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Anxiety: How it can be suitable for the system and four tips on how to handle it

In our current culture, whenever we mention the word anxiety, we use it to diagnose or as a preemptive word to describe a difficult situation.

In Dr. Tracy Dennis-Tiwary’s new book, Future Tense, she explores the notion that anxiety can be a force that can propel us to create change and be productive. This does not dilute the genuine symptoms of anxiety disorder, which can harm the human mind and prevent people from being functional. The struggle we are having is that we link anxiety and anxiety disorder together without first looking at the symptoms.

What is anxiety? Anxiety is the feeling of unease and stress regarding a particular circumstance or external stimuli. It is different from an anxiety disorder which has components of several symptoms such as panic attacks and extreme fear of the unknown. According to Dr. Tiwary, functional impairment is the main distinction between anxiety and anxiety disorder. It is important to be aware that anxiety is not distinctly fear-based. More research claims it is based on uncertainty for the future and the inability to predict outcomes.

It is characterized as the polarity between hope and despair.

How can we shift our view of anxiety sooner, so we are not experiencing functional impairment when it arises?

  1. First is understanding the feeling and identifying the origin of the emotion. Am I anxious because I have a test coming up? Am I anxious because my partner is not communicating as much? Then we must understand that the emotion is understandable within the context of the unfolding story. Having self-compassion and making room for the feeling allows us more space to facilitate the skills to navigate the emotion.

  2. We are cultivating skills that immerse you in the present moment. These can be person dependent, such as exercise, meditation, reading, walking, etc. The more we stay in the here and now, the more equipped we are to build the antibodies to withstand the discomfort of the uncertainty that anxiety brings.

  3. Keep a journal outlining the different ways these triggers come up for you. This can be identifying physical symptoms or external stimuli that you notice leaves a lasting effect.

  4. Identifying people in your support system that help reduce your anxiety is important. There are friends and family members who know just how to soothe us and validate our emotions. We must surround ourselves with people who understand how to enforce the parts of us coping with the unknown.

The most important thing to remember to avoid is removing the feeling altogether or “stamping it out,” as Dr. Tiwary states. This is especially true for parents of younger children who want to rescue their kids from anything perceived as uncomfortable or “dangerous” for their self-esteem. This creates an environment where kids do not possess the skills to combat forces outside their control because their exposure has been reduced. Suppose we are not exposed to anxiety-inducing situations and given support on how to confront it.

In that case, our coping mechanisms become atrophied, and we are left with a constant fear of the unknown. It is helpful to identify when the issue requires the assistance of the parent, the child, or both.

In this way, the child is equipped with tools, and their threshold for discomfort is heightened. The more we combine growth-based concepts into our atmosphere; the less scary the outside world can become.

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