What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a word that is used often to describe stress, but it is more than that. It’s a natural human response to stress and perceived threats. It’s more than just feeling “stressed” and more about fear of what the future could look like accompanied by physical sensations like a fast heartbeat and difficulty concentrating. While it is normal to feel some anxiety surrounding certain situations like a job interview or a big exam, it becomes a problem when it interferes with your daily life and makes it difficult to interact with others.

Anxiety can be caused by a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors. Believe it or not your family history can have a lot to say about how you manage anxiety as well as how anxiety presents itself in your own life. If you grew up in a home that was considered unstable there is a chance you have anxiety as you were constantly unsure of how home life would be on daily basis. For some that just becomes normal and you may not even know that you have anxiety until you meet with a therapist. 

Anxiety can also be something that brings to light different fears in your life that may need to be addressed. It can push you to embrace those fears and learn to cope in a world of uncertainty. It can prompt you to speak up in social situations when you may have been afraid to do so in the past. It may mean stepping away from certain relationships that bring about anxiety in your life. It can force you to be vulnerable with those you feel safe to be close with. 

Anxiety is often treated with therapy and sometimes with medication. The best results usually come from a mix of both. Changing your lifestyle also makes a huge impact on how you manage anxiety. Exercise and mindfulness are just a few of the activities that can help you manage your anxiety. Taking a step back and reflecting on what could be causing your anxiety and learning to manage it comes with therapy. Your therapist can help you determine the most effective ways for you to manage your anxiety and it may be different from others. Your experience may be different than your peers and that’s normal. You have the opportunity to share in your struggles and find what works best for you. 

Anxiety is not a flaw or a weakness, but a way to bring our awareness to the need for empathy, connection, and courage to live our lives without fear. It brings about our need for grace towards ourselves and realize it’s not something to cure, but something to embrace and use instead of being afraid of. You are not the only one learning what anxiety means and how it impacts you, and it doesn’t define who you are. You get to decide what defines you and whatever happened in your past does not determine how you respond or react.