Okay, maybe not all anxiety. Anxiety in the face of seeing a truck flying toward you at a hundred miles per hour will probably speed you up and make you get the hell off the road.
At some point in human history, all anxiety probably had a purpose. Make sure the fire doesn’t die, don’t be too loud so you don’t attract predators, get back to the hut before dark.
Anxiety in the face of survival and self-preservation is important, obviously, it always has been and always will be.
However, I think we can mostly agree that the majority of the anxiety we feel day to day in the modern world (at least in the west) is unnecessary and often harmful.
Being late to work or school makes us anxious, even though it’s nowhere close to being life threatening.
Being ridiculed or rejected in social situations often leaves us feeling pangs of anxiety, even though the true consequences are trivial.
Sometimes we’re anxious, chronically, for long periods of time, months, even years, about things that are so physically distant as to be virtually nonexistent subjectively.
I’m specifically referring to the mass media, like news outlets and football games, soap operas and crime thrillers.
Granted, being anxious in a dramatic way, via a good movie, is a great feeling, and knowledge about how the world works and what’s going on in the far corners of our planet is certainly important.
But binge consumption of television shows, 24 hour news networks, and a seemingly ever-increasing amount of obnoxious football fans leaves chronic anxiety in its wake.
And don’t get me started on the super-stimuli, like sugar, porn and video games. There are things that we do in the modern world that are so incredibly stimulating that we get desensitized to the simpler things in life, like exercise, social interactions and healthy food.
We are then only able to find pleasure in these specific substances and activities, which leaves us feeling anxious and empty the rest of the time.
Mind and matter aren’t as distant as we like to believe. What goes on in our mental space, and in our emotional space, affects our body, and vice versa.
This is obvious through a little self inquiry. Discomfort in the body, like feeling to hot or being in pain, has a very noticeable effect on our concentration and mood.
Likewise, as anyone who has ever dealt with depression or anxiety will know, a heavy or manic mood will destroy your ambitions and leave you feeling lethargic and weak physically.
The reason I’m drawing attention to this is to illustrate the point that anxiety literally slows you down, like a weight on your shoulders. Physically.
Anxiety is exhausting mentally and physically. We all know this. After feeling anxious all day in anticipation of a musical performance or making a speech, when it’s finally over, we crash down in post-anxious bliss, ready to chill out and go to sleep.
Therefore, minimizing or eradicating anxiety in our lives will leave us with way more energy to work on the things that truly matter to us, like expansion of consciousness, exercise, study and family.
Now, how this eradication of anxiety is to be achieved is simpler than it seems, although it will most likely require a lot of time and energy. I haven’t yet been able to fully rid myself of my own anxiety, so I can’t really say how long it will take.
Anxiety seems all-encompassing while it’s got its claws dug deep in your mind, but the mere act of becoming fully conscious of it, becoming aware of body sensations and mental activity, is often enough to calm you down and allow you to deconstruct the situation.
This is mindfulness. A word that’s thrown about a lot these days. There are good reasons for its growing popularity, but I feel like it’s often misrepresented as something that you do, whereas, the way I see it, it’s the direct opposite.
Mindfulness is learning to not do, to not think, and to just perceive what’s going on directly.
I’ll keep you updated on my own deconstruction of anxiety, and I hope you’ll leave a comment if this seems at all relevant to your own life.
Until next time, much love.
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