Autumn is a time of transition; a time for big change and uncertainty. The “back to school” season can also bring on unwanted anxiety and stressful situations.
Fall sometimes harbors a certain emptiness that can leave us feeling exposed and anxious for what’s next . . .
The Oxford dictionary defines anxiety as “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.”
And we all experience nervousness or anxiousness . . . stressful situations happen at some point in our lives, but there are some of us who feel these tensions constantly. While the experience itself is shared by all at some point, the triggers that cause us to experience anxiety are often very different.
Anxiety is a form of fear that is vague, and its origin is not always identifiable.
So how do we put our finger on the exact cause of it?
Here’s what we know: anxiety has roots–after all, it’s not just the fact that we are running late that sends our worlds into a tizzy and our heartbeats into overdrive. There’s something inside us that can’t cope with the “imminent event” taking place.
And while Oxford maintains that it typically has to do with an event which will result in an uncertain outcome, we’re not so sure if that’s the only truth to it.
For example, many of the things that make us anxious are mundane (i.e., being late, traveling, traffic jams) and we know perfectly well what will result from these events, which is often not a whole lot. Yet so many of us still feel the constant tightness in our chests that comes from what should be only experienced as little nuisances.
That’s because specific events that occur in our lives impact us in so much that they alter the way we view ourselves, especially if we are not sure who we are, but less so if we do.
When you know who, what and simply that you are, you do not depend on outcomes of any action, activity or behavior.
While being late can be a nuisance, it may or may not fall into the “stressful situations” category. And it’s certainly not a life-threatening experience.
When you’re not sure whether it’s you who is at the steering wheel of your life or if the need for other people’s approval is what’s driving you, there is (or least seems to be) something at stake when doing even the simplest thing. Just being late can give you that feeling of having failed again.
The classic question of how much of our personality is formed by nature versus how much is formed by nurture applies well to the concept, too: sure, some of us may be born with a more natural inclination to let little things go, but someone who doesn’t have a Healthy Sense of Self can’t possibly be as calm and collected as someone who developed a Natural Sense of Self.
Here are 3 useful tips to help you reduce stress and anxiety during stressful situations:
- Breathe deeply 3 times. Do so slowly in and slowly out. Let the breath come naturally.
- Look around. Try to really absorb the world that surrounds you. What do you see? What do you hear? Make a note of it.
- Sense your body. Squeeze yourself gently, feel the chair beneath your legs, feel your foot on the gas pedal. Know that you do not need to “Feel-good-about-yourself” to be you; you simply already ARE. Nothing is at major stake – what you are dealing with are only simple nuisances or inconveniences.
Practicing these mindfulness techniques is the first small working toward a Restored Sense of Self. It can help you learn to cope with the stress you feel and assist in diminishing your anxiety over time.
So, if you’re one of those people who have an anxiety attack when stuck in bumper to bumper traffic, know that you might do so because you need to gain the desired state of “Feeling-good-about-yourself” that functions as your fake Sense of Self. It gives you the necessary sense that you’re O.K. and safe.
Think of the seasonal change as an opportunity to grow. The fall can be a creative time . . . filled with possibility – a time when we, too, can bare down to a quiet essence of being and savor the transformation.