Frequently there are misunderstandings about ways to deal with stress or anxiety once it has been acknowledged. Of course slowing down enough to name it can be an important initial step. There are also many myths and untruths that should be rectified. Continuing to hold beliefs that, frankly, just are not true can perpetuate and even make anxiety worse. So let’s set the record straight.
First of all many people believe that anxiety can and should be avoided. This is absolutely not true and actually not recommended at all! Anxiety is a very important asset that is Mother Nature’s alarm system. We need to be alerted to real danger. Fire, personal threats and more need to be attended to and our body’s alarm or alert system helps us defend and protect us. In this way human bodies are very similar to other animals. The endocrine or hormonal system, along with our senses, brain, and total body bring any potential danger into our awareness without any conscious control. This is just built into our bodies.
Long ago it was believed that in order to deal with anxiety a person had to go back to the childhood roots of the problem. It was believed that it was essential to uncover memories about the originating trigger or traumatic event. Current research and professional clinical practice shows this is not at all helpful, in fact may be damaging. It is more important to develop self-nurturing and alternative coping skills than to play personal detective. There are skills that can be learned, and if used can be quite effective.
Another myth or misconception is that worry will prevent bad things from happening. Worry can only be helpful if it causes someone to take action. For example, worrying about getting a bad grade in school won’t prevent a bad grade. Worrying about getting a bad grade and then studying for an important test or doing the necessary homework will likely most likely improve the grade.
One other similar belief is that worrying about potential bad things happening will cause it to hurt less if those bad things actually do happen. The reality is that bad things do happen and they will hurt. It is, however, much better to focus more on today rather than trying to anticipate all the bad things that are most likely never going to happen tomorrow anyway. An example of this is worrying so much about losing your job rather than using that energy to do the job better which might actually ensure your employment.
Many people turn to prescription medications as well as alcohol or other drugs to deal with the discomfort of anxiety. Just because a pharmaceutical company has developed a drug does not mean that it is always the best treatment. Medications in the benzodiazepine drug family include Xanax, Klonopin and Ativan. These are often prescribed for anxiety. However, taking such medications can not only be physically addictive over time but can also become a psychological crutch. Learning to tolerate anxiety under the guidance of a trained clinician has been shown to have better and more lasting results. Learning to deal with rather than avoid anxiety can be a very powerful experience.