Mental health often takes a backseat to physical health and the two are often put into two distinct boxes, appearing to be unrelated. If this has been your belief, let me try to help paint a picture that can help clarify the two. Philosophical theory suggests a mind-body dualism, where the mind and body are two distinct entities. So, yes the two things are different, but they are related. My stress and anxiety have caused me physical maladies (discussed in previous posts).
We all have a little voice in our head that prompts us to worry and to have fear. This voice pops up out of nowhere. It also plays back things you read (as it probably is doing at this moment) and it allows us to hear our thoughts. This voice, as I have read in numerous self-help books, is not you. Being able to realize this separation is the key to sanity. You can shut up that voice (trust me, I am still working on it) and you can choose to ignore what it has to say. When I have thoughts of worry and anxiety, I try to just say “ok I hear you but you won’t take over my emotional well-being right now.” Acknowledge it is there, otherwise it will keep pestering you like a child on a road trip, “Are we there YET?!” You can’t always ignore it away. But you can choose to fight those thoughts and realize things will be ok and if there is really something to worry about then your intuition will kick in to help sort out what worrisome thoughts are actually cause for alarm. If you still can’t grasp this concept, what helped me out was this….
Let me try to explain by rephrasing what Descartes told us, “I think therefore I am” but it is something more like this, “I am aware that I am thinking, therefore I am.”
I am far from perfect, I am a work in progress, but I am here to share my journey in battling this anxiety. People can have moments when they feel anxious, like when they have to present in front of a large group of people, but that does not mean they suffer from anxiety. Suffering from anxiety is an everyday occurrence. I did not even realize that my main problem is…my anxiety. I have a constant badgering in my head when I have a deadline or I feel pain. I can think of any and every possible scenario (real or far-fetched) that could come about from any singular event. I feel that the more I have learned, the more fearful I have become. I don’t know what came first, the fear or the anxiety. I think my anxiety perpetuates my fears, it amplifies them, it gives them a soap box to shout from. And circularly, my fears perpetuate my anxiety…the more I am afraid the more anxious I become.
My girlfriend told me the other day, “you know, all these issues and pains and medical things that pop up are NOT what you should be concerned about, it’s your ANXIETY that you should be trying to fix.” Or something to this effect. I honestly did not even realize that the underlying issue was not the fact that I need to see a doctor for pains, etc., but that my obsessiveness and anxiety over the whole ordeal was the real issue. Shit happens to people everyday, all the time. If I flip out over the small stuff and over-dramatize things, what happens if something big were to happen? How could I deal with it?
No matter where you are in your recovery, your life, your mindset, it is never too late to work on your mental health. Yes, physical health matters and doing physical activities can help alleviate your stresses. But, I have found that chronic stress and anxiety needs to be battled at the source, not simply fought at the extremities. If you keep treating the symptoms, you’ll never heal. Find the root of your issues and dig them up, as uncomfortable as that process may be. If you need the help of a professional, seek out a cognitive behavioral therapist or a counselor or a therapist because you need to change things by learning the tools to cope and fight the anxiety. Reach out to a close friend or family member and confide in them.
Charlie Brown said it right, “my anxieties have anxieties.” I hope you find my journey to be helpful for you. Comment below if you would like to hear me do a podcast!! Thanks!