Why is Everyone so Anxious?

We recently got our dog a prescription for Xanax. She’s an anxious breed, and with each consecutive baby we’ve brought home, her protective instincts have seemingly become more intense. Good in theory, but she really missed the mark on execution. It’s resulted in more than one take-down as she barrels through the kids to bark at whatever vehicle, animal or leaf had the audacity to go by the house.

I wish I was exaggerating.

We’ve tried everything to try to manage this. Various training classes (which, by the way, she masters but seemingly forgets within just a few weeks, despite our efforts to stay vigilant), in-home trainers, e-collars…the list goes on and on.

So, Xanax it is.

I admit I felt ridiculous running to CVS to pick up the dog’s prescription this morning, but as I waited for the pharmacist, I started thinking about how many anxiety medications must be filled for people every day. And I started to ask myself why. Why would we, as humans, who have an extensive ability to communicate with others, to think and choose with intention how to act or respond to a situation, need medication to help us get through the day? Unlike animals that aren’t able to think or communicate past a certain level, we have the ability to critically think. To decide how to respond to an event (vs. react). Yet we don’t do this. I believe it’s because we have become significantly unaware – unaware of ourselves and our world. We move through our days on autopilot, not really thinking or experiencing any moment. So, when we hit an unexpected snag, it can throw us off kilter and, in many situations, send us into a downward spiral. And based on what we see and hear from every media outlet, the solution is some form of medication.

Think about some of the random life events that could push you out of autopilot. A flat tire. A sick kid. The oil tank is empty or the furnace breaks overnight. The refrigerator dies. We fixate on these events and miss the other great events that go on at the same moment. The loving hug from your son. The wonderful neighbor who helped rake your leaves. The teacher who spends extra time on a subject that your kid has trouble with.

When things go our way, we ignore them. When things don’t go our way, we dwell on them. Knowing this, there’s little mystery that we think the day was tough or difficult. It leads many of us to feel like we need something from the outside to help us cope when in reality what we really need is something from the inside to help us see clearly, to help us remember that life has both ups and downs, and that the ups help with the downs.

Take Action
When you are confronted with an event that isn’t normally part of your day, stop and notice what’s going on. Take the time to gather all the information before you react. Take in what’s happening to you, around you, in you. What emotions do you feel? Why? What is actually happening right now? Is it true, or do you believe it to be true (this is a big one for those times when you can interpret an event, sometimes incorrectly, that could lead to an unproductive response)? And for every negative event you notice, work with intention to counterbalance it with a positive event. They are out there. See them. Experience them. Remember them.

By taking just a few minutes to tune in to yourself, to stop and notice what’s happening in you and around you, you gain greater self- and world-awareness. With this awareness, you can learn to manage your response to various events, to use the dimmer switch to turn up or turn down your strengths and liabilities. In the process, you’ll learn to operate in a less anxious state.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading The Value of Setbacks

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