Stress is commonly accepted to be a part of modern living. However, anxiety is often seen as comprising debilitating physical and emotional experiences that result when stress becomes intolerable. In my practice, I have seen hundreds of people complaining of stress and anxiety. What are the common themes? There appear to be four common aspects that shed light on the nature of anxiety:
- Perception is crucial: What is excitement to one person is stressful to another. Choice regarding the circumstances or challenges is crucial to whether a person feels anxiety or merely exhilarated.
- Real or perceived loss of control: Feeling some degreee of control over one’s circumstances determines whether one becomes anxious and overwhelmed or whether they see their situation as an opportunity to grow and learn.
- Being out of integrity with one’s values: When someone is living their life against their innate values or desires, they experience anxiety.
- Existential nature of anxiety: Anxiety can occur in relation to a real or perceived threat e.g an actual physical danger or psychological danger – fear of criticism, failure, shame of job loss etc. Existential anxiety is often the result of someone being faced with the questions of what is their purpose, reason for being alive, reason why anything at all happens as it does. When the answers given by others, doctrine or society no longer satisfy, one experience existential anxiety which implores us to challenges every choice and meaning making in our lives.
So there is more to the symptoms of stress and anxiety than removing them. Finding out the cause of your anxiety is essential if you are to live a life by design rather than one of duty and obligation.