Ways Anxiety Interferes With Your Life
You have difficulty completing everyday tasks- You have a list of things to get done but your racing mind has other plans for you. You have to call to make an appointment for something that you have been avoiding but again are unable to find the courage to pick up the phone. Even going to work is sometimes a challenge. You have plans to meet a friend for coffee but second guess it when it comes time to actually meet; what should I wear, where should we go, what will we say, what should I order, is there any way of getting out of this?! Routine is your best friend, because it allows you the opportunity to have a plan in place. You can be completely prepared which gives you a sense of comfort and not an explosion of ‘what ifs’ racing through your mind. In fact, if everyone would just be able to tell you exactly what to expect from each situation it would save you a lot of worrying and panic.
Unexpected social encounters are an automatic disaster. You are at the grocery store and spot an old friend from high school three aisles down. Suddenly, you wish that invisibility cloak from Harry Potter was real so that you can avoid him completely, even though he probably is not even that interested in catching up with you anyway (after all, you haven’t seen each other since high school!). Running into someone you haven’t seen in a while on the street? I have learned everything new about you that I need to know from your paragraph long Facebook post updates, so let’s please just uphold our super special social relationship, consisting of “Happy Birthday” and “Beautiful kids!” comments, and completely avoid each other in real life. Realizing you personally know your waiter at a restaurant—I’m actually not hungry after all. Uhhh..check, please?!
You are your own worst critic. You are harder on yourself than anyone else. You dwell on every encounter, decision, and aspect of your entire life, even if you know that it was not as detrimental as it may currently seem. You know it is not truly that big of a deal, and that deep down no one will remember and they probably were not even paying that close attention to whatever it was that you said or did in the first place. I have learned that people do not actually pay as much attention to you as you think they do. In fact, they are much more concerned with their own matters than anyone else’s. So why do we care so much?
Avoidance (of basically anything) is your go to. Your first reaction when someone asks you to do something for/with them is “no”. It is not for lack of trying, caring, or due to laziness. But instead, it is simply just your brain taking a stand against yet another anxiety filled encounter. Do you want to go get lunch? “No.” Can you pick up this book for me while you’re at the store? “Nope.” Can you meet for coffee, a meeting, or come to my party? “No, nope, and no thanks but let me know where to mail your present!” Even though you eventually push yourself to agree, it is fun to entertain the idea of not having to deal with any of these type of events, just for a moment! So your initial reaction is to completely avoid any type of extra anxiety or extra attention on yourself. Just no.
When your plans get cancelled you throw a mini-party. You really did not want to go in the first place, and even if you thought you did you have since changed your mind at least three times. Though you wasted countless minutes contemplating on what to wear, where to go, what to say, how to get there, etc., you are still thrilled that you no longer have to attend. You pop the champagne, put on your party hat and throw some confetti (that you have secretly stored for just this type of celebration). For now you can put your mind at ease, put on the comfiest of clothes, lay across the couch, and watch Netflix. The Gilmore Girls reruns aren’t going to watch themselves, after all.
You overthink everything. Every decision you make is basically wrong on some level. And the fact that you know how ridiculous your thought process is does not deter you from thinking this way. Did I shut the oven? Did I unplug the hair straightener? Did I really say that at lunch today?! Did I under tip the waitress? Did she think I meant something else by that text I sent? Am I wearing too much perfume? Did I remember to put on deodorant? Did I do this correctly? Is what I’m wearing okay? Did I just cut that guy off? Am I driving too slow/fast? Was that joke I said funny? Did I book the right place? Am I going to be late? Am I going to be too early? Is my make-up okay? Uh oh my stomach is growling—is it as loud as it sounds in my head? Is everyone staring at me? Can I cancel these plans without everyone getting upset with me?
You have trouble sleeping. You seriously wish there was an off switch for your brain! You lie awake in bed at night, sometimes for hours, just pondering the day’s decisions, choices, and encounters. When you are through with that you begin to think about tomorrow’s endeavors and the anxiety sets in once again, keeping you up for another hour. The only way to shut your brain off is to force yourself to think about anything that is not anxiety driven, which is seriously limited. This is where you start to mindlessly flip through Facebook, watch cat videos, and play Candy Crush—anything that will completely exhaust your mind and distract it from overthinking, fears, and judgments. Finally you drift off to sleep, only to wake up another two to three times before your morning alarm goes off.
Procrastination and Indecisiveness are both givens. Because you truly believe that any decision you make will be a wrong one, you avoid making decisions of any kind for as long as you possibly can. These decisions could be anything from where to go to college to what you want for dinner that night. For some reason at that moment, ordering the wrong thing off the menu feels as if it could truly ruin your whole day, or worse—your life. There is no reasoning behind the madness—you just know that the wrong decision could lead you to have to live with the consequences whether they be failure or hunger.
Physical Symptoms are a part of the package. Panic Attacks, sweaty palms, nausea, and a knot in your stomach are just a few of the symptoms you may experience with anxiety. It can be physically detrimental to you. It can sometimes cause you to gain weight, lose weight, shake, feel jittery, tap your foot/hand/leg repeatedly without even realizing it, have headaches, migraines, sweat, feel flush, have difficulty concentrating or feel as though your mind is cloudy, become nauseous, feel tense, become dizzy, get chills, have a rapid heartbeat, feel restless or irritable, and have an overall nervous or daunting feeling that seems to hover over you for a good portion (or all) of your day. *Some ways to cope with this are to designate a portion of every day to something relaxing and stress free, such as watching TV, practicing yoga, or participating in mindfulness—an effective practice of positive psychology.*
Standing in the background hoping no one notices you is your utmost goal in life. When you do work up the courage to participate in real life—parties, outings with friends or family, school or business meetings or events, etc., you are unable to concentrate on anything else other than praying and hoping that you do not get singled out, called upon, or asked to contribute. Small gatherings may allow you to feel comfortable enough to participate a little but only to a certain extent and anything unexpected causes you to curl up into your turtle shell and hide. In fact, these encounters will start the whole vicious cycle of keeping you up at night, overthinking everything, keep you from agreeing to participate in anything else scary in the future, cause you to dwell on the occurrences for the rest of the day (or week), and of course whirl up all of those fun physical symptoms we spoke about—a knot in your stomach, sweaty everything, a bright red face, trouble thinking, and a rapid beating heart. But deep down, you know you have to get through these encounters, because yes, life is a challenge, but it is both fun and exciting, and you want to live your life to the fullest! =)