To first write about how to deal with anxiety, we have to know what is anxiety. Anxiety arises as the body reacts to stress or what it perceives as dangerous. It is a sense of uneasiness, distress, and dread. You feel your heart racing as if it is going to jump out of your chest, you hyperventilate and feel helpless. We may experience anxiety every now and then. After all, we have been living in an age of stress even before the COVID 19 pandemic.
However, some of us suffer from anxiety disorders characterized by excessive fear. Such disorders could prevent us from living a normal life. I had suffered anxiety disorder before where I experienced an anxiety attack arising almost daily for six months. There was no threat on the outside except my own perceived threat of existentialism within.
Causes of Anxiety
In order to deal with anxiety, we have to know how it arises. There are causes of anxiety caused by outer conditions and inner conditions. When it comes to outer condition, it could be caused by ill will and bigotry. For example, there is a backlash against Asians for spreading COVID 19 via fake news or misinformation. Then, there is the burnout faced by health care workers in dealing with overwhelming ICU admissions in the world. There is also the economic impact where a historically high number of people are losing their jobs. Depending on your race, and your job, you could be facing inner pressures causing anxiety.
The outer conditions however, only reflect what already lies within our psyche. Fear is a negative emotion that have equipped us with surviving the wilderness into the modern world. But our fear is also what is destroying the climate – in wanting to control nature. And in fearing nature, we have also inevitably caused this pandemic. Fear of contracting COVID 19, of losing our livelihood, of being discriminated against – all point to our desire to live. We can be perturbed by the very evidence of a threat against our life.
Working with Anxiety
Depending on the severity of your anxiety attacks, it may be a good idea to visit your doctor. I have visited my doctor and even a counsellor for my anxiety attacks. However, none of them were able to help. My general practitioner doctor offered prosaic, an anti-depressant. I did not want to be addicted so I refused. The counsellor made me talk through what I thought caused my anxiety. Instead of helping me, I had an anxiety attack straight out of her office.
Seeing that I was getting worse, a friend suggested I see a psychiatrist. I saw her doctor and what he told me was not to bring up past memories I cannot deal with. He then offered me a non-addictive relaxant. What I discovered after taking the relaxant is that the medicine itself is not addictive but it is the mind that is addicted to pleasure and ease.
Looking Into the Mind
Being addicted to taking 3 to 4 daily doses of the relaxant was no joy for me. Even though it took away the anxiety attacks. I knew in my mind I wanted an answer to existential angst, but there were no answers. The relaxant made me sleepy much of the time. I felt dull and not happier. One day I decided to let go of this relaxant gradually. I decided in my mind that the anxiety attacks have not killed me so far despite the fears and so I should welcome it.
So I decided to deal with the anxiety by treating the episodes as a friend. I decided to see it as a guest which I welcomed without fear. To my surprise, I was able to recover from the anxieties on my own with the aid of a sweet to replace the relaxant. Every time I felt anxiety coming, I would put the cooling sweet in my mouth, and having decided to welcome the guest, my mind was stable.
Using Mindfulness to Deal With Anxiety
I did not know then that I was using mindfulness to allay my fears regarding the anxieties I had. I would like to add that even though the anxiety attacks seemed bad to me, I was probably not considered having anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders include obsessive-compulsive disorder, which I do not have.
If you would are suffering from anxieties, it would be good to see your doctor to be diagnosed. Certain clinical cases require medication to help calm the mind first. That episode of the series of anxieties I suffered and my practice in mindfulness made me realize that the mind is able to conjure as well as cease its many stories and ideas that cause happiness and fears. It did not require any digging in of my memories to allay my fears. I simply stayed present to its arising and ceasing. The practice in mindfulness has also helped me with my existential questions as well.
If you would like learn how to work with your anxiety (if it is non-clinical), get in touch with us for an 8-week mindfulness course.