As a health coach for LightenUp, one of the biggest challenges our members face is addressing the role anxiety plays in our lives. Anxiety can create all sorts of destructive behaviors from paralyzing us in our attempts to move forward to causing us to numb our feelings through excessive eating, drinking, gaming, work, etc.
As a society, we have associated anxiety with the creation of negative emotion. We use medications such as Xanax, Niravam, Klonopin, Ativan and Valium in order to ease our feelings of anxiety. However, by easing these feelings, are we really addressing the root cause or have we found another way of numbing the feeling?
The Role Anxiety has Played in Our History
Is anxiety necessary? Absolutely! Picture this, one of our nomadic ancestors that lived thousands of years ago was searching for their next meal. However, this time they came back empty handed to their tribe. This has not been the first time, nor will it be the last time, but it still strikes an increasing level of fear in them every day that goes by where they return with no food.
Now picture if there were anti-anxiety medications back then. What would happen? If you guessed there is a high probability that the individual or tribe would die prematurely, you are correct. By reducing the level of fear in this situation, our ancestor would no longer have a burning desire to get up each day and search for food. Our ancestor would have lost the feeling that eventually, if things became bad enough, would force them to pack up and move to a place where the food sources are higher. So, without this primitive feeling, we as a species would no longer be here. Anxiety plays a crucial role in our life and our progress.
The Role Anxiety Plays Today
So what role does anxiety play in our life? It tells us when we need to take action. When we ignore or numb our anxiety, the feeling starts to increase. Our anxiety will increase till it creates a level of discomfort in our life which will cause us to act.
In today’s society, our anxiety is not so much about food, shelter or security. It may be more based in emotionally stresses around poor personal or professional relationships, not having as much as others or you name it. All of these are legitimate reasons for your feelings in today’s society. Often times, if we listen closely to our feelings, we find the best way forward though taking that first step may be difficult (that is a topic for a yet to be created blog). The numbing and ignoring we do relative to our anxiety is just causing the anxiety volume knob to increase. Actions is what your mind is wanting, not numbing or ignoring the root of your feelings.
When is Anxiety Too Much
Just like when we get a muscle or joint injury, we take an anti-inflammatory to reduce the swelling so we can work on regaining our range of motion and strength. Over time, we no longer take the anti-inflammatory as the healing takes place and the inflammation subsides. In the absence of taking the anti-inflammatory, we are burdened with the pain for a much longer period of time while the recovery process is greatly lengthened.
Similarly, there is a time when our emotions becomes too much. We are paralyzed. We cannot seem to figure out how to move forward for fear of the origin of our anxiety which may be focused on one thing or now may have spread to everything. In this case, like with anti-inflammatory medications, it is appropriate to take anti-anxiety medications for a finite period of time as we work on addressing underlying emotion. As we start to feel comfortable with these thought exercises, the anti-anxiety medications can be gradually illuminated. However, like physical injury example previously noted, we can only expect to get better by doing the exercises. The medications by themselves will not resolve the issue and get us back to 100%.
So what now? Anxiety is something which I should get use to because it is a necessary, helpful part of life. What happens if I don’t know the actions I should take to address my underlying feelings? Or, what happens if I do not know how to find the origin? Here is some of the advice that has helped our LightenUp members.
- Talk to your LightenUp coach about your anxiety. Sometimes just discussing your problems out loud will make the root of your anxiety clear. From there, you can work with your coach to develop an action plan on how to start addressing your underlying concern.
- Don’t have a coach, try a friend or family member. Be careful, though, as friends or family members have a history with you (bias) and may start to either solve your problems or justify why you should not feel a certain way. However, if you have or family member, that is trusted, a good listener and a straight talker, that may be a great place to start.
- What happens if the coach, the trusted friend or trusted family member is not working. Professional help is most likely warranted as they have access to medications to reduce the levels of anxiety in the short-term so that you can start to use your critical thinking skills as you go through your more advanced therapy.
Remember that anxiety is a normal part of life. It provides us with enough discomfort that forces us to consider action and change in our life when action and change is necessary. However, if we ignore or numb our feelings without addressing them, our feelings continue to grow. At some point, it may grow to a point where we are either paralyzed by it or those concerns and worries have bled into other areas of our life, where they don’t belong.
Work on addressing, not ignoring or numbing your emotions. Your actions should be associated with the values that you live by and not the emotions you are feeling at that time. By developing an action plan and working the plan, you will find your way to your next moment of anxiety. However, as we address these emotions, our life becomes more satisfying!
Interested in learning more about the LightenUp Lifestyle Improvement Program? Please click here to contact us.