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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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December 05, 2007

Anxiety Relief

By Mark Sisson
10 Comments

Anxiety Culture has a great piece on worry that really stirred my pot. Anxiety is a persistent problem in our culture, and it seems to strike the affluent and poor, healthy and unhealthy, male and female, young and old alike. Anxiety is a particular breed of that umbrella term we toss around, stress, and it’s really insidious for a number of reasons. For one thing, as the piece notes, we’re sort of acculturated to be worriers. Worrying is seen as a really responsible, adult thing to do. If you’re nonchalant and fancy free, something surely must be wrong with you. Just as we give great credit to being overworked, underpaid, stressed, tired, busy, and overwhelmed, we give worrying a lot of authority.

It’s not natural, it’s not healthy, it’s not even moral (our Puritan ancestors are turning in their graves). There is no great moral imperative or increased value that worrying can confer upon you, yet we all act as if this were the case. In fact, I think worrying is a pretty immature reaction to life’s challenges. And because worrying – anxiety – is so self-perpetuating, it can quickly derail into a vicious, even neurotic cycle.

Here’s the truth: worrying is misplaced emotion. I don’t know if it’s our culture’s emphasis on sparing feelings, but passivity and enabling seem to take the place of properly assertive actions, and worrying is part and parcel. If you are worrying about something, you are attempting to control what cannot be controlled through the course of your thoughts. But no amount of thinking and fretting can change whatever is causing you insecurity. In fact, by worrying, you are possibly shirking your responsibility. Instead of owning the situation creating our insecurity, we rely on the psychologically addictive cycle of anxiety. This grants the illusion of control without actually requiring action or responsibility. Perhaps we do this because we can’t bear to accept reality as it is; perhaps we feel that acknowledging our insecurity in a nonjudgmental manner is somehow relinquishing control (or perhaps deep down we just don’t want to do anything about our troubles). But remember, no emotion or thought is a tangible thing! They only hurt you if you make them the focus of your life.

For some of us, anxiety becomes so paralyzing, we need to seek professional help to get “unstuck”. But I believe many of us can free ourselves of the trap of anxiety if we simply own our feelings of insecurity and let them be, focusing instead on action. Worrying is a false sense of ownership over your problem. The truth is that by worrying, you are not controlling your insecurity at all – it is controlling you. And thus the cycle continues.

Photo Source: The Archer Pelican

Further Reading:

10 Forgotten Stress Relief Tips

When ‘Fight or Flight’ Meets the Modern World

Banish Nervousness Forever in 1 Easy Step

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TAGS:  mental health

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10 Comments on "Anxiety Relief"

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McFly
McFly
8 years 9 months ago
I disagree. I believe greatness comes from high anxiety. As sad as this is, some of our greatest achievements and scientific breakthroughs have come in times of WAR, stressful times no doubt. Freud’s theories have been poo poo’d of late, but his theory of sexual transmission has a good bit of merit; that is our sexual anxiety is often funneled into artistic outlets. In other words, anxiety could be responsible for the Sistine Chapel, half the Louvre, and pretty much everything Salvador Dali ever painted. Maybe this is what you are saying, that worrying WITHOUT ACTION is detrimental. And the… Read more »
Emanon
Emanon
4 years 2 months ago
Worrying may prompt action, but action does not require worry. Neither does perseverance. In addition, fighting worry and anxiety when they arise can keep your mind sharp. A certain amount of stress for a relatively brief duration can increase your cognitive abilities, but at a certain level, stress produces the opposite effect. In fact, many people worry a lot and do a lot. These people are at risk for developing chronic stress syndrome. Chronic stress contributes to many illnesses and makes them all worse. These aren’t people trying to beat the Nazis to the bomb; they’re people in more or… Read more »
Abraham
8 years 9 months ago

A great manager of mine from the past said, “You’ve got to worry about everything”. He was speaking from the context of being a software development manager. What that really means though is to think things through and take action on any question. I think what he really meant was, “You’ve got to move on every uncertainty.” That’s different from worrying. That’s getting down to business and addressing the issues.

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[…] Worrying is Misplaced Emotion […]

Chris - Zen to Fitness
7 years 11 months ago

This is a great post, Just dug it up today after some back tracking through your site and was very impressed. An updated version or Anxiety/Panic 101 should be a topic for the future on MDA……

SophieE
SophieE
4 years 4 months ago

This is a great article that I have bookmarked. I read over it whenever I feel anxious or like things are spiraling out of control.

Lindsey
Lindsey
4 years 1 month ago

Worrying is about as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum.

Animanarchy
Animanarchy
3 years 11 months ago

Which is never good a idea, based on every type of gum I’ve ever read the ingredients of.
Gum is good way to kill your gut flora and brain cells and get cancer.

Lila
Lila
3 years 6 months ago

Anxiety and panic attacks can develop if you are deficient of minerals like magnesium.

self improvement
2 years 6 months ago

I think worrieng can be somethimes a very helpfull tool. However, mostly it holds you back from making your dreams come true… you must difference between realistic worries and unrealistic worries. Realistic worries are warning signs.. unrealistic worries are signs of your lack of self confidence. Be a happy person, and worry less. Maybe if you worrry too much, you should not try to worry less but try to improve your self esteem.

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