Managing Anxiety

Anxiety is a central problem of human existence.  Certainly, the conditions of living a human life contribute significantly to the experience of being anxious.  Yet, it is important to recognize that somehow inherent to being human is being anxious in some sense, to some degree.  This means that all human beings, to some degree, experience being anxious throughout their lives.  We have come to label this experience of being anxious in numerous ways, e.g., "feeling nervous", "having the jitters", "being upset", "feeling jumpy".  Some persons talk about "feeling like I am going to jump out of my skin."  Whatever we call it, feeling and being anxious is a core part of being human.

Anxiety occurs in differing degrees of severity within human living.  It may be experienced as an ever present reality, in all our living interactions, just below the surface of our daily activities, as a kind of nervous state.   It may be also experienced as the gripping reality sitting at the center of obsessive-compulsive thoughts, feelings and behaviors.  Certain theoreticians believe that the very nature of human existence, bounded by finite living, death, puts within all of us a gnawing realization that someday we will die and we become anxious at this fate.  Ernest Becker, a sociologist, contended, for example, that all anxiety is death anxiety, the anxiety about the unknown nature of what lies beyond our death.
How do we manage our anxiety?  First, we recognize that anxiety is, indeed, our human reality: we are by nature anxious creatures and we begin to manage anxiety when we recognize its central place in our human lives.  Second, we seek as well as we can to accept this reality of the centrality of anxiety in our lives.  Third, we draw upon resources to help us with our anxiety.  If we are struggling with anxiety, if anxiety is interfering with our living, we can, for example, discover constructive ways to divert ourselves, our thinking and feeling, from the anxiety.  We can read a book, watch a film, engage in a conversation with another person, cook a meal, go for a walk/ ride in the car.  These are simple illustrations of the idea of attempting to manage our anxiety by doing something that, hopefully, diverts our attention away from the anxiety and thus helps us manage the anxiety.  We can also draw upon the resources of our relationships to help us in managing anxiety.  Providing that we have constructive relationships, we can turn to our relationships as possible places where we can share with another our anxiety and get help, support and ideas for help with the anxiety.   In this vein, if anxiety is so persistent and strong that our lives are impaired, we can then turn to the relationship resource of a psychotherapist, a person trained and educated to aid us with our impairing anxiety.  Through the experience of psychotherapy, the further resources of being taught how to manage our anxious feelings, thoughts and behaviors with new and different feelings, thoughts and behaviors can be experienced.  Additionally, in this context of psychotherapy anti-anxiety medication resources can be explored.
In summary, although anxiety is, indeed, a central part of human existence, when it becomes impairing, it can be managed.


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