Thank You Note
A huge thank you to Dr. Ashleigh Louis for allowing me to share my experiences with anxiety.
Positive Vibes Only
What is Anxiety? In my experience, it is when my heart beats fast, my stomach cramps, and I start breathing heavily. Also, I try to avoid uncomfortable situations and do everything I can to control my surroundings. All of these physiological experiences come and go like waves. Sometimes they are bearable, and other times they consume me. Sounds pretty terrible, huh? It is, and I am sure that anyone who experiences anxiety -whatever their symptoms might be- will tell you the same thing. At times I wish it didn’t accompany me everywhere I went. Don’t get me wrong I do not desire a carefree life as there is no such thing, but it would feel great if I don’t feel like the whole world is crumbling down most of the time. Alas, I am not here to rant about how horrifying anxiety is and how we should all hide our kids, husbands, and wives because it is out to get us. Instead, I want to demonstrate the positive aspects of anxiety that we -anxiety carriers- often overlook.
A for Academia
Anxiety has helped me in academia. I graduated high school with straight A’s and got into the university I dreamt of. I then graduated from my chosen university with high honors. Now I am currently in graduate school with a decent GPA, and I couldn’t have done that without my anxiety. How? It simply motivated me. It made me obsess over my work. The worries and fears that come from it encouraged me to do my work meticulously. When I procrastinated it acted as a portable alarm, and when I started on my work, it demanded that I do my absolute best. It was and is the drive that pushes me towards progress (and also regression at times, but we are only focusing on the positives here).
I am a gregarious person who is also socially anxious. Makes sense? Not really? I know, I don’t get it either. While I love to engage in conversations with others, I fear I’ll say something wrong or offend someone, or in a nutshell; I am afraid of bothering those around me. While that sounds quite paralyzing (and it can be), it is also great! Anxiety motivates me to be more attuned to those around me, and to be even more considerate than I might otherwise be when I am not as anxious. All of my efforts to be an easy guest and a pleasant stranger has led me to form quality friendships and has increased my network and sense of community.
P for Professional
At some point in my life, I worked as a freelance writer at an online magazine. My boss was extremely pleased with my professionalism, my keenness to learn and eagerness to send my articles before the deadline, and my well-written articles. She called me one day to inform me that she saw potential in me and wanted to train me to become the editor-in-chief. Unfortunately, my schedule did not allow that to happen, and at some point, I quit my job to pursue my master’s degree. Luckily, my boss liked me so much that she happily wrote me a recommendation letter and sent it to my current graduate school. I couldn’t have achieved all of that without my anxiety! How? Because my perfectionistic tendencies and keenness to achieve my goals are a result of both wanting to work hard and a strong sense of anxiety. Anxiety pushes and motivates me to achieve my best and to abide by the rules provided by my workplace, and all of these elements are highly appreciated at most workplaces and thus support my professional success.
Manage it Before it Manages You
I am not going to lie to you and act as if I have tamed my anxiety. There are times where I feel paralyzed by it. Sometimes my anxiety worsens to the point that I resort to herbaceuticals like Ashwagandha and Lemon Balm to decrease it. Nevertheless, I am not encouraging you to use herbaceuticals or any psychotropic medication – of course, if you want to go that route, be sure to speak with your psychiatrist or general doctor to better understand your options and aid your decision-making process.
There are days where I feel in control of my anxiety and let me tell you those days are glorious. Anxiety isn’t black or white. It is a sign from your body and mind that you are overwhelmed and need to bring yourself back to homeostasis (balance). So, what do I do to bring myself back to that steady state? I notice my triggers, and then, once I spot them, I breathe, or I take a walk (if possible). If for whatever reason I don’t feel like doing that, I will ride my bike or put on some music and dance or even watch a comedy show or movie. Sometimes, I talk to family members to release stress. Other times, I call my friends to rant. Lastly, I go to my therapist. I realize that going to therapy is a privilege given that it takes time and is usually pricey. But if you are interested in therapy but are unable to afford it, you can always seek help from community counseling centers that offer reduced rates.
Gentle Reminder from The Writer
This article is not supposed to be championing anxiety. However, it is supposed to highlight that anxiety isn’t all bad; there are positive aspects associated with it too. I, for one, know that anxiety can feel overwhelming. When it feels like it’s too much, remember to be kind to yourself and acknowledge that life is a journey and nothing lasts forever. Take some deep breaths and know that just like every other time in the past, this too shall pass.