Our mind is divine. It gives everyone super powers and the dots we electrochemically connect makes us human. Such biological capacity allows us to achieve extraordinary things. At the same time, this mysterious grey matter can also hold us back, even cause havoc.
Anxiety is assuming failure in advance. As a mental cousin to fear, anticipation, worrying, and perhaps even desire, anxiety is like an unspoken agreement you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want. While some may argue that this exhausting emotion is all in your head, the way anxiety effects your body can be absolutely real.
“With great power comes great responsibility.” -Uncle Ben, Spider-Man
The connected era has made the world smarter, stronger, and more efficient, but the pressure of never-ending progress leaves us vulnerable to fear and anxiety. For those who pursue greatness (which I might suggest is anyone reading this), the more we try to achieve, the tighter we wind the strings of life. When harnessed, this creates strength, artistry, grit, and persistence. As the tension tightens however, there’s bound to be a break. Being mindful of your personal bandwidth will help reduce the frequency and severity of such breakdowns, but it seems impossible to completely avoid anxiety.
Accepting that anxiety is inevitable, may be a secret to finding equanimity.
The most common way we attempt to manage such angst, is to stop the pain by seeking reassurance. The nourishment of overthinking every scenario in an unknown future may satisfy the moment, but scratching this itch usually makes things worse. Even if we answer every possible question, the willingness to indulge the worry sets a precedent that keeps you coming back to what can become an endless loop.
It’s much harder, but an alternate approach is to acknowledge the suffering. Don’t run from it. Appreciate the relentless internal narrative you’re dealing with. Breathe. Be thankful for having something you care this much about. Find peace knowing you’ve done your best to tip odds in your favor, but invite doubt and welcome an opportunity to be wrong. The anxiety is here and it’s dramatic, but it’s also normal. Let thoughts float by, focus your attention on what’s good, and allow time to heal the pain. Yes, this is like letting a forest fire burn without soothing it with water. It will get wild at first, but eventually burn itself out. The scorched land is then ripe for renewal and less likely to burn again. When we acknowledge anxiety this way, the resulting clarity provides an awareness that helps us understand this energy. Our courage also helps to break the cycle and over time, often reduces the frequency of such misery.
The ability to appreciate anxiety, an eagerness to lean on those who support you, and confidence in knowing the temporary pain will pass, allows the mind to need less dramatic swings to stay centered.