We all experience anxiety and sometimes that’s a good thing. Being anxious about getting good marks on a test or performance review motivates us to study or work hard. Being anxious about performing well in athletics or public speaking helps us practice. At times anxiety can overwhelm us and cause distress. We over think, ruminate, doubt, and generally cause ourselves suffering and pain. Since avoiding anxiety is impossible, we can 1) identify our anxiety triggers, 2) accept anxiety as a normal part of life, and 3) develop resources and strategies to help us cope.
Let’s start with identifying our anxiety triggers. Five of the areas people often get anxious about are work, finances, loneliness, change, and relationships. Josh gets up feeling great and goes into the office full of energy. Upon arrival he finds a note from his boss asking to see him at 11:00. Immediately Josh wonders what he’s done wrong. Callista sits at her computer paying bills. She discovers an unpaid credit card bill that now includes a $35 late fee and $15 interest charge. Her budge is tight and she starts to criticize herself for not paying her bill on time. John spends another Saturday night slouched in front of the TV filling his loneliness with potato chips and pizza. He knows he is unhappy but doesn’t know how to get unstuck. Mariah recently moved from Chicago to DC due to her husbands promotion. Adjusting to the changes of life on the East Coast is a challenge for her. She misses her friends and family and is beginning to feel depressed. Pete and his 16 year old son fight constantly. Pete worries that his son isn’t taking advantage of his educational and athletic opportunities. Pete’s wife thinks he’s being too hard on the boy and problems are arising in the marital partnership, too. Pete knows he’s right and doesn’t understand why his wife and son don’t see it his way.
Do any of these scenarios resonate with you? Most of us at some time have experiences like Josh, Callista, John, Mariah, and Pete. Can Josh shift his perspective and get curious about what the boss wants to discuss rather than assuming there’s a problem and perhaps being needlessly anxious? Can Callista shrug off the extra credit fees and go without her designer coffee for a week or two so she can repay herself the credit card fees? Will John, Mariah, and Pete use anxiety producing events to learn more about themselves and grow? Or will they hold on to losses and disappointments and develop bitterness and resentment? How do you deal with situations like those above?
We will continue to explore anxiety triggers and how to turn stress into possibility in future posts.