Most people with anxiety problems are better at keeping anxiety at bay than they are at harnessing calmness. Anyone experiencing anxiety starts out looking to cope with the unpleasant feelings it creates and find ways of relief and rationalization. How much anxiety we will have from day to day and year over year is ever changing. It can be affected by stress, seasons, thoughts and even things we cannot detect or control. We all go through periods of highs and lows.
I believe most tools and coping strategies created when we’re feeling low. We create an arsenal of weapons for combating anxiety, some being helpful and productive, and others being harmful and self-destructive.
We usually know when we are in a period of strong anxiety (whether we admit it to ourselves or not). But we usually don’t acknowledge when we are feeling great and anxiety-free. Even in the worst of anxious times, there’s always a break of feeling better, and it is far too easy to sabotage those moments.
We will do anything to minimize a period of strong anxiety, but we rarely put the same effort in maximizing calm periods. Many struggle to gauge the levels of stress they feel, and worse, many feel anxiety and calmness as binary states as compared to a spectrum.
The common issue when things are going well is dropping the helpful tools and exercises that helped alleviate anxiety because the “coast is clear.” We will pack on more stress because the threshold increases during the period in which you feel more at ease. This is not the time to pile on more unnecessary stress. You must first take note that these calm moments exist. You will not jinx it by stating that you have been feeling calm or that you are currently.
It is important to recognize these more pleasant states because it will make it easier to get through the difficult states. When you become overwhelmed by anxiety, one of the first things to go is the feeling and memory of how calm states exist, but belief must be built that they do exist, and we build it by acknowledging when we feel good. You must work hard to build upon and prolong these moments so that they become the norm, not the exception.
It’s not about maximizing and obsessing about staying calm, which would be very unproductive as it would likely come from a fear of slipping back to anxiety. But it is about creating a better balance between the states and having more confidence to handle the anxieties when they arise, versus having them be all-consuming.
I believe many anxiety sufferers are actually quite a bit better at handling low-level stressors than those without anxiety experience, and that is why it is so easy to pile on additional stress. The additional stress is made even worse because it is just as easy to stop your supportive processes when things are “fine”.
Even subtle stress can make an impact, and you have to pause and check every now and then to see what’s got you feeling anxious. Ask yourself: Has anything been bothersome or gotten in my way of feeling at ease and comfortable?
Not every little problem will need to be examined. Just make the mental note that little stressors can cause discomfort. If you don’t believe that’s true, then place the smallest peddle you can find in your shoe and see how great you walk with such a tiny irritation.
You don’t have to add much to find your state of calmness; it is a constant. You rediscover that state by decluttering the stress and mess that will inevitably come your way.