Until we learn to dance with Anxiety, it is our master and not our pal. Once we understand Anxious Experience is merely a symptom, a signal, that too much is going on and our nervous system is in overwhelm, then we can do something about it. You're not going to be able to outrun your Anxious Experience for long, although if you're like most Anxious Folk, you'll sure as heck try. You'll try and talk yourself out of your feelings and sensations, using tons of logic and when that doesn't work, and it almost never does, you'll resort to Shame and Guilt. This is a nasty, ugly, painful business. Or, you'll try and control your thoughts with you Big Bad Will Power (which is almost always well-developed in Anxious Folk and often pointed at our favorite and most painful target: Perfectionism. Perfectionism-In-All-Things and her ugly sister Procrastination, otherwise known as Waiting-Until-It-Can-Be-Perfect or her alter ego, It-Never-Will-Be-Perfect-So-Why-Start?). You may try and out run your Anxious Experience through tons of exercise, over-working, over-drinking, or over-drugging, sexing, or eating. Don't forget gaming, gambling, shopping, or porn. Oh! Or morphing into The-Super-I-Can't-Feel-Good-On-The-Inside-Until-It's-All-Perfect-On-The-Outside-House-Cleaning-Genie. That's a common one. Generally a relationship killer, as Clean Freak Anxious Folk aren't happy until everyone is on board with their super clean thing. Most Anxious Folk are also really nice folk. We cornered the market on care-taking, over-giving at our own expense, and the Worried Style of Loving. There's nothing Anxious Folk like better than "helping" someone. Or fixing someone's life, diet, car, or relationships. Anything that takes us away from our own feelings for a few minutes will provide some relief from Anxiety. Alternatively, you might get burly with Anxiety and attempt to just push your anxious thoughts away. Or use distraction, which actually isn't a half bad strategy in the short-term, but sooner or later you let your guard down and viola´ Anxiety marches right back into view, because it never left in the first place. It just took a seat and waited nearby.
The truth is, if you are part of the Anxious Folk Tribe, you've already tried everything you know to reduce your anxious experience and it hasn't worked well enough, long enough, or may never have worked at all. As long as we're engaged in a struggle to eradicate Anxiety as if it were the enemy, we're going to be fighting a losing battle. And a heart breaking one. For one thing, anxious response is part of our innate survival mechanism, so it ain't going anywhere. All the same, Anxiety shouldn't be running the show. When Anxiety becomes a problem you'll find yourself stuck in uncomfortable, persistent, anxious states, unable to break the pattern in any lasting meaningful way. This unlikely moment is the exact time when you should befriend Anxiety, grab it by its sweaty hand, bring it to the table, and get the Peace Talks started. Immediately.
What if Anxiety is merely the White Flag? The signal you need additional, deep, high-voltage Self Care? What if the primary purpose of Overwhelming Anxiety is to get your attention, get you focused, and get you working on restoring your body and the balance in your life? What if your body has been whispering to you for years, asking for a break and you never slowed down enough to hear it? What if it's time to start saying, "No" to some of the dozens of things you have taken on in your life? Time to step back from all the over-working, over-doing, over-giving, self-sacrificing ways of being in the world? What if Anxiety were trying to tell you it's time to learn about Self Care that includes, yet goes far beyond exercise and decent nutrition, and all the way to learning how to manage your thoughts, nervous system, and boundaries? What if Anxiety is asking you to be present to yourself and your life in a whole new way? Really present in your relationships? Fully available for intimacy? If this is true, then Anxiety is your Friend. Anxiety is speaking just as loudly as it needs to speak in order to get your attention. No louder. The louder Anxiety speaks, the more clear it is you need much more Self Care. After all, truth telling, even uncomfortable truths, is the kind of support only the best of friends will give you. If Anxiety is speaking to you now, it is time to listen. You can use a friend like this. You can use Anxiety. Anxiety can become the tool you dig your way out of this pain and confusion with, rather than the thing that is busy burying you alive. Grab it.