I’m Not An Anxious Person, I Only Have Anxious Thoughts

Planbet Yabadada blog post about anxiety

Anxiety.

Hearing this word alone might make your stomach curl up.

No wonder – it’s one of the most unpleasant emotions that every human goes through at one time or another on one level or another. That’s why we must talk about it, that elephant in the room.

In 2018 I’ve been diagnosed with depression and generalized anxiety disorder. That’s not to say that this is when it started, that’s only the year that I decided to seek for psychological help for the first time. I refused a suggestion of any medication, though I kept on self-medicating with alcohol and weed just like I did for many years before that and a couple of years after.

The diagnosis itself served me as an excuse to feel powerless over my condition. I didn’t even take the diagnosis all that seriously, because I felt that there’s a deeper philosophical and perhaps even spiritual meaning at the roots of my crippled mind. When it comes to depression, I still believe that was true. I still believe that in most cases depression is only a symptom, a sign of an unhappy life, a wrong lifestyle, a disconnection from one’s soul. Addressing these issues directly helped me so much that now I can strongly say I’m a happy person walking my true path, being in alignment with my authentic self or at least working on it every day.

Anxiety, however, is another kind of jazz.

Now that I’ve stopped self-medicating and am trying to lead a sober and wholesome life, my generalized anxiety started hitting hard. So just like depression, the darkest, slimiest, scariest thing that I fought and won at least a decade-long war against, I’ve decided to roll up my sleeves and deal with this problem too.

But in order to deal with anything, we need to understand what we’re dealing with in the first place.

So what is anxiety, really?

According to Anxiety UK Association, “Anxiety is typically described as a feeling of apprehension or dread in situations where there is no actual real threat and is disproportionate to the situation faced. Unlike stress, anxiety persists even after a concern has passed. In some cases, anxiety can escalate into an anxiety disorder and can affect day-to-day life.

American Psychological Association describes anxiety like this: “Anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.

People with anxiety disorders usually have recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns. They may avoid certain situations out of worry. They may also have physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling, dizziness or a rapid heartbeat.

Buddhism offers the best explanation of what anxiety is and how to deal with it that I’ve ever encountered, together with one of my favourite psychotherapy schools – Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which, coincidentally or not, speaks about this disorder/disordered thinking very similarly.

During the period of the last month, I’ve delved into Buddhist teachings on the mind and meditation, becoming a member of the Kadampa Meditation Centre in Kent, UK. I have to say here that I’m not a Buddhist, but I’m very Buddhist-curious.

Joining this Buddhist meditation community was my mind section on the post-Lunar-New-Year and post-gluttonous-winter inner revolution/recalibration/rejuvenation plan.

In short, my whole plan looked like this:

Mind – meditation and sobriety.

Body – joining a gym, running, intermittent fasting.

Spirit – writing on a regular basis, joining new communities oriented to wellbeing, reconnecting with loved ones, studying my astrological chart, learning Tarot.

All in pursuit of being a healthier, happier, more creative, more conscious, saner, and more powerful human being.

And, of course, less anxious.

Surprisingly or not, my sudden preoccupation with deep inner cleanse, self-development, and joyful commitment to sobriety made my anxiety more obvious to me.

A prolonged excitement, even if it’s a passionate and joyful one, is a sign of a disturbed, unfocused mind that will eventually drain the host.

All that I’ve been doing for my own betterment dissipated the fog around my anxiety. It’s there and it’s always been there, waiting for my undivided attention.

Yes, I might have a generalized anxiety disorder, I might have ADHD, I might be on the autism spectrum. These (self-)diagnoses have certainly helped me with self-acceptance and self-compassion. But if I want to fully enjoy my life, even being proudly peculiar, refusing to rely on victimizing medication, all I can rely on is myself – my mind, body, and spirit — and the right kind of community.

Conveniently enough, the last half-day retreat of the month organized by the aforementioned Buddhist Kadampa Meditation Centre was called Overcoming Stress & Anxiety. It was held last Sunday; yes, the same week the war in Ukraine started… The lecturer admitted to picking a low-hanging fruit by saying that the retreat is eerily timely and if you didn’t have anything to feel anxious about before, now you surely do.

For me personally, I don’t really need a reason to feel anxious. It’s not how causality usually works in my mind. It’s me feeling anxious first and then looking around trying to find a reason.

Anxiety is a bad habit. Very very bad.

But like I said, Buddhism offers a very empowering perspective to this problem.

I like it a lot.

So here are some notes I took while in the retreat. I hope you’ll find relief and strength in them too.

***

Anxiety is a misuse of your imagination.

It’s a product of an unbalanced mind.

It’s trying to control the uncontrollable.

It’s not being able to accept the nature of life which is everchanging.

Feelings are impermanent, so if we feel anxiety, it doesn’t mean we are anxious as we are not our thoughts and feelings.

An anxious mind is not trustworthy, a peaceful mind is.

Nothing good comes from an anxious mind.

Anxiety pretends to be your best friend you keep on turning to when a problem arises.

But it’s not your best friend. And it’s not you.

I’m not an anxious person.

I have anxious thoughts

and I don’t have to think my anxious thoughts.

Social anxiety is born from the need to be liked by others to feel good about yourself.

Peace is a product of mind, a state of mind, just like suffering.

It’s necessary to unravel the underlying belief at the root of your anxiety,

You can’t think your way out of anxiety.

You can’t pour fresh water into a glass overflowing with mud.

What can you do then?

Make space in the mind and then harness your mind and create a positive reality for yourself through prayer, meditation, visualization, etc.

The aim of meditation is to gather your mind, not to dissolve it,

to clear and focus your mind, not to relax it.

Tibetan Mantra meditation Om Ah Hum is one of a myriad of mind-harnessing techniques that can help you deal with your anxious thoughts. Practice it regularly, especially when your mind is relatively calm, so you would acquire the skills for when you need the technique the most.

OM – enlightened qualities of the body;

AH – enlightened qualities of speech;

HUM – enlightened qualities of mind.

Mantras are phrases and sounds that, when repeated throughout the meditation in accordance to your breath, help you concentrate your mind on a given intention.

In chanting OM we are asking ourselves to purify, to release all guilt and shame, of all the negative actions committed through our body, and we commit to an intention to do better in the future.

In chanting AH we are asking ourselves to purify, to release all guilt and shame, of all the negative actions committed through our speech, and we commit to an intention to do better in the future.

In chanting HUM we are asking ourselves to purify, to release all guilt and shame of all the negative actions committed through our mind, and we commit to an intention to do better in the future.

OM is also aid to be the essence of form, AH the essence of sound, and HUM the essence of mind. So by reciting this mantra, you are also purifying the environment, as well as yourself and all other beings within it. OM purifies all perceptions, AH all sounds, and HUM the mind, its thoughts and its emotions.” (from Buddhist Sandha website)

Breathe in silently in your mind saying OM, hold the breath at AH, and breathe out with HUM. Concentrate on your heart centre. Repeat for a few minutes.

***

Your mind is the only thing that you can control.

This thought is worth tattooing on your wrist. Just kidding!

But seriously, if you take anything from this text, take away and contemplate this:

You are not an anxious person. You only have anxious thoughts.

and

Your mind is the only thing you can control.

***
Featured image: Audra Bajori, Margate, UK
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