When it seems like your world is caving in, it’s extremely difficult not to let your mind wander into dark places. It seems like one dark thought leads to another even darker and more hopeless thought, and eventually, you find yourself drowning in a sea of emotions and no one is there to throw you a lifesaver. So what do you do when you’re alone in your room, when you can hear your demons whispering in your ear and tormenting you with lies that only keep you down? Do you reach out for that bottle to drown your sorrows and resign to abysmal, self-defeating thoughts? Or do you reach for something positive that will lift you up out of the pits of emotional hell?
Learning how to shut out the negativity that consumes your spirit is not easy. Often, you might not even be aware that you’re being negative. All you know is the burdensome weight of depression, the fear-inducing paranoia of anxiety and the debilitating panic that renders you helpless. And when you feel helpless, you’re likely to do nothing about it because you don’t know what to do.
Is It Anxiety or Panic Attack?
There are a number of names for anxiety: phobia, panic attacks, anxiety attacks, social anxiety, worry, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, etc. How can you tell if what you’re experiencing is “normal” or unhealthy? Well, if you’re worrying excessively to the point that it causes dysfunction in your life, that’s a major red flag.
Signs of Unhealthy Anxiety:
— Persistent anxious preoccupation with big and small things for at least six months.
— Interference with daily life (e.g., inability to concentrate at work resulting in poor performance).
— Having trouble falling asleep or not being able to sleep at all (e.g., insomnia on the night before a job interview or work presentation is normal, but it’s a problem when you can’t sleep most nights of the week).
— Inability to calm yourself down.
— Irrational fears attached to a person, thing or situation (e.g., when fear is disproportionate to the actual risk involved)
— Irritable bowel syndrome other chronic indigestion issues.
— A sudden overwhelming fear that deters you from going about your normal routine because you don’t know when the next attack will happen (e.g., physiological symptoms may include trouble with breathing, a rapid heartbeat, numbness in hands, heavy perspiration, abdominal pain, chest pain, etc.).
Alcohol Makes Anxiety Worse, Not Better
To cope with the debilitating effects of anxiety, many turn to alcohol to numb their pain or to escape — however momentarily — the reality of the situation that’s facing them. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that approximately 15 million Americans have social anxiety disorder or other type of anxiety disorder related to drinking. Alcohol may seem like the reasonable answer to withstand the tsunami of anxiety, but it actually makes it worse.
The appeal of wine and beer is in the initial mood-boosting euphoria. It relaxes you and helps you forget your problems. You feel like you can let your guard down and just be yourself. However, those sedative effects don’t last long; after a while, if you develop the habit of drinking to relieve your anxiety and “make your troubles go away,” your body requires increasing levels of alcohol to produce the same effects. What was once an occasional drink or two now becomes alcohol dependence, at which point it becomes almost impossible to cope with stress without a bottle of wine in your hands.
Master Your Mind With Meditation
Are you at peace with everything that’s happening in your life, or is your mind swallowed up by worry and panic? Rather than hitting up the next bar during happy hour, turn your thoughts to some empowering statements from famous people or spiritual resources. Whenever possible, surround yourself with people who believe in you, encourage you, strengthen you and lift you up. Most of the time, however, those crippling thoughts come when we have too much time to think during our commute to work. You try to put your radio on blast, but the music can’t seem to quiet your mind. And it’s during those silent moments when you lie awake in bed or when you’re by yourself — wherever you are — that the ground-shaking fears taunt you.
As mentioned before, if you’ve only known one way of thinking, it would be hard to change your thought patterns that lead to destructive behaviors. Sure, meditation is a great idea, but how do you do it when you’ve never learned how?
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