Some days are not what you want them to be.

I was up with anxiety in the middle of the night.

I woke up anxious this morning.

Anxiety is not the world’s best productivity tool for me, although it is one hell of a good tool for getting out of bed in the morning. I flit from one thing to the next without really accomplishing anything. If I’m not sucked deeply into a book, I can’t even really read.

So the day has gone so far. I took some more medication, and maybe I am settling down now. With the bad taste in my mouth from an unsatisfying and unproductive morning.

For me, anxiety is this uncomfortable feeling in my stomach and chest. When it is bad, it is a sense of impending doom. When it is mild, it is merely uncomfortable.

Anxiety is a very functional emotion in the correct circumstances. It evolved long ago, and it is awesome for keeping someone alert and on guard. If I needed to be alert for animal or human predators coming to get me, anxiety would be my best friend for vigilance. In the modern world, where much of what we need to do involves calm and concentrated effort, in particular, blocking out everything around us and only paying attention to the task at hand, anxiety is a substantial foe.

What have I learned about dealing with anxiety?

First, acceptance. You cannot will it away. You cannot think it away. For some, cognitive approaches work well. I am not one for whom this is so. Do the thoughts cause the anxiety or the anxiety the thoughts? I think it is a circular system. That said, being meticulous about finding things to be happy about and to be grateful for will help improve your mood, even if it does not take away your anxiety. Be mindful and generous and count your blessings.

Second, treatment. There are medications you can use. Finding the right one can be hard, but they can be a lifeline. They have been for me. Talk to your doctor. It would be great if you could talk to a psychiatrist, as they are the real expert in treatment of these problems … but I haven’t figured out how to make that happen yet. Too many people with far more serious psychiatric illnesses than mine, and too few doctors to treat them.

Third, compassion. If I must live with this, the one thing I can do is use it to help others. In particular, students with test anxiety or math anxiety or however it comes about. I can be a role model of someone who handles it reasonably well. I can provide acceptance, acknowledgment of the real difficulties involved in dealing with it, and some ideas of ways to cope.

Fourth, awareness. What situations and people are healthy, productive, warm, accepting, make you feel good? Spend more time in/with them. What situations and people do the opposite? Spend less them in/with them. And be aware, very aware, when you see behavior in others that gets to you, that their behavior is a reflection on who they are NOT on you or your actions or your character, and two, you cannot change another’s behavior, you can only modify how you react to them and whether you interact with them in the first place.

If you suffer from anxiety too, I wish I could make it better. Since I can’t, take meticulous care of yourself. You are worth it. Hold your head high, even when you feel that it is beating you down moment by moment.

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