Monthly Archives: January 2017

What Not to Do When You Are Anxious

No one likes to be afraid. When you are afraid you can feel weak, helpless or even stupid, and none of those things feels good at all. When you are afraid, you can do things: you can run away from something or fight back: you can act. But when you are anxious, it is like being afraid of being afraid. You become afraid of fear because you start imagining all the bad things that the thing you are afraid of might do to you or that you will be asked to do something you cannot. When you are anxious, you freeze. You stop moving, stop thinking. And it hurts to be anxious too: you are tense, perhaps sick to your stomach or you get some other thing like a bad headache. You shut down!

Sometimes hiding from the thing that makes you afraid is very wise: when a bear is chasing you in the woods or a poisonous snake is hissing at your feet, it’s a very good idea to run or hide if you can. But when you are anxious, you have to turn the anxiety back into fear! Only then can you feel it and know what it is trying to tell you. When you really understand what you are afraid of, you can act because you can always do something when you are afraid! You can always do something. But when you are frozen with anxiety, there is no way out.

The worst thing you can do with anxiety is to try to make it go away the easy way: by distracting yourself, by numbing yourself out or by pretending you’re not anxious at all. Making the pain of anxiety go away does not make the anxiety go away! The only way to make anxiety really go away is to understand it. You cannot understand what you are running away from! But when you understand why you are anxious, you not only learn something about yourself, you are no longer frozen solid with the fear of being afraid. When you can act, you can change things, and make them better at last.