Anxiety: Learn From It Before You Fix It:
finding wisdom in a foolish world
By Kevin A. Thompson
I want to fix it. Give me a pill. Show me an exercise. Explain to me what I must do to make it go away.
Anytime I experience something in my life which I do not like, I want to make it go away as fast as possible. Anxiety is a prime example.
The symptoms of anxiety vary:
No matter the symptom, when someone feels anxiety they want it fixed, and rightfully so. The symptoms of anxiety are not pleasant and can negatively impact a person’s life.
Yet before we fix the symptom, it is far more useful to learn from the problem.
Before we take a pill, we need to ask some questions. Before we seek the solution, we need to identify the problem.
Symptoms are irritating but they are also gifts. They are our bodies telling us something is wrong. We are living out of balance and things needs to change.
When we focus on fixing the symptoms without understanding the causes, we might temporarily find relief but the underlying issues go unchanged. In most cases, whatever was causing the original anxiety will continue to exist, likely grow, and eventually make itself known in a different way.
While it is understandable to want a fix for anxiety, it is far more valuable to first explore the causes than to simply find a solution.
Assuming anxiety isn’t a direct result of a medical condition (i.e. heart attack or anxiety disorder), a person should personally reflect and work with a counselor to explore the possible causes for the anxiety.
Anxiety could signal a needed change in one or more of the following areas:
Relationships. We regularly downplay the role relationships play with physical symptoms. Many addictions, seasons of depression, and periods of anxiety are byproducts of struggling relationships. Anxiety can be a physical sign we are not properly connected with friends, spouses, parents, children, or other loved ones. When symptoms of anxiety express themselves, the first place to look is at our relationships.
Health. Whenever someone calls me because they are experiencing aspects of anxiety, I always ask them if they have had a physical. Not only do medical aspects need to be ruled out, many other characteristics of a healthy lifestyle should be explored. Changes in diet, increase in exercise, and focus on sleep can help us cope with stress. On many occasions we cannot lower the stress we experience, but we can better manage that stress by refusing to medicate with food, resting properly, and releasing the tension through meaningful exercise.
Work. Stress at work often takes a physical toll which we deny. We push aside physical symptoms of anxiety and never consider them as signs that changes need to be made at work. It could be that a tightening chest or shortness of breath are symptoms we are not properly connecting with co-workers, getting the assistance we need on issues at work, or properly living a work/rest balance. If you feel anxiety, take a serious look at your work schedule.
Spiritual. Symptoms of anxiety could be a sign we are living in denial of the big questions of life. Who am I? Why am I here? What will happen to me after I die? These questions are innate within humanity. Because the questions are difficult to answer, it is tempting to ignore them. While we might not consider them in the day-to-day living of life, these questions beg for answers. If we refuse to deal with them, they might deal with us through aspects of anxiety. If you have symptoms of anxiety, it could be because you are not at peace with yourself, others, or God.
Anxiety is part of life. No one can avoid it. While there are times in which anxiety is solely a medical condition and can only be treated as so, for most of us anxiety is a byproduct of something being unsettled in our lives. Finding a cure is important, but discovering the source of the anxiety is more fruitful. Fix it, but learn from it first.