Today’s article is brought to you by AG contributor Bryan3000. Bryan and I have been exchanging ideas for weeks and I’ve enjoyed those conversations. I think that you’ll enjoy his perspective as well.
— Paul Dooley
So, it’s another Sunday afternoon and I’m lucky enough to be spending some time at home, playing with my little four year old girl and watching football. Life doesn’t get much better. That said, as I sat there… I had some of the usual slow-boiling anxiety that seems to just hang around some days for no particular reason. Attempting to use the things I’ve learned, I did my best to simply accept the symptoms and go about my day.
My little girl also was dealing with her own health issues that day. She had another cold, which seem to come on an almost weekly basis at this age. Her forehead felt a little hot, her nose was runny and she occasionally looked up from her toys to cough a few hacking coughs. As I sat dealing with my own discomfort, it dawned on me that she must have been dealing with a good deal of her own. Her outward symptoms surely weren’t the only ones.
These colds almost always come with a host of uncomfortable effects on our heads, bodies, moods, etc. Sure, she seemed a little crabby at times, but she kept right on focusing on the little play-set and animal figures she had set up… mouthing words for them to talk to each other, and creating her own little fictional world. She was completely immersed in what she was doing.
All of those symptoms, and yet no complaining from her. It appeared to be the furthest thing from her mind. Now, a cynical mind might look at this situation and assume that she’s just a child. She doesn’t know the real dangers of health issues. She’s too young to have developed an actual sense of self-awareness with regards to her health.
But, there’s another way to look at this. This child of four years has certainly dealt with sickness before. She’s been to the doctor. She’s gotten shots. (She just loves those!) She’s aware of medication and sometimes even claims to need it. (Likely because it’s cherry-flavored and sugary.) She’s not oblivious to the concept of illness. Instead, she’s just simply not that impressed with it. Of course, at some point… she’ll have a rough flu or illness that does slow her down. It’s part of growing up. But right now, she’s got a view of her illness that just might be one we can all learn from.
Now, I’m certainly not the first to suggest that we’re larger than our afflictions. This is a well-covered topic. However, it may be a concept that we need to remind ourselves of, and on a regular basis. The reality of my daughter and I sitting in that living room that day was that her illness was likely a much bigger threat to her than my simmering anxiety was
In fact, by this point if you’ve read or listened to enough material from this very website, you know anxiety symptoms aren’t dangerous at all. Yet, there I was doing my best to accept and flow with my symptoms,struggling at times as she sat care-free playing with her toys and urging me to do the same.
The problem with panic and anxiety is that by its very nature, it feels so much larger in scope than it really is. The symptoms come on in such a way that it affects that very brain mechanisms that estimate a perceived threat. It’s function is to convince us that we are in trouble. As we all know, that is its biological purpose and is part of all of our make-up. Yet, if you’re reading this, you also probably know that anxiety itself is not a real threat. As Dr. Claire Weeks put it, “don’t be bluffed by a thought.”
You are bigger than anxiety. The reality on a short-term basis is that anxiety is probably far-less dangerous than the common cold and certainly less dangerous than the flu. (No, you shouldn’t be afraid of the flu, either!) We all need to remind ourselves every day just how big we are and just how small anxiety really is.
Think of your body, mind, spirit, and all of the things that comprise your being. Think of what you’ve accomplished and want to accomplish. Think of the mind you’ve been blessed with and the positive attributes you’ve been given, physically. We all have them, regardless of our conditions. Think of the complex tasks your body completes every day without any effort on your part. Think of all the illnesses your body has defeated over your lifetime. We’re all giants in so many regards. Anxiety pales in comparison.
No one else sees your anxiety. It doesn’t even make your nose run! People see you, the giant entity that you are. We all need to give ourselves this daily reminder so the picture becomes (and remains) crystal clear. If we can all view ourselves as bigger than the problem, perhaps we can eventually deal with anxiety as easily as a child deals with a cold.
As for me, I did manage to work through the symptoms and enjoy much of the day. I’ll now remember that Sunday as a special time spent with my child, not for the bothersome physical symptoms. I have my struggles like we all do, but life only offers so many of those moments. I don’t intend to let anxiety take them away from me. I hope you won’t, either.
Disclaimer: Bryan3000 is a guest contributor to Anxiety Guru, not a medical doctor. Please consult your physician with any specific questions regarding anxiety and related medical issues.