published Sunday, November 3rd, 2013

Harpe: Dealing with constant anxiety over having feelings of anxiety

By Corin Harpe

All of us have particular issues that adversely affect our lives — insomnia, fatigue, a nervous tic. They might not affect us all the time, but they place a damper on our lives.

Mine is anxiety.

Most it comes from over-thinking situations in an effort to prepare for a potentially bad outcome. I have a need to control situations that are usually impossible to control.

Most of it comes from circumstances where I have been surprised -- a sudden breakup, a disappointing grade, doing badly on a project, even the loss of a loved one. I try my best to predict situations to avoid being hurt, but the anxiety produced in prevention is usually more damaging than the actual events themselves.

I tend to dwell on the small details so much so that I usually create meaning that wasn't intended. For example, when one of my friends makes a comment that seems slightly out of character, or their tone is more negative than usual, worry soon sets in and I stress over losing them as a friend.

In the back of my mind, I know I am obsessing and also that my thinking is very immature, believing that a look or a tone could have such fundamental meaning. But then I remember the times that I did lose a friend or a boyfriend when I brushed off the signs.

I live in a constant battle about knowing when I should worry or if I'm worrying too much. I then worry about whether or not I am worrying too much or not worrying enough.

Take right now. I am on vacation and I know that I should relax by sleeping late, watching movies and traveling, but there is a part of me that thinks I should be trying to get ahead in my career.

Even when I was in school, breaks were sometimes more stressful than they were worth because of my anxiety. Should I get ahead in school? Or should I relax?

Over the years, I have learned that I do better with a mental break because it lowers my anxiety level, but I still tend to second guess myself, then fear regretting my decision.

Anxiety is the downside of caring and ambition and, unlike some people who find worrying productive, I absolutely hate it. As my anxiety level increases, I find myself almost becoming physically ill and unable to concentrate on anything but my current worry. And there are certain things that magnify my anxiety. Drinking too much coffee, I guess because it speeds up my thought processes, is a sure recipe for disaster.

Even though my anxiety seems to get worse over the years, I have not felt the need to see a doctor or be medicated. I hope to work through the issue on my own. I am trying to find productive ways to channel my anxiety because I know that, over time, built-up stress will wear me down both physically and mentally, and I will have literally worried my life away.

Contact Corin Harpe at corinharpe@gmail.com.

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