People worry daily about everything from their work to their finances, about their children or their parents (or other family members) about their present or future condition, including health and wellness, and in some places about where they are going to live, what they are going to eat or how they might end up. One of the better definitions of anxiety that I have heard is “prolonged worry over matters we can do nothing about.”
Perhaps it would help to understand the continuum of anxiety, not unlike the continuum of fear. You can experience mild fear or stark terror as extremes on either end. Likewise, there are the little worries that are not all that upsetting, concerns of one kind or another that you can do something about and take action to erase it. There is also the enormous anxiety that can leave you feeling helpless and ultimately depressed. That’s probably why the diagnosis in the DSM-V has tried to separate some of the related “anxiety disorders” from each other.
Much has remained the same in the areas of anxiety and depression, with refinements of criteria and symptoms across the lifespan. Some disorders included in the broad category of anxiety disorders are now in three sequential chapters: Anxiety Disorders, Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders, and Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders. This move emphasizes how each category has its own distinctions while still being interconnected. What is clear is that being in a state of stress for very long produces a level of anxiety that will most likely upset your equilibrium.
The term “anxiety” is a catch-all term. Louis Menand says, “people describe themselves as excited, nervous, apprehensive, tense, stressed out, bugged, worried, panicky, vapor-locked, scared shitless, sick to their stomach, and feeling like they’re gonna die.” Sometimes it helps to give the feeling a name rather than keep it suppressed and hope that it will eventually go away. It is what you cannot talk about that will come up and bite you in the backside.
There are numerous ways to alleviate stress and anxiety and as many people have discovered, drugs and therapy don’t always work. There are those who have made enormous changes in their lives whether in life-style, locations, changes in significant relationships, or in the approach to solving the problem instead of doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results (the classic definition of insanity). There are many people who have experienced a reprieve from anxiety that is most welcome and mentally healthy. There are those who turn to a variety of physical, mental and emotional exercises for relief. Those who find these techniques effective tend to make them part of a daily or weekly routine. Such activities may include working out with a regimen of physical exercises, or less strenuous activities such as meditation, listening to music or some creative activity like painting or writing.
What seems to be an obstacle to making a life change is the unwillingness to take a risk and step off into the unknown. That can be a stressful experience itself and some people would rather be in a state of stress-filled security than live in a situation without knowing the outcome. Stress indicates the need for change and change can produce stress. In the end, it boils down to choices. You can consider and even create some options. It is your opportunity to take control and decide whether to accept the status quo and keep things as they are or shift gears and invest in a thoughtful process to produce needed and welcome change.