Odin walked tentatively to the door, licking his lips and glancing from side to side. He was at the vets again. He did not like it. The last time he came, the vet stuck something sharp into him while smiling and pretending to be friendly and helpful. Odin wanted to be home, to be safe and certainly, not be stuck at by something sharp. The door opened and he saw no vet. Instead, he saw a friendly lady with lots of treats. His guardian had brought him in for a socialisation visit rather than an actual vet appointment. Odin’s anxiety was brought about by wanting to be safe. That want was outside of his control, which is why he is anxious.
In your life, do you get anxious? When you do, have you considered why? Ask yourself the question, “What do I want?” Is what you want within your control or not? You may find that it is usually something that is out of your control. For example, if you were an anxious mother, worried about your children. What do you want? A world that is always safe. If you were a stressed traveller – what do you want? For the weather to hold and for traffic to part so you can make your flight. If you were a nervous student taking an examination – what do you want? Questions that you know the answers to.
All of these scenarios hold the same thing in common – it’s wanting something outside of your control. Getting worked up, getting excited, nervously pacing – these intense, pained, and anxious moments show us at our most futile and servile. Staring at the clock, at the ticker, at the next checkout lane over, at the sky – it’s as if we all belong to a religious cult that believes the gods of fate will only give us what we want if we sacrifice our peace of mind. Is that really how it works? Do your gods give you what you want if you displayed a degree of anxiety to show your desire, commitment or even worth? Do the chances of your desired results manifesting improve if you showed a bit of stress, just to indicate to the universe that you really want it?
How does being stressed or anxious help you? Or more importantly, how do they affect you? Do you make better or worse decisions? Do you feel better or worse? Does your anxiety empower or hinder you? In reality, anxiety is more likely to bring negative consequences than positive ones. In the short term, being in a state of anxiety can be extremely debilitating. In the long term, it is likely to bring about (significant) health issues. The inability of being at ‘ease’ will bring ‘dis-ease’ eventually. In some cases, medication may be indicated to reduce the amount of stress in an individual.
However, it should be noted that the medications reduce the symptoms, and effects of anxiety, usually by deregulating the nervous system (ie making it duller) so the individual does not feel as acutely as before. They work by altering the chemicals in your body and brain that brings about the effects of anxiety. They do not help cure anxiety nor change how you think or use your mind.
Perspective can be lost when you are in a state of anxiety. You may not be able to see what seemed rational and logical to you in the past. On the contrary, you may perceive irrational as being perfectly rational. Think about the time when you failed to take action because you were anxious, even though you had done a similar act multiple times in the past. When you are anxious, your memory and cognitive function may be affected as well. Candidates tend to perform better in examinations when they are calm and not anxious. When you are anxious, the world seemed to collapse within you and you may feel isolated and alone. Even when others offer their help, you may struggle to accept it. Your focus is turned towards you than to others, depriving you of a sense of growth and fulfilment. You stand alone, feeling unloved in the midst of your crowd of loving friends and family.
It is entirely possible to cure your anxiety by using your mind in a better way. When you observe people who seemingly do not get anxious, you may notice a few patterns and habits. Here are a few.
- Just like a habit, they have ‘trained’ themselves out of the habit of worrying. They simply choose not to worry. Someone wise once said, “If you know the answer, why worry? If you don’t know the answer, why worry?” It is easier said than done. Once achieved, it still takes a lot of conditioning to maintain this habit.
- They understand that life happens FOR them, not TO them. After doing everything they can in their preparation, they just allow life to take over. They may expect and hope but are prepared not to get the results they desire for that is life.
- They practice Gratitude immensely. They are extremely grateful for all they have while striving for more. Their gratitude brings them to the present and they are calm.
- They take Extreme Personal Responsibility for themselves. They do not lay blame on others or anything outside their sphere of influence but accept all responsibility within their sphere of influence.
Odin was anxious because he wanted something out of his control. Today, when you find yourself getting anxious, ask yourself: Why are my insides twisted into knots? Am I in control here or is my anxiety? And more importantly, Is my anxiety doing me any good?
‘When I see an anxious person, I ask myself, what do they want? For if a person wasn’t wanting something outside of their own control, why would they be stricken by anxiety? – Epictetus, Discourses, 2.13.1