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.
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 His point is that as we evolved, our need to stay alive superseded our other needs.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.
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.
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.