Stress and anxiety are two human conditions that have similar physical, mental and relational manifestations…nervousness, changes in breathing and heart rates. The differences are in degrees of impact and duration. Stress may be what I experience when I drive in rush hour traffic…then I get to my office and I read my morning devotional and make herbal tea and all is good. My mind and my body settle down. If I have to drive through rush hour every day, have a couple of near misses, maybe even be involved in an accident….anticipatory anxiety may result…may keep me from driving or even riding in a car. Anxiety is the major presenting issue in clinical care world wide…and is rampant in youth and young adults. Sleeping and eating patterns can be impacted, an individual may become isolated, or seek self soothing through addictive, repetitive or risky behaviours. Stress at its best can motivate one to study hard and do well on an exam. Anxiety may keep one in bed with the covers pulled right up…sabotaging success and life goals.
Anxiety and stress may increase in the fall along with the ramping up of activity with accompanying expectations, especially where much is new and unfamiliar and can cause uncertainty, confidence and self doubt…which can impact one’s ability to cope. Sheer volume of stimulation, expectations…your own, your parents, teachers, financial pressures, time crunches…builds layers of tension, adrenaline, dopamine, serotonin…fight/flight chemicals. Then of course there is always…TES syndrome…The End of Summer…the grief that e experience over the end of warm summer days and possibly a more relaxed, easy-going, socially enriching time of the year.
Sometimes we think that to strive is to thrive…not always…it has to be about balance…keeping our left and right brain stimulation in balance….the logical/rational and the creative/imaginative.
We all need healthy touch, like a child we will often respond to gentle, repetitive stroking. Sitting or lying in a comfortable position cross your arms across your chest with the finger tips of your right hand resting on your left shoulder, and your left hand resting on your right shoulder. Close your eyes and breathe in deeply to a count of 5, hold your breath for a count of 5, then exhale to a count of 5…unless you struggle with high blood pressure, asthma or panic attacks. Do this a couple of times and then breathe naturally as you alternately gently tap your right hand and then your left hand against the shoulder it is resting on. This gentle, rhythmic repetition can cause you to bring your thoughts to the soothing sensation of touch and to relax into the sweet safety of being well-held.
Relational stressors…as humans we require connection, acceptance and love…too little, too much…not the right kind can cause anxiety felt in the mind, body and spirit.
The best way to manage anxiety…deal with it…don’t try to avoid or distract yourself…if you try to stuff it down it will be like the beach ball you try to push under water which will inevitably pop up again at times and in ways that are often body-related and can be embarrassing or uncomfortable. You may become hostage to your own bodily functions and maintenance and miss out on key components of life. Your energy, creativity and time may be focussed on self care and you may miss out on the nuances and adventures of life. Acknowledge your discomfort…talk about it, not incessantly so as to annoy or drive away people, but get the information that you need, from people who can help you think, feel and live differently …avoid stimulants…caffeine, tobacco, alcohol and coffee which make matters worse…rather seek healthy relationships…good…safe people who share your values: honesty, respect success, kindness, generosity.
Self talk: Remind yourself… “This is my mind/my thoughts running amuck…it is really uncomfortable…but it won’t kill me! Walk yourself through the worst case scenario with the thoughts that have you feeling anxious…if this should happen…then what…then what…walk your way through to the point where you will deal with matters step by step…seldom will death be part of the picture.
Mindfulness/Meditation: Change your thinking from ruminating on a concern to praying through the alphabet, for instance: Thank you God that you are Alpha and Omega, Beginning and end, that you are Creator and comforter, Defender and Deliverer…that you are excitement, Yearning and Zeal!
We are created as relational beings…requiring connection, acceptance and love…we need each other to encourage and to challenge us…don’t let a friend handle their anxiety, stress or depression alone…you can’t be their therapist…don’t even try…but you can be their friend and encourage them to talk with someone. We can be wounded in community…and also healed in community. Children raised on sufficient and appropriate forms of connection, acceptance and love have a greater sense of their personal worth and purpose and will tend to make good choices and good friends to encourage and support them…thereby potentially avoiding debilitating anxiety.
Dr. Marion Goertz, DMin, RP, RMFT, CST (BESTCO), CTTS – www.mariongoertz.com