Anxiety: The Crippling Domino Effect and How to Adress It

“Struggles aid us in building strength and resilience.”

~María Hernández Feo

I would like to start of this post with a question: have you ever felt unbelievably anxious, and if so, what do you do about it? This week this has been the most prominent topic in my mind, and I want share some insights in the hopes of initiating a discussion.
Yesterday I was having lunch with some friends and we were celebrating the end of a very hectic semester. As we ate and relished in our freedom from finals, one of my friends mentioned that I had become very tense in recent months, and that tension had transformed me into an anxious mess. I have heard alot of people use the word anxiety to refer to stresses they experience throughout certain periods of time. To be honest, I always believed this term was tossed around when a person wanted to exaggerate a situation, and this belief didn’t allow me to take anxiety seriously. I certainly never thought this concept could apply to me seeing as I take pride in being centered and rational. However, when people say that you never understand certain things until you go through them yourself, they are absolutely right!Having a close friend refer to me this way served as a wake up call. Lately I have undergone some heavy waves of unending stress, and although it’s hard to admit, I now fathom how big of a tole anxiety can take on a human being.
Of course, anxiety manifests itself in a variety of forms, and each person has an individual take on it. In my case, I have felt a persistent state of alarm cursing through my mind and body, one that hasn’t allowed me to concentrate as well as I used to, one that has made me physically sick. When people talk about “the mind-body connection”, it is difficult to imagine how a series of thoughts can affect physiological functions. Thoughts are abstract, thoughts cannot be seen or touched, so, how is it that they can be strong enough to make me lose my appetite, how can they produce indigestion, how can they provoke migranes, how can thoughts make my entire body feel numb? This is a question that still lingers, and in order to answer it, I suppose I need to do a little digging, some brainstorming that can help me track the source of my anxiety. Once I do that, I will be able to control the anxious repetitive cycle that keeps me from behaving like I normally do. 
I absolutely enjoy going to college, yet I have to say that the amount of work that has to be done and the kind of expectations that need to be met on a regular basis are enough to crack anyone. Whenever I sit down to do some assignments, I make the decision to do the best work possible. I don’t want anybody to think my work is mediocre because my work definetely reflects on my character. As I think about this now, I can recognize how my aim for perfection often evolves into something extreme and draining. This aspiration to be great creates uneasyness in stomach, it drives my need to sleep away, and it also ignites a thought process that I call “the domino effect”. When people play domino, they align each token into a precise shape, but once one domino falls down, the rest of the tokens collapse inevitably into a spiral. I treat each task in my life that way. If something does not go the way I want it to, I consider the consequences of those realities. If I get a bad grade, I will probably get a poor report card, and if that happens, I will lower my grade point average, and if that happens, I will not get into grad school, and if that happens, I will not have good job prospects, and if that happens, I will be penniless and alone, scratching my belly button in my parents couch! This is just one example of how this Domino effect plays out in my head.

There are many damages that anxiety can do to a person. First of all, just like any other physical ailment, anxiety has the power to cripple you. I feel very restrained and disfunctional when I can’t get my mind to climb out of an anxious state. I hate having to lay in my bed and latch on tightly to my pillow as I hiperventilate over the many scenarios that are projected in my mind when I fail, or if I don’t get something done, or if I make a mistake. 
Anxiety doesn’t allow you to be who you really are. Your personality is held hostage once you become immersed in an anxious trance. You lose your desire to socialize in fear of contaging anyone with your stressed out thoughts, you alienate yorself from everything that once brought you joy, and your countenance even takes on a very stiff, and preocupied look (which is not cute at all by the way). 
Anxiety makes you act irrational. You start believing things that don’t make sense, you become consumed by things that will probably never happen, yet you still live in constant fear of them. 
Anxiety makes you feel inadequate. It manipulates you and convinces you that there are far better people out there, people who can outperform you in whatever you are good at, and as a result, you stop trying to do the things you love.
Ultimately, there are infinite amounts of lasting effects anxiety can have on a person, and I have learned that first hand, but I also know a couple of different habits that can relieve anxiety, provide distraction, and help you move forward in the most constructive way possible. 1.Listen to music. Put on a good playlist because there is nothing a little Beyoncé can’t fix! 
2. Go for a walk, do some excercise, and separate yourselfrom the situation that is causing you stress. 
3. Pay attention to what is in front of you in a specific moment (no matter how big or small). If it’s the morning time and you are feeling anxious spells pulsing through, focus on your warm cup of coffee, concentrate on its taste, stir it a little, watch the white milk foam leave a mustache on your upper lip, and let that be the only thing that matters. 
4. Practice mindfulness. Each day make a list of at least three things you are greatful for and jott them down. If you can’t think of anything, give it a little more thought and don’t allow yourself to carrie on without completing this first. 
5. Talk to your friends and family, because after all, they are your primary support systems and they comprise important parts of your identity. It also feels good to decompress with the people you trust. 
6. Breathe! Inhale and exhale until you feel your body and your mind relax. 
7. Go to your happy place, and if you don’t have one, make one up! Close your eyes and go to a sandy beach space in your mind, a beach with large, crashing waves at the shore, and if you need sound effects, there are some pretty good ones in Youtube. 
8. If you are religious or spiritual, say a little prayer and cling on to the faith that everything will be ok, because after all, anxious moments are temporary. 
I have learned a great deal about anxiety as a phenomenon, a phenomenon that takes over every aspect of our life. However, anxiousness only has the ability to dominate you when you don’t adress it. Never be ashamed for feeling this way, because in the end, we all have a struggle, and struggles aid us in building strength and resilience.

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