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I was reading an excellent book on anxiety to review for the New York Journal of Books after talk with a friend about health problems and it got me thinking about the various ways we let anxiety inhabit us and run the show. It’s a hard-wired emotion and we all run smack into it on occasion (or on many occasions) whether we want to or not. Here are some of the ways that we exhibit or express it, even when we don’t realize it.
You get angry. You and a friend are in the supermarket in the self-check-out lane. She drops her wallet, and you rush to help her pick up everything because there’s a line behind you. You feel angry that she’s not moving quickly enough to finish her transaction and say something like, “If you hadn’t been talking on your phone while we're checking out, this wouldn’t have happened. Hurry up, will you?” Under your anger is anxiety about holding up the line. Maybe you were raised to take care of others, feel self-conscious, or fear that people will be annoyed having to wait.
You ruminate. You’re taking an intensive computer course because you need these skills for a job within your company that you’re applying for. Your exam is coming up and the thought of failing the test and what it means to you keeps you up at night: you won’t get the job, you’ll never get a promotion, you won’t get the pay increase you desperately need due to your rent going up, and you’ll be just like your father, stuck in a dead-end job. These terrifying thoughts keep zooming around your mind non-stop.
You eat. You don’t realize how wound up you are about your upcoming wedding. Everything is falling into place, and you have lots of people helping you with the planning. You tell yourself you love your fiancé and they love you. Looking relaxed in your outward appearance, you’re a ball of knots internally. In spite of telling yourself you’re fine, you can’t stop noshing even when you’re not hungry. Whenever you’re near food, it disappears into your mouth.
You keep busy. The minute you finish a to-do list, you begin another. You feel a need to be busy nearly every moment of the day and fall into bed exhausted which usually gives you a good night’s sleep. When you’re not busy, you start to feel uncomfortable but can’t quite label the feeling. You just know you don’t want to have it, so you give yourself to-do work and make sure that you rarely have a moment to sit down and think. You have no idea you’re highly anxious because you don’t let yourself experience it.
These are some of the ways you might react to anxiety even though you don’t realize you’re feeling it. Better to identify it and learn to mange anxiety better.
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