Oh, Just Relax

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Eric Ravenscraft writes a clear and unadorned first person account of anxiety disorders. Many of the comments are just as well-written and informative as the article.

Some useful points he makes (I’d recommend reading the entire article):

  • Anxiety doesn’t always come alone, and it can be hard to spot.
  • Mental health problems don’t come in neat, self-contained packages like other illnesses.
  • While anxiety disorders can sometimes occur on their own, they can also develop as part of a broader health problem.
  • You can’t just “calm down”, but you can practice.

This last mirrors one of the most important things I have ever realized: many people try to calm down, and don’t calm down immediately, and therefore conclude that they have failed or that the technique doesn’t work for them.

Buteven if you don’t calm down, practicing calming down may still have a long term impact. It retrains your brain away from thinking that every event is a catastrophe. Even if you are anxious, that you are making an effort (no matter how unsuccessful) to push aside your anxiety, should, over time, convince your brain that things can’t be that bad. If they were, you wouldn’t be trying to let go of anxiety. Contrast this with the common attitude of the inveterately anxious person: “If I don’t worry about this something bad will happen” or “It won’t get done.”

 As an adjunct to this, I’d recommend The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking.