This post was inspired by a conversation between Neil Strauss and Dr. Christopher Ryan on Tangentially Speaking. Check it out!
When you are dis-eased, you are ripe for disease. So, try not to be anxious about that.
Every year I become aware of a new anxiety stored in my mind or body. I am, after all, a multi-layered psychedelic onion with a peachy core. I used to be afraid of contracting AIDS in public swimming pools by way of some bleeding child. I also used to think that I could contract cancer by breathing.
Now there’s *some* truth in both of those fears, but they had more to do with the fear of death than anything else. While I was in that state of mind, my sleep consistently suffered, my stomach felt twisted, and my ability to be awesome was eliminated.
I’ve since gotten over it and can add taking a swim in a river that flows with raw sewage, and five times caught fire, to my list of accomplishments. Thanks, Cuyahoga!
Of course that wasn’t the end of it. I used to be anxious about eating because I thought I would get fat. In 2nd grade, this skeleton-thin skater called me “Timo Ways A lot.” Bless him.
Later in life I tried being a vegetarian but soon learned about neurotoxins in soy. Then I learned how soy has an estrogenic impact in men. I didn’t want boobs. No matter what diet I chose, there was something to be anxious about.
It’s a never ending cycle.
If we were 100% aware of all the anxiety we held in our physical and mental states, we’d be on the ground gripped with pain and walking through life in a state of psychosis.
I want to argue that many of us actually are. The symptoms are familiar: stomach pain, headaches, lack of sleep, an inability to deal with a tweet that disagrees with you.
The symptoms of anxiety are also sometimes ironic.
How many people do you know – yourself included- have experienced anxiety about things that are supposed to help them?
Have you met a health nut who is so obsessed with their health that the anxiety they experience about maintaining their health offsets the benefits of their lifestyle?
How about the gluten sensitive person who is so obsessed with being gluten free that they develop anxiety about whether or not their food contains gluten. The anxiety results in lost sleep, stress, and indigestion further affecting the stomach’s ability to digest.
Or the person who has fear of fat, the fear manifests as anxiety in the stomach, impacting the stomach’s ability to properly digest their foods and results in an impossibility to lose weight. I’m not a doctor, but I talked to a doctor this week on the podcast who sees this often.
This behavior brings to mind a familiar lesson:
Anxiety can be so strong, that the very thing that we fear manifests as reality. We become what we fear most.
And we can actually forget that we are experiencing anxiety.
American neuroscientist Joseph E. Ledoux discovered it is possible to experience all the physiological indications of anxiety without knowing that you have anxiety. What a trip.
So what can we do?
We have crazy compulsions as people. Some of us cry if fish oil touches our vegan meal, others of us can’t wear the same jeans two days in a row because of sinister jean germs. And others might roll on the ground in convulsions if a cracker that fell on the floor ends up on their plate.
The first step might be to recognize what anxiety – dis-ease – looks like.
Let’s go back to Mr. Ledoux. In his book Anxious he pointed out 6 traits that anxious people exhibit:
(1) increased attention to threats;
(2) deficient discrimination of threat and safety;
(3) increased avoidance of possible threats;
(4) inflated estimates of threat likelihood and consequences;
(5) heightened reactivity to threat uncertainty; and
(6) disrupted cognitive and behavioral control in the presence of threats.”
When I read this I think of the person who gets infuriated by what they see on Twitter, perceives statistically insignificant populations of people as the greatest threat to their life (terrorists, the KKK, etc.), and resorts to pulling out the gun for a marital dispute. It’s hardcore.
Recognizing, then calling out where the anxiety is a good step. Once we have recognition of anxiety we can then find the help that we need.
For more information see this article about breathing.
Also, checkout my podcast with Dr. Shawn Postma. We discuss techniques, tools and strategies to cope with anxiety.
Picking up what I’m throwing down? Join the inner circle of psychedelic warriors to be in the know first, and for your Friday Five.