Do you worry too much? And how much anxiety is too much? To answer these questions, you may need to deepen your understanding of stress and anxiety, and how they help and hurt you.
Stress and anxiety do have their place. They push us to make necessary changes in our lives. They signal when we may be in danger, and inspire us to take action to get ourselves out of danger. (This danger can be any type of threat to our physical or emotional well-being, from not doing well on a test to losing a job to losing a friend.) In this way, feelings of stress and anxiety are healthy and necessary; without them, we may not act in our own best interest.
How Much Stress and Anxiety is Too Much?
The point at which worry and anxiety become unhealthy is when they stop pushing us to act. This can either be because we are worried about things that are not under our control or that have not happened yet, or because we are immobilized by the stress and anxiety we feel, rather than being inspired to act. Whatever the reason, this worry and anxiety can cause a lot of stress on our minds and bodies, and affect our health.
Dealing With Anxiety
So now that you understand the nature of stress and anxiety a little better, we can focus on eliminating them. The best remedy for anxiety is self-examination and action. Here are some easy steps to follow: First, look inside. What is causing you to worry? Be specific. (For some situations, this may be readily apparent; other times, you may really have to think about it.) Writing in a journal or talking to a friend about it can help you sort out your feelings. Then, decide what action, if any, should be taken. Try to figure out what part of the situation is under your control. Assess the problem to see whether the threat is real, or if you are blowing it out of proportion. If the problem is just a hypothetical situation or a worst-case scenario, decide if it is really likely that your fears will actually come to fruition. Next, come up with a plan that tackles the part of the problem that is under your control. Taking action to protect yourself is a good way to channel nervous energy and provides reassurance against your fears. It is, in most cases, the healthiest response to realistic fears and worries. Once you have done all you can, just let it go. Like everything in life, this is easier said than done, but with practice, you can get pretty adept at letting go of excessive levels of stress and anxiety. You can do this by focusing on something else, reminding yourself of the solutions you have worked on, or trying some stress management strategies that can help you feel more centered and at peace, such as prayer or meditation, journaling about your feelings, or listening to music. Getting regular exercise has been found to be especially helpful in combating the physical effects of anxiety and stress. If you still find yourself concerned on a constant basis, you may want to talk to someone about it, either a friend, or a professional, depending on how severe your worry is and how much it is affecting your overall stress level. You can also learn more about your anxiety level with this Anxiety Test, and find more resources for dealing with anxiety at About's Anxiety Disorders site.
Illustration from Clyde Mendes column at MetroSexual LA