Why Do I Believe Having Some Anxiety Is Necessary For Your Happiness?
“Lean into the awkwardness that comes with the task”– Brené Brown
For many years, my life revolved entirely around my anxiety.
When I think of my life during that time period, the first thing that comes to mind is the constant strain that I feel in my chest, as well as a knot in my stomach and a lump in my throat.
My life seemed to be going quite well from the outside. I lived in a great home, had a decent vehicle, and had enough money to purchase organic food and a gym membership.
I went to college, had a solid career, and was in a relationship. I was successful in all aspects of my life.
But I was in a terrible mood.
Not only did I have constant anxiety because I worried that other people would condemn me, but I also had the impression that I was unable to enjoy joy.
Even when the circumstances around me were joyful, such as a surprise birthday party for me, receiving presents on Christmas, a relaxing Sunday morning with nothing to do except enjoy a beautiful cup of coffee, or a funny moment in a comedy movie, I could never manage to experience genuine pleasure.
Even though they were all of my favorite things, I didn’t get that warm and fuzzy feeling in my chest or my stomach. I had the impression that pleasure was just something I could conceptualize.
The only thing I could really feel was discomfort, and this was not just due to my anxiety but also to the fact that I was continuously fighting against it.
I refused to see anxiety and melancholy as perfectly healthy states of mind.
Because I believed that I shouldn’t feel them, anytime I felt the usual tightness in both my thoughts and my body, I closed down and tried to shut out any and all of the negativity that I was experiencing.
My Inability To Accept The Unpleasantness Of Anxiety Served As A Barrier Between Me And Genuine Contentment
There is no way to turn off a single feeling without also shutting off the others. It took a very long time for me to figure this out.
When I was trying to figure out how to stop worrying about what other people thought of me, how to meditate to calm my body and strengthen my mind, or how to deal with heartache in a healthy way, I started to lean into the discomfort.
This helped me learn how to stop worrying about what other people thought of me.
This means that I accepted the tension and discomfort that were in my body and allowed them to remain.
It is comparable to the difference between attempting to pull your fingers out of a Chinese finger trap and pressing your fingers together in order to relax the hold of the trap so that you may finally wriggle your fingers out of the trap.
My body and mind have become numb as a result of years of tension. I had the misconception that I would never experience genuine joy.
That was reserved for the fortunate few. Or, folks were simply making up how delighted they were when they spoke about it.
Leaning into the agony, though, helped it to flow through me rather than become trapped inside of me as I proceeded farther along on my trip.
I embraced pain in all of its forms, including physical, cerebral, and emotional. I would just sit there and take calm, deep breaths, ease the tension and resistance that were building up in my body, and give myself permission to feel the discomfort.
I would tell myself, “Okay, this feeling of melancholy is awkward. It’s not only in my stomach; it’s also in my chest.
I thus grant you permission to be present while you do business through me.
And instead of struggling against it, I would just sit and observe the feeling. It led to the collapse of the wall.
As I became more empathetic toward both it and myself, I saw that the intensity of the feelings began to decrease. I felt it change.
On other occasions, none of the symptoms remained. It helped me feel more in control. Which brings up an interesting paradox: you may acquire control by letting go of it.
It’s Possible For Our Emotions To Become Lodged In Our Physical Bodies
When our stress reaction is activated, cortisol and adrenaline are released into our bloodstream.
These hormones provide us with the energy and drive to either confront the threat or run away from it.
When the threat is no longer there, animals, including humans, have a natural tendency to shake off any excess adrenaline so that the remainder of it may be burned off.
For instance, if you narrowly avoid getting into a vehicle collision, you could feel your whole body tremble afterward.
Or sometimes you find yourself laughing out loud, despite the fact that the situation is not really humorous.
These are the natural methods by which our body “concludes” its stress reaction.
However, we clever people often prevent this process from reaching its natural conclusion. We feel stressed at work and keep our emotions in check so we don’t seem weak.
Because we have suffered a loss, we are reluctant to laugh out loud because “it would be wrong” to feel cheerful at this time.
We try to suppress our feelings of melancholy or fear in order to go on with our lives.
All of this ultimately results in us being divorced from the whole of our emotional experience. You can’t push back against worry without also shutting off happiness.
You can’t run away from your problems without also running away from your successes.
In a strange turn of events, we may grow closer to happiness by embracing our feelings of unease without showing fear or passing judgment.
When I’m Not Anxious, I Find That I Cry More
Today, I can confidently say that I no longer “suffer” from anxiety. It’s only normal for me to feel apprehensive before a big event like the one I have coming up, yet it still happens.
However, rather than battling the anxiety and closing down, I have learned to accept it and allow it to pass through me.
The majority of the time, I am the laid-back person that I’d always wished I could be.
And the other strange thing that’s happened to me recently is that I’ve been crying a lot more. Not tears of disappointment or frustration, but rather of joy, pride, admiration, and thankfulness.
When I finish watching the news for the day, there is nearly always a heartwarming tale to cap things off.
Therefore, almost every day, as I sit there drinking my coffee, I look forward to feeling that energizing rush rising from my stomach, moving up my chest, climbing up my neck, and making my eyes fill up with tears.
When I’m watching a talent show like America’s Got Talent, I weep whenever someone does a good job, because I feel immensely pleased with this complete stranger, even though I don’t know anything about them.
I take great pleasure in being truly glad for the happiness of others. It’s something I’ve never really understood or appreciated to its full potential.
Even though I knew in my head that “this is amazing,” I was unable to feel what I was thinking.
If you discover that you are unable to experience joy, you should know that there is still hope for you if you are prepared to start allowing yourself to feel the whole spectrum of feelings.
Although it may take some time, you shouldn’t be hesitant to lean into the unpleasant sensations that come up when you do this.
None of these emotions, including anger, irritation, guilt, and jealousy, are inherently “evil.” And you won’t be consumed by them.
You simply need to be willing to let go, allow yourself to experience what is there, and let nature take its course.
Relax your body, concentrate on your breathing, and let the energy of the emotion go through you as it does so. Bear in mind that this is merely a fleetingly unpleasant period of time.
It is not going to do your body any lasting damage, nor is it going to cause you any long-term injury (note, if you feel truly unsafe during a practice like this, it is better to do so under the supervision of a licensed mental health professional).
It’s very similar to the tale of the second arrow. It was painful for the soldier who was shot with the arrow. It’s inevitable, isn’t it?
When that soldier began screaming in fury, furious that this shouldn’t have occurred, and sobbing over the injustice of it all, he added further anguish to an already terrible situation.
If you were observing this soldier, you would know that the agony would be reduced if he would simply sit down, take some deep breaths, and relax his body.
Because of his resistance to the agony, he experienced both further physical pain as a result of his body tightening up and additional mental suffering as a result of his struggle to come to terms with what had occurred.
The following are a few techniques that might help you develop resilience and further teach you the skill of letting go and leaning into the pain you are experiencing:
- Instead of tensing up, try relaxing your body in the cool water.
- Refrain from satisfying a need that you know isn’t warranted, such as eating a cookie when you aren’t hungry or grabbing for your phone when you are feeling bored.
- Consider switching to single-tasking rather than multitasking, particularly if you’re feeling anxious about getting everything done.
Be mindful to maintain a compassionate tone with yourself while you work through the feelings that are triggered by the events that have transpired.
Know that on your trip through your anxiety, or through whatever “bad” feeling you’re inclined to avoid, you may come across some amazing things along the way, such as joy and sobbing, and that it will all be so worth it in the end.