Maybe Anxiety Can Be Useful

Ruthie Martin

Not so long ago, I shot out of bed early one morning, riddled with anxiety. Little did I know at the time, it would subsequently kick off a series of sleepless nights. The time following the initial anxiety morning was like a road unpaved, and I could only visualize myself walking aimlessly in a desert with no water, no person, and no reprieve in sight. Eventually I came to the end of the desert and only stared into a vast and expansive state of dried up lands and no fertile ground.

This was my recurring dream for a few weeks. I knew something was on the horizon, but I just could not see it. I was too thirsty, too tired, too worn out.

My mind was too distracted to meditate which created deeper anxiety, but also confusion about my devotion to meditation and its positive effects on my life. I needed immediate relief as my thoughts were spiraling and the meditation was harder and harder to grab and grasp. I tried to listen to my own teachings about the usefulness of meditation, but after many failed attempts to quell my worries, I changed the lens I was viewing my situation through.

As I sorted out my feelings and where its source is coming from, I came at it from a different stance. What if I could go deep into what I was experiencing, actually let myself experience this anxiety and stress for what it was, and see what happens? It was as good an option as any at this point.

And with that, I contemplated the usefulness of anxiety.

Like many people who have been in this position, never in my life did I think I would see anxiety as useful. And like many people, I’ve spent the better part of my adult life trying to build a passageway out of an anxious state, as it often caused a hindrance towards progression and just kept me in a constant state of stress.

Yet here I was, going into my own shit to see how it could be my tool rather than my nemesis. But how do we make the shift to move closer to our enemy? We become warriors, charging ahead. We become arbiters, and we equip ourselves. But how?

To understand the source, we have to actually go into the source. Step by step, we may begin to carefully peel back the layers and confront this nasty little bitch, Anxiety. We come face to face, with a few questions and an armor of strength to resist its (previous) powers to knock us down a few pegs. This time, we use its own weapons against itself.

First, let’s remind ourselves what exactly the source of anxiety was and is. Anxiety is generally a fear of the unknown. A worry, a stress, something we can’t feel we have control over and thusly freaks us the fuck out. Something that many of us come to yoga and meditation to help us sort out, to steer clear of.

We can begin to excavate the ground that anxiety is buried under. With the old wounds buried like fossils, we often believe that we can bury these experiences of life deep. But as we dig deeper, can we really hold on to the false belief that we can avoid anxiety with certain practices, rituals and mentalities? To an extent, that is true. We can actively reduce our anxiety by creating present connections, taking things step by step, breathing, reviewing the mind chatter, and developing mindfulness. But to avoid completely is unrealistic. I’d like to take a step further and say the act of avoidance has inherent mindlessness. Any negative connotative words, such as avoidance, will have inverse negative effects.

But what if we stop avoiding? What if we start to confront instead? What if we use the power of now to fuel our intensions and create the space to forge ahead? What if now is the time to stare that bitch square in the face, as if to say, “Come at me, bring everything you got. I’m not backing down!”?

What if you ask the question – Anxiety, how can you be beneficial? How can you be used favorably?

For me (and I suspect for others too), my anxiety was so used to me just forcibly pushing it away that it immediately paused in the question – I had never asked it to help me before.

So, now is the time to collaborate with Anxiety and create a process and steps towards working with each other, rather than against.

First: Write down exactly what was on mind. It doesn’t have make sense. Start this process just to see – what’s the thing that’s glaring bright red?

(Pro tip: Writing things down in my own handwriting quells anxiety more than anything. I can see my emotion on paper, and I can see visually what is in my head, and with that I can breathe it out.)

Second: What can be done to address this issue? Again, the answer here doesn’t have to make sense. It’s just starting the process.

Third: What can be adjusted? The answer may not be available just yet.

Fourth: Start to make a list of priorities. Perhaps this will provide a little more clarity and start to make some sense.

Fifth: What can manifest? This is a big one! It’s okay to leave this question blank! It’s not going anywhere and it will wait patiently for the answer.

At this point, here we go. Let’s go directly into the madness.

What needs to happen to make the blaring red turn a light pink?

Journey back to the priority list, and review what may be seemingly non-sensical notes. Amongst the confused ramblings, can you begin to see a semblance of pattern? This is the process mental de-cluttering, which really is a process of meditation after all. Just as when we literally let the laundry or the mail pile up, the task to sort these items out becomes tedious and arduous, leading to a point and act of avoidance. But just as we rise above the thought of the tedium that lies ahead, we can start to make sense and organize what is in front of us.

As the mental de-cluttering process continues, we can begin to evaluate the development between written mind-chatter and the emerging patterns. Make a plan of action. Even the tiniest movement towards resolution is leaps and bounds a right step into re-calibrating the brain into ease and relief.

Notice what happens as you continue these processes. Does the plaguing issue go away? Most likely no…the problem itself will not disappear. It will still be there. However, does the bigger picture become clearer? Can you actively recognize, acknowledge, and build a pathway to move forward?

What will change? Who knows. But know this: It won’t be permanent, this Anxiety. Continue to invite Anxiety to give all its got, and continue to fight back with all you’ve got. You are not your thoughts. You are not Anxiety itself. Unlike Anxiety, you’re unstoppable. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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