Anxiety crops up in many ways, takes many forms, and can be resolved in many ways. First, let’s take a look at what anxiety is.
The DSM-V, the standard on mental disorders, classifies anxiety as “anticipation of future threat.” Fritz Perls, founder of Gestalt Therapy, calls anxiety “stage-fright.” Most, if not all definitions of anxiety, contain the idea of a sense of uneasiness, or fear, at something that will happen in the future.
This does not mean we always know what we are afraid of. A person getting into a red car suddenly feels anxious, not realizing it’s because the last time she was in a red car, she got into an accident. A person feels uneasy in enclosed spaces without recognizing that they remind him of being locked in his room as a child.
Other instances are clearer. We have a pit in our stomach as we think about confronting our boss about the amount of work we’re being asked to do. We know this is because our boss is a difficult character to deal with. We worry about a first date — we know this has to do with the fear of being judged.
One initial strategy for avoiding anxiety, then, is to take a moment to understand its source. Why am I nervous getting into this red car? How come when any door closes, I feel afraid?
Of course, you won’t always be able to identify why certain things make you anxious. In those cases, simply recognize that it does. “Ok, for some reason, red cars make me anxious.” “Some way or another, I do not like enclosed spaces.”
In future posts, we’ll continue to talk about what we can do with these realizations, as well as explore other strategies for managing our anxiety.