Anxiety has a way of robbing you. There are so many things that just aren’t the same to me anymore because it triggers an anxious memory:
- Any John Mayer song
- Mowing my yard (yellow jacket)
- Having a beer
- Football games (even at home)
- Car rides
- Office visits at work (I usually work from home)
- Angry feelings
- Any failure at all
- When I don’t know the answer to something, no matter how small
- Meeting new people
We view anxiety as the equivalent to the devil, who is known to kill, steal, and destroy. Anxiety isn’t a thief by itself, though. We are the ones that give it that power.
Stimulating the pre-frontal cortex of our brain is key in reducing anxiety. Activities like talk therapy, CBT, logical conversation (even by yourself, aka talking to yourself), and practicing gratitude all stimulate this brain area and, in turn, reduce emotional reactivity. Remember that anxiety is an emotion.
A healthy way to view anxiety is that it is actually a highly intelligent defense that we have created to protect ourselves. It isn’t designed to rob you of joy. When we get caught in anxiety and stuck in its loop of bewilderment and fear, that is when we are robbed. Because like other emotions, once we are in one, we cannot also be in another at the same time. We cannot be in joy and sadness at the same time.
When you are advised to “accept your anxiety” that does not mean accept all the things it takes away. If you think I am going to go about my life without sex or a John Mayer song just to avoid anxiety, you are wild. Running from or avoiding anxiety is not accepting it.
Accepting anxiety is when Your Body Is A Wonderland comes on, and your brain’s first memory is of that horrible thing that happened to you, but instead of changing the song (because you actually think it’s a timeless jam with significant intimacy potential) you say, “Brain, thank you for doing your job and reminding me of a potential threat. This is not that event. This is a new event. I’m going to enjoy this song.” This activates our pre-frontal cortex and calms that anxious emotion. It is live work with your anxiety and every time you do this you regain control and joy for all these things you’ve “lost”.
After all, our brains are just like computers. They categorize things. It’s like when you use the Search option from your startup menu. A keyword will pull all related files, with the most recent or relevant on top. Anxious memories are stronger than positive ones because we are more reactive to threats than we are peace.
So today, play that jam. Meet those people. Go in office. Try the new thing. And for the love, have that sex. Anxiety isn’t the problem, your reaction is. My friend, I have good news. That reaction can be changed.
You are loved.