Anxiety is one of the biggest issues in our world and children as young as 7 or 8 are reporting stress in relation to their bodies, their popularity at school and their level of cleverness. Students in college are reporting huge levels of anxiety and the work place is now the location of stress, burn-out and related illnesses. If we are to stop the tide of anxiety we all need to do our own bit in managing our fears and then we will be in a position to help others.
Dealing with anxiety will require a many-pronged approach and my guess is that it will take some time to reach a stage where the anxious person will wake up feeling good. Many people are almost paralysed with the fear of the approaching day and it may be that they might benefit from a trip to their GP to see if there is some help they could get while they initiate the many things which may help them get control of their lives.
We were not born full of fear; in fact all of us were born full of confidence and motivation but slowly we picked up comments and experiences which led us to believe that we need to protect ourselves from others comments and from many aspects of life. Gradually, we think that this version of ourselves is the real thing and we try to mask this self to the outside world by pretending that we are OK and functioning. This is exhausting and as we become more burnt-out we can only mange short exposure to the world before retreating to our safe place, often home or our bedrooms. Becoming better at this is akin to torture and you sound as though you have finally had enough and now want to become free of these fears.
This anxiety needs to be tackled in the mental, emotional and social spheres of our life. Our fears are supported by beliefs and self-commentary that are negative, persistent and untrue. CBT cognitive behaviour therapy) has a proven track record in tackling these damaging thoughts and we might benefit from some sessions with a psychotherapist or look up the many supportive CBT sites on-line. Emotionally, fear creates a reaction in us that is primitive. We all know of the flight, fight or freeze response and in your situation this flight response has become chronic and is a reaction way beyond the need of the situation. We need to learn to calm ourselves in threatening situations – how to bring our physiological response to a calm place when it is over-reacting. Mindfulness, meditation and yoga are all practices that have developed quieting techniques that have 5,000 years of development. The concepts behind these traditions are simple, yet the practices are difficult so participating and learning with a group is strongly advised and the effects are slow-burning so give yourself a year of practice before evaluating your success.
Anxiety and fear make us back away from social situations due to the fear of exposure but the loss of support and comfort from others is not one we can afford to dismiss. Everyone knows what it is like to be trapped in fear and the sharing of our experiences with people we trust will garner us both sympathy and the push we need to engage with life again. Being honest and taking the risk of trusting others begins to tackle the blocks to our confidence and it has a high possibility of creating closeness and connection that will benefit everyone. Anxiety in our world needs to be addressed. When we emerge from our cocoons we will find that there is experience, knowledge and support available to us from all quarters of our lives. To quote Marianne Williamson from her poem ‘Light’ :
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We were born to make manifest the glory of
God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.
(Often said to have been quoted in a speech by Nelson Mandela. The source is Return to Love by Marianne Williamson, Harper Collins, 1992.)