm. I made this point in last week’s blog. There can be a good side to anxiety.
So, when does anxiety cross the line from good to bad? When does this gift become harmful? It is one thing to respond to an anxiety-producing situation in order to resolve the issue but quite another to have anxiety control much of your thoughts and actions.
As with anger or other emotions, the question comes down to control. Anxiety has crossed the line between helpful and harmful when it is out of control, when it dominates and keeps us from acting to solve an issue.
What does anxiety do to you and others when it is out of control? If you have experienced times when it has overwhelmed you, or if you have lived with someone controlled by it you will readily recognize its ugly symptoms.
It distorts or exaggerates the reality of the situation. People controlled by anxiety often overreact to life events. The smallest incident can trigger a major emotional reaction. Other folks would probably see the incident as a minor annoyance or inconvenience and move on.
When you are controlled by anxious thoughts you lose the capacity to put the incident into perspective. If you are already nervous or worried about another issue, the new thing that happens may push you past your limit to see it for the small thing it is. Instead of handling the issue as the minor inconvenience or annoyance it is, you overact. Why? Because you are already under some degree of control by excessive worry.
This is what I call “going from A to Z.” You are faced with a relatively small problem or challenge but make it much bigger and more threatening than it really is.
Here’s an example of what I mean. You are scheduled for a physical exam. There seems to be no sign of a physical issue but you become almost frozen by fear because of the possibility the doctor may find some problem. You become so worried about what the doctor may discover that you allow yourself to become controlled by anxious thoughts without any rational basis for your concern.
Folks who experience what I have described are miserable. They live in fear of what could happen and tend to instill fear in the lives of those who live with them. They go beyond sensible precautions that are healthy and reasonable and are often consumed by worry which results in overprotection and limitation of normal activity. They are controlled by anxiety. Did the Covid pandemic teach us anything?
It depletes your emotional and physical energy. Anxiety takes its toll emotionally and physically. Being vigilant all the time is emotionally taxing and wears you down and flattens you out emotionally. When that happens you notice your physical energy is also sapped. That’s because emotions are energy in our body and when they are expended we feel tired and depleted. When you are worried about something it works on you physically. You likely will not sleep well and, thus, a cycle may begin in which your physical and emotional energies are not renewed. Anxiety affects your physical well-being.
A person controlled by anxiety can become vulnerable to more serious health issues such as depression, high blood pressure, and various other ailments. Professionals who deal with the medical and emotional needs of people are becoming increasingly aware of the interconnection between the emotional and physical health of their patients. We have not been created with separate, unconnected parts. What affects one aspect of our life has an impact on other parts of us.
It impairs our ability to focus or concentrate. Anxiety takes away our ability to pay attention to the task at hand. It interrupts or overrides our concentration. For example, the anxious person finds it very difficult to read for extended periods of time without anxious thoughts breaking through. Anxiety creates a sense of being at loose ends, not able to settle down to the job before us.
It makes ordinary tasks more challenging and can create dangerous situations such as leaving a burner or oven on, failing to disengage the gas pump before driving away, and not paying attention while driving or operating machinery. Anxiety also makes it more difficult to listen to family members and, therefore, can undermine our relationships.
Out-of-control anxiety infects you with doubt and negativity. Besides all the issues just mentioned, anxiety can turn you into a person who has a sour attitude about life in general. It robs you of your joy and happiness and can make you difficult to be around. Most people don’t find it pleasant to be around a person who is always negative or doubtful. But, there is hope for all of us.
Next week I will deal with how prayer can serve as a powerful antidote to debilitating anxiety. For now, let me leave you with a few observations on the subject.
I believe many of the ills of our society can be traced to the inadequate or flawed ways we attempt to deal with anxiety. We want quick fixes and shudder at the thought of being emotionally uncomfortable or just riding out the anxiety until it subsides. We don’t want to experience any discomfort. However, reality and healthy living dictate there are going to be times when feeling bad or threatened is okay.
The result of trying to escape real life and its attendant anxiety can bring serious consequences. Several addictions may be traced to the attempt to escape the difficult realities of life. Among them are alcoholism, illegal and prescription drug addiction, and food addiction. You can probably add many workaholics to the list of those who are trying to assuage the demands of anxiety. Also, depression usually has an anxiety component to it and may sometimes be considered a means of escaping reality.
Thanks, for reading. Let me know if you think these blogs are helpful or if you have questions. Cos