Calm is closer than you think.
It's exhausting, preparing for a danger you can't even see.
In the right doses, anxiety is a blessing. It helps keep us safe, motivates us, and helps us behave in line with our values. But when anxiety has dominated for too long, you get saturated in it, as though the stress is coursing through your veins. It’s more than just ruminating thoughts. It’s like your body is possessed with worry, like a frightened rabbit flinching at shadows.
When you’re constantly hypervigilant, it can feel like there is no safe place in the whole world. Preparing for threat all the time makes it impossible to switch into a social frame of mind, so relationships often suffer. You might even start to read into things that people say, convinced that the very worst is on its way. Your focus becomes so fixated on locating the threat and staying safe that you have nothing left for anything else.
It’s tempting to hide from the world. But it starts to feel like your life is hostage to the anxiety, and you become aware of just how much you’re missing out. Perhaps you rely on alcohol, or drugs, or prescription medication just to leave the house. But soon you find that these ‘fixes’ are holding you hostage too. You pray for sleep but it rarely comes. When it does, it’s from pure exhaustion, and not the restorative kind. Weary, you might start to wonder if you’re losing your mind.
You’re not crazy.
Learning to recognise it early, develop ways to keep grounded, and address the factors that cause debilitating anxiety can bring enormous relief. Thankfully, we understand more about anxiety and what works than ever before, and with the help of therapy, people often re-establish a state of calm that they had forgotten was possible.