The silence is so thick you could cut it with a knife. You grasp the arms of your chair and sink your body further in, licking your dry lips and gasping in short, desperate breaths. You feel every vein in your body tremor as your heart palpitates.
There is a monster outside the room. And soon…soon it’s going to break through the door.
It’s going to break in and fucking kill you.
“Not much longer now”, you think. You clench your white-knuckle fists even harder. Every cell in your body braces for impact. Your lungs exhausted from the struggle to hold air.
But the monster is still outside. You are still safe in the present. It has not come crashing through the door, and perhaps it never will. It could walk right past you and that would be the end of it.
It might not even exist.
The problem is that you can’t see beyond the fact that there might be something waiting outside your door, and you have not yet seen its face. You don’t know how you will react. You don’t know what will become of your life, should you open that door.
So you wait.
Anxiety is different from fear. If you walk into a room and see a dead body, you might get scared from the shock. But if you are outside the room, and have an unfounded belief that there is a dead body in there, thus causing your heart to pound and sweat to seep out your pores…that is anxiety.
Anxiety can be thought of as the apprehension of the future. It is the “fear” of the unknown. It is the excitement and dread that comes when you think about what has not happened yet. Often, these thoughts are over-exaggerated to the point where it’s no longer just a dead body in the next room…it is rows and rows of bodies. Possibly thousands.
Most of the time, our anxiety comes as a gut feeling. It is an emotion just like sadness, anger, happiness, and excitement. It’s your body’s way of warning you that there is danger ahead, making it a necessary reaction in appropriate times. The problems start arising when you have an overwhelming emotion that appears to rule your thoughts, and affect your life in a negative way.
We begin to envision monsters. Unimaginable terrors. Our thoughts become erratic, irrational, and like a ravenous beast we fuel them with even more thoughts. What begins as a harmless-looking tree on the surface of the soil turns into hundreds of feet of roots underground, that branch off in various directions and lead this way and that.
Similarly, when you are having anxious thoughts, what started out as a harmless idea of a future event became something extra complex. We then expand on the idea with every apprehensive thought, until it becomes something too large for us to handle.
Our downfall is that we keep focusing our attention on the monster outside the room. Whether it is very much a real entity or a product of our own fears and wild imagination, it is in control of our thoughts and actions. And the more you think about it, the scarier and more real it becomes.
Through anxiety, you have the power to not only create new monsters, but to invite existing monsters through the door subconsciously as well. Because our premonitions can often dictate our actions, and what you fear so much may just present itself to you by your own hand.
They say that you should be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it. Likewise, we should be careful what we DON’T wish for. Because with enough anxiety, it might just inadvertently happen; we often learn this the hard way.
I’m not here to tell you that you are crazy. I’m here to tell you that you are not alone, and to educate those who are unaware of just how debilitating an anxiety disorder can be.
I have fought with the monsters outside the room for over ten years now. Here are a few things that have really helped me to control it when it gets bad.
I don’t mean having someone dangle a watch in front of your eyes, or running up to the top of a mountain in Tibet to become a hermit for a year. But there are many things you can learn from hypnotists, and also from Buddhists in regards to relaxation.
Self-hypnosis is quite possibly one of the most effective drug-free solutions to anxiety, with more than enough resources on the web. If you search YouTube, you will be able to find many videos and recordings from psychotherapists and psychologists. I promise if you take fifteen minutes out of your day, every day, to dedicate to meditating and relaxing, you will benefit greatly from it.
Here is one of my favorites:
It often helps to distract the mind when it’s spinning. To put away your own thoughts, you need to have something else to think about. Picking up a book when I begin to get anxious has helped with calming the nerves.
3. Philosophy Lectures
This one might be a bit out of the ordinary as an anxiety recommendation, but still deserves a mention, even for those of you not especially interested in philosophy. I found that listening in on lectures has been instrumental in helping me not only question my actions and motives, but also understand myself more as a person. It is wonderful for character development, and finding your direction in life. I cannot recommend Alan Watts enough. I wish I could meet him to tell him just how much he has changed my life.
Namely, classical music. Why? Because it is completely unbias, and extremely therapeutic. Empty your mind and focus on the music. The complexity of the compositions, the tiny notes of each instrument. No words. Just sound. Don’t speak – just listen.
Above all, remember that you have control over your life. Whatever is happening right now that is causing you trouble will pass. Pain is not permanent. Nothing ever is. The present is finite.
And when you think that something might just be too big for you to handle this time, keep in mind that the fact you are alive indicates you have gotten through 100% of every hard time you have faced in life.
I will close with two of my favorite quotes:
“Tomorrow and plans for tomorrow can have no significance at all unless you are in full contact with the reality of the present, since it is in the present and only in the present that you live. There is no other reality than present reality, so that, even if one were to live for endless ages, to live for the future would be to miss the point everlastingly.”
- Alan Watts
“Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength- carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”
-Corrie Ten Boom