Anxiety, that dreaded feeling. It feels like having to climb a mountain with a bag of rocks on your back. It feels heavy and what is worst, unnecessary. It’s funny to think, retrospectively, how you act when you are anxious. At a party, for example, standing there, awkwardly, believing that you need to be having fun, or at least appearing to be having fun.
I feel it a lot especially when I’m in social situations and I’m standing alone with no one to talk to. Funny how you go all over your head, thinking that all the people around are totally thinking that you are a friendless weirdo and should not come near you. Which makes you think about you being alone, taking you even more into your head, making you more and more anxious. I believe you have an idea of what I’m talking about.
“To venture causes anxiety, but not to venture is to lose one’s self…. And to venture in the highest is precisely to be conscious of one’s self.”
― Søren Kierkegaard
My simple, stoic backed solution for anxiety is the phrase: No big deal, I’ve got this and act or if not possible, as Epictetus said, bear and forbear.
Living without anxiety feels like a dream. The type of dream you enjoy, maybe walking on the clouds in the sky, or flying, or kissing someone you like.
Remember when you were a kid? How did it feel to go to a party? How did it feel to go to Disneyland? Compare it to your today. Is it too different?
I remember that when I was a kid, going to a party caused genuine excitement in me. I was excited to see friends and girls and play around. But now, whenever I’m invited to a party, I get anxious. Anxious about not knowing anyone, about the people that are going to be there, you know the drill.
It’s as if adulthood comes with anxiety. And it does. You have bills to pay, you want a nice partner, you want to fit in and so on and so on. Plus, not knowing what truly matters, like a coherent and robust philosophy of life (thanks stoicism), makes up for a society filled with anxious people that’s anxious for not being able to keep up with the Joneses.
Barnes and Noble reported an increase in self-help anxiety books of 26% compared to last year and 83% in finding happiness. Why would that be?
We are hungry for that feeling of excitement and peace. You cannot be excited about life if you are thinking all the time about the terrible ways that you are either going to die, be judged by other people or not being able to keep up with the “dreams” we are constantly being sold on Instagram, Facebook, and TV.
I know, I know all of this, you might find yourself saying and you know what? But how can I end this bloody anxiety of mine?
You are right. It’s not as if I can just turn off, like a light switch, anxiety. I understand it’s impossible. But one thing that can help is to understand it.
No big deal
Let’s talk about what anxiety is.
Another way you can call anxiety is fear. Fear of being judged or being run over by a car. Fear is not bad, of course. It is due to fear that you are standing here, right now, alive.
You need fear to survive.
Now, general anxiety, the kind that leaves you speechless at a party and doesn’t let you have any fun, is most certainly not ok. Still, hardly you are going to be able to get rid of it just like that. So what you want to do is to silence it down, gradually.
How do you do this?
With philosophy, and practicing courage.
With the use of reason and the relief that understanding gives you.
Understanding gives you peace. For example, understanding that we are all going through something similar to you, in higher or lower degrees, already calms you down, you are not alone, trust me.
Now, to better understand anxiety, we need to see it for what it is, fear. We can now say that anxiety is a problem of courage. It is not wanting to face life and all its components, it is not wanting to face anxiety itself.
Life can be dangerous, in fact it is dangerous. Anxiety wants to deal with face of life by stopping you from doing what you think is dangerous.
Fear is always saying NO. Always stopping you. Don’t do this, don’t do that, don’t talk to that girl, don’t talk about how you really feel. Don’t take the trip, don’t, don’t.
It basically wants you to live a fucking boring life.
The way you fight this is by saying more yes, regardless of how you feel. Anxiety is not going to go anywhere, but, if you say to yourself: no worries, no big deal, I’ve got this, enough times, and take action on what you are afraid of, you are going to start to quench it down.
“Caretake this moment. Immerse yourself in its particulars. Respond to this person or that person, this challenge, this deed. Quit the evasions. Stop giving yourself needless trouble. It is time to really live; to fully inhabit the situation you happen to be in right now. You are not some disinterested bystander. Participate. Exert yourself.” — Epictetus
Presence and courage
This works because it gives you presence.
It takes you away from the terrible monsters of your mind to the not so terrible monsters of actual reality. It gives you back to the excitement of living. It makes life more fun and engaging. It fills you with meaning and desire to know more and do more. Courage and action are addictive, difficult at first, but addictive later.
Now, this does not mean you have to say yes to everything. Look at a drunkard, for example, a drunkard is courageous, no doubt about that, but he lacks prudence. The prudence that a healthy dose of fear gives you. You need to know how to balance your courage with your fear to achieve prudence.
But most of the time, you will want to say yes to whatever, even if just a little, for it will train you to better deal with reality. Don’t ever say no to reality, say yes, deal with it and it will work with you instead of against you.
You’ve got this.
“True happiness is to enjoy the present without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied, for he that is wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not” — Seneca
Thanks for reading,
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