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Anxiety: Our Brain's Biggest Practical Joke

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Very soon from now, I will be flying across the continent to California. My flight is round trip and will make one connection both ways. If I do my math correctly, I will have to manage 4 total take-offs and 4 landings, round trip.

Despite the odds and the proverbial “You’re safer in a plane than you are in a car,” my mind instantly reverts to a 5 minute free fall of horror and charred metal.

Now, if that wasn’t enough, thinking about the fact that not only will I have to fly regardless of my fear of crashing, I have no money saved for this trip and no idea how I will get any money from now until the time I leave, I am completely destroyed with angst. My stomach aches. My back aches. I am short tempered, and I have no idea how I am to survive the next few weeks of my life…

Ladies and gentlemen, let me present to you: ANXIETY

Here’s a new scenario:

You’re a first year college student. You had decent grades in high school, but you really don’t know what to expect in the university classroom. You’ve heard that it is exceptionally grueling, and you know that if you flunk out, it’s your parents’ dollar or your blood and sweat repaying student loans. Not to mention, you haven’t met your roommate, and you are not sure how you are going to manage living with a freak. Change is an alarming thing when you don’t have the certainty and comforts of home as a form of relief if your life is terrible at school. Am I right?

So, you panic, however that manifests itself; your mind and core are twisted in knots.

That’s an easy call… anxiety.

After probing into the depths of my soul as a result of my numerous recent freak-outs, I came to a conclusion that I would like to share with my fellow worriers:

Anxiety is nothing but a practical joke played on our brain.

It is an illusion caused by fears of things we are not really certain of.

Are we afraid? Yes.
Are our fears justified? It depends.

If we see the 200 ft. tidal wave approaching, our is fear is justified, as death is imminent. If the wrath of God crashes down on the earth tomorrow, we should be afraid.

However, none of the fears I mentioned in my bit about flying and the student’s scenario come from things that are certain, thus, they are not justified. They are silly, in fact. My anxiety and the student’s anxiety are delusional or a distorted perspective on what I perceive to be probable, but my measurement of probability isn’t reality. Make sense?

In other words, consistently focusing on worst-case scenarios produces anxious patterns of thinking, habitual worrying. Anxiety acts like a giant suitcase of fear harnessed to our back. It causes more harm and certainly is not the solution for our motivation to do well and make good decisions. It hinders and crushes our very nature.

I was aghast when I read that over half of the current generation of college students suffer from anxiety and depression. In an excerpt of “Depression and Anxiety Among College Students,” By Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S , I read students’ overall anxiety-causing issues aren’t as a result of loss or tragedy, but of life transitions, change, social problems, and academic expectation.

During college, “students deal with a unique amount of stressors,” said Knowles. Specifically, college calls for a significant transition, where “students experience many firsts, including new lifestyle, friends, roommates, exposure to new cultures and alternate ways of thinking,” said Hilary Silver, M.S.W., a licensed clinical social worker and mental health expert for Campus Calm."

“If students do not feel adequate or prepared to cope with the new environment of a college campus, they could easily become susceptible to depression and anxiety,” said Harrison Davis, Ph.D."

Could it be that they are afraid of…should I say it, RESPONSIBILITY? Isn’t that adult-hood? Is that a justifiable fear? How in the world did our parents and grandparents ever survive wars, an economic depression, and great loss if today’s college student can hardly survive college without checking into a health clinic for anxiety?

In summary, worry transforms us into incapable, immovable beings, like a frightened horse, completely rigid and obstinate. “As water reflects a face, so a man’s heart reflects the man,” an old proverb states; likewise, fear in our hearts will be reflected in our lives.

Neither you nor I have control of the future. We just don’t. If you believe you have control over your future, you are experiencing multiple delusions, in fact, which is a problem all in its own.

The choices we make will contribute to our future, but the overall outcome to our lives is not up to us. The sooner we relax our death grips on the reigns of our unjustifiable fears, the more at ease we become about uncertainty, and the less anxiety we have.

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