Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
5 Dec

Anxiety Relief

anxiety 1Anxiety 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

Subscribe to Mark’s Daily Apple feeds

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. 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 rationality of worrying certainly seems silly as you’ve described it(accurately) as perseverating over what cannot be controlled. But I believe perseverating is necessary and good. Of course, if I’m arguing semantics, well then, boo on me.

    McFly wrote on December 5th, 2007
    • 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 less normal circumstances who think (and are told) that all their problems require them to worry.

      Personally, I’d rather go to the mountains than see a Salvador Dali exhibit, but to each his own.

      Emanon wrote on July 2nd, 2012
  2. 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.

    Abraham wrote on December 6th, 2007
  3. 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……

    Chris - Zen to Fitness wrote on October 1st, 2008
  4. 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.

    SophieE wrote on May 7th, 2012
  5. Worrying is about as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum.

    Lindsey wrote on August 9th, 2012
    • 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.

      Animanarchy wrote on October 23rd, 2012
  6. Anxiety and panic attacks can develop if you are deficient of minerals like magnesium.

    Lila wrote on March 6th, 2013
  7. 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.

    self improvement wrote on March 2nd, 2014

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

© 2014 Mark's Daily Apple

Subscribe to the Newsletter and Get a Free Copy
of Mark Sisson's Fitness eBook and more!