If you are feeling anxious today remember that anxiety, although uncomfortable and at times distressing, is a normal reaction of our brain and bodies. The fight, flight and freeze response that is often enacted in a state of anxiety is primitive and benefited our ancestors. Our worlds are a lot less outright hazardous so we may experience anxiety in our present day that feels ill fitting, unnecessary, extreme, annoying, or unwarranted to our experience or triggers.
However, despite some of the "negative" impacts of anxiety (e.g. panic attacks, isolation, addictive patterns, irritability, sleep difficulties, etc) it does serve a purpose in our lives. First off, any emotions or sensations we experience within our bodies serve as messengers for us. Anxiety can act as a messenger for motivation, in healthy doses, where it demonstrates what is important and can push us into action (e.g. saving someone you love from falling or completing that paper that you need a good grade on). In higher doses it can prompt us to avoid the very things that we care about because the message is we may fail or the thought of doing it is to overwhelming. What I have noticed is we often attempt to avoid or control messages that we deem are unpleasant without taking time to sit with and manage them. (That avoidance often causes more intense or prolonged unpleasant outcomes). As human beings, we often may take more credit in how much control we have than what is factual.
We firstly, can not control how and when we feel emotions or bodily sensations. What we can do is pay attention to them, pinpoint what may be fueling it (when able), learn to accept their existence, and find outlets and skills that benefit our ability to manage our experience of said emotions or bodily sensations. This is also true for anxiety.
With that being said, once we have paid attention to our experience of anxiety the next step is to dig deeper than being annoyed or upset by it's existence. In digging deeper we are able to attach a trigger to it. Trigger meaning whatever you encountered to fuel anxiety like a memory, an emotion, a specific relationship, etc. Often living within our society where production, eurocentric professionalism and many identity ... exist and may be worn for survival (e.g. Strong Black Woman, model minority, toxic definitions for masculinity) we hold our feelings and experiences within the metaphor of an iceberg. Our icebergs often look put together on the surface with surface level "i'm fine," smiles when I'm not feeling smiley, and productivity when I'm not feeling capable. All the while underneath we have a plethora of experiences, thoughts, feelings, and memories we may be ashamed or afraid to share with the world.
We also hold our emotions as if they were icebergs. For example, I experience anxiety whenever I have to present information in front of a group of people. No matter how much I practice or prepare at the moment that I am set to take stage my stomach hurts and my head fills with doubtful what ifs. On the surface I can appear confident, slightly below the water I am anxious and unsure, and the deeper you dive I am insecure and afraid. Afraid that I will not be good enough or received well by the audience.
Once I sit with the piece that hides within the water I can accept that in this moment I am anxious, which is a normal human experience neither good or bad. I can choose to feed into negative doubtful thoughts or I can refute those negative doubtful thoughts with actual facts. Those facts may be that I have prepared, that I have no direct way of knowing how the audience will receive me at this moment (dwelling will just set me up for sabotage), that no matter the outcome I will survive, and I have done this before. Refuting thoughts isn't easy; however, practice helps us get better each time. Those doubtful thoughts can serve a purpose of motivation or fuel to do well; however, for me in those moments it often keeps me trapped inside my head and unable to fully engage in the world. All in all I can accept that I am human and in my humaness my experiences will not always be comfortable or how I anticipated.
Ways I personally can work toward managing anxiety (not ignoring it or destroying it)
accept my actual reality (not the one I create out of emotional bias)
refute unfounded doubtful thoughts
take some deep breaths (takes blood flow out of flight/ fight and back to your brain and heart for clarity)
throw on some music that gets me out of my head, to loosen the parts of me tensed by anxiety (e.g. jaw, shoulders, belly), and fully into the present state of my being.
So Melanated & Anxious Queen, next time you are feeling anxious throw on some Meg the Stallion (whatever music gives you positive energy) and be fully one with your body.
Don't let only anxiety rule in your body.
It can exist there but it does not have to remain stuck.
Practice, Practice, Practice.