Eye-Opening Truths and Nuances About Anxiety – You aren’t the only one

When I struggle to find a topic for this weekly newsletter, I think about you, the questions you ask, and the stories you share. I admit to occasional rants, and I have no qualms about telling you bits and pieces of my out-there healing experiences.

Either way, we learn from, and heal with each other. 

Today, the topic is general anxiety. Considered the most common emotional stress, forty million adults struggling with anxiety. While some are clinically diagnosed, some are not, leaving me to believe the number is a gross underestimate, especially since COVID induced global stress.

And when we consider the millions of hurting children who experience neglect, abuse, sexual assaults, bullying, and live with anxious, ill, or mentally ill family members. They risk growing up into anxious adults. (possible rant for another day)

Clients often express confusion about the nuances of anxiety. It’s common to become so familiar with the signs or feelings that they overlook, ignore, or feel powerless to alter it.

Some symptoms are red flags, such as digestive disorders and brain spinning, and some are secondary, such as tension releases like nail-biting and foot shaking.

Here are surprising facts and nuances to know:

  • Anxiety is insidious and rises because of many experiences and also our perceptions. 
  • Anxiety and depression are a common dual diagnosis after trauma. Yet, they are not a guaranteed outcome after trauma. It is not what happened to you, per se, but how you internalized the experience, the support you had, and the meaning you associate with the event. Heightened anxiety can be temporary and short-lived.
  • Long-standing anxiety can stem from unresolved childhood stress. Anxiety had legitimacy and validity if it started during childhood. For example, if you had frightened or anxious parents, you might mirror their emotional states.
  • Anxiety alerted and protected you by keeping you silent, invisible, obedient, or frightened. I wonder if anxiety kept you safer in a difficult situation more than you realize. But today, anxious reactions are a replay of yesterday.
  • High anxiety determines how you move forward into the future – do you go or stay? Do you do it or not? Do you speak your truth or not?
  • A clouded life lens maintains a status quo of self-control and protection that keeps life very routine and small.
  • You create philosophies and narratives around anxiety. “I stay away from men.” “I prefer to stay at home.” “I don’t have time to do anything.” “I can’t do anything right!”
  • The body expresses anxiety and cannot hide it such as compulsive behaviors, such as head jerking, voice tones, slumped posturing, hand wringing, throat clearing, or indigestion. These expressions become automated, and you are not usually aware you are doing them.
  • Expectations are formed beliefs based on past experiences. Emotional distress is evoked when something does not occur as you expected or as you believe is should have occurred. “What if I get hurt?” “Oh, don’t worry, he wouldn’t dare show up.” “I can’t believe that happened to me?”
  • Anxiety creates a one-step-forward and one-step-back dance that feels safe and familiar, but sadly, you will never leave the dance room.
  • Chronic Insomnia and frequent nightmares about death or catastrophe reveal anxiety.

Having awareness of these nuances can determine if you need to do something for yourself, take an action or secure professional help. 

Anxiety keeps us struck across a threshold, with our lives on hold, especially during times of stress, it can be rearing its ugly nerves. Anxiety can be managed.

-Sanna