Anxiety is about grasping forward into the future while depression is a reaching back into the past.
3. Anxiety and depression pull in different directions
For me, anxiety is about grasping forward into the future while depression is a reaching back into the past. Both are about grasping beyond where we’re at right now, in the present. I generally find anxious folk are obsessed with grasping to fixes, solutions. Depressed friends tend to be mired with regrets.
4. A panic attack generally only lasts 20-30 minutes
This can be comforting to know. Why? When we know this factlet, we can try to choose to simply ride it out and not get “anxious about being anxious”. This is the most insidious aspect of anxiety – it spirals. We get anxious. And then get anxious about the fact we’re not meant to be anxious, or that everyone else is coping fine (so why aren’t I?). Then this realization sees us get anxious about being anxious about being anxious. And on it spins (into a knotted ball of wool!). We can also remember that many panic attacks are a compounding panic about the physical symptoms of anxiety (the flight or fight response at full throttle). Instead of seeing the shortness of breath, the elevated heart rate, the shaking, the numb mind as the sign of a life-or-death disaster, we can see that it’s our body reacting as it has done for tens of thousands of years to certain stress stimuli. Sure, we’re panicking. But let’s leave it there, as a bunch of reactions. These reactions won’t kill us!
5. You don't just have to live with anxiety, you can thrive with it
Most books tell you how to manage anxiety. I have seen how anxiety can be used to have a rich, joyous, creative – or beautiful - life. This is exactly what I explore in First, We Make the Beast Beautiful. Here are few techniques that can get you started:
- Remember that anxiety can often feel like excitement. Both experiences release the same response in our brains. I like to sometimes choose to see my anxiety as my creative self getting inspired and fired up.
- Join the dots. Look back on your life and ovserve that some of the toughest moments led to some of your best experiences.
- Just meditate. I often say it's non-negotiable when you have anxiety. Even meditating badly does its job. In fact, I've found that years of angsty meditating has seen me battle out my anxiety through meditiation, and emerge from my 20 minutes on the cushion, resolved and bemused. My anxiety is the friction that sees me meditate with more commitment, spring forth into more creative projects, and gives me the raw perspective I've needed to grow my business ventures.