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Everyday Anxiety vs. Every Day Anxiety

The difference between these terms, “Every day anxiety” and “everyday anxiety,” is only one singular space. However, that space represents an entire spectrum of challenges that dealing with anxiety might bring to someone’s life.

Most would agree that we want to live a life full of meaning and purpose rather than a life driven by fear. We hear the word “anxiety” as the enemy to our life worth living, and we may be quick to think of it as a problem that requires solving. Contrary to what many believe, however, everyday anxiety can be a normal response to an event or situation that causes worry. Anxiety can even be helpful at times to motivate us into action or help us steer clear of risk.

While everyday anxiety can be a normal part of life, “every day,” prolonged, or chronic worry can become unmanageable if left untreated. When we have difficulties effectively coping with our anxiety, symptoms of worry can develop into an anxiety disorder, which can interfere with our ability to live life to the fullest.

What is Anxiety?

The American Psychological Association (APA) defines anxiety as “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like blood pressure.” When our focus is on what could be painful or scary about a situation, our thoughts will seek to problem-solve in order to find clarity and secure a best-case scenario to forge forward. We will feel uncomfortable sensations in our body as our brain picks up on these cues, which our brain interprets as threatening.
Anxiety causes us to pay more attention to things that could go wrong—things often outside our control. This increased attention and resulting “mental gymnastics” arise from the brain’s tendency towards seeking safety and avoiding danger, especially in situations where the outcome is unknown.

Everyday Anxiety is Evolutionary

The brain’s ability to detect danger is a sophisticated fight-or-flight system that evolved over millions of years ago to keep us protected and alive. Steven Hayes, the creator of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy- a gold standard treatment model in treating anxiety and depression- likens the survival function of everyday anxiety to the phrase “avoid eating lunch so as to avoid being lunch.” His point is that as we evolved, our need to stay alive superseded our other needs.

This “system” is still relatively young when we think about how long our species has been around. This is especially true in comparison to new demands brought on by modern technology, which challenge the way we perceive, organize, and process information. So when we feel frustrated by our anxious feelings and thoughts, it’s helpful to remember that this ability is responsible for getting us this far into the modern world.

handwritten note says am I good enough? is an example of everyday anxiety

Temporary Discomfort for Higher Gain

For instance, if we have a first date after a divorce planned, we might be feeling really nervous leading up to the date. Questions floating around our mind might sound like, “am I ready?”, “what if they don’t like me?”, “what if I don’t like them?”, “what if I get invested and it doesn’t work out and I get hurt all over again?”, “what if I never find a partner and I end up alone.”

These thoughts will naturally make us feel uncomfortable in our body as we engage with them or ruminate and may become so overwhelming that they make us feel like avoiding the situation altogether. We may feel hot, sweaty, and shaky as we are getting ready and become distracted by our thoughts. We may take these symptoms as cues that this idea was all wrong for us and we should just stay home.

However, before calling it quits, it’s worthwhile to take a moment and check in with what is most important to you in life. What makes you feel most connected to your life? What actions can you take that aligns most with your values and goals? Can you withstand discomfort for a temporary period of time while you are in pursuit of your goals?

Slowing down to think about what is most important to you can be more reliable guideposts than anxiety symptoms. It’s also helpful to remember that our thoughts are not facts and our feelings are not orders. While we’re often told to “follow our hearts” as we make important decisions in life, we’re speaking more about your heart’s desires rather than its palpitations.

Everyday Anxiety in a Modern World

Anxiety thrives in uncertainty, and that can be terrifying. Even so, what may sound counterintuitive is that everyday anxiety is not something that we necessarily want to get rid of. Rather, we want to learn to better manage it through accepting that there are some questions we will not know the answer to, but this doesn’t mean that our worry needs to interfere with living our life.

If you feel overwhelmed by anxiety, and it may have even caused you to avoid situations that you’d like to participate in, you are not alone. Getting the support you need can be helpful to getting back to a life worth living. Contact us today to speak with one of our clinicians who are trained in treating anxiety.