Cognitive Psychology

Understanding Anxiety Better in our Anxious Times


I guess no one can doubt that we live in anxious times what with Putin threatening to nuclear us all to death if we NATOize countries on his border, mother nature threatening to evict us from the planet because we’ve been such slovenly inconsiderate planet guests, and the GQP’s systematic and coordinated attack on our democracy and rights reaching its conclusion. Not to mention the guns and ongoing neverending #COVID19 pandemic, inflation, the great baby formula shortage, gas prices, the collapsing electrical grid in Texas — ain’t everything bigger in Texas including its buffoons and incompetents? And, all the GQP governors shooting us all in the dick with their deliberate sabotage of national policy like refusing to expand Medicaid or individually inspecting every Truck that crosses the border from Mexico a second time so they can find absolutely nothing but cause shortages, spoilage, and chaos, and attacking children and education. Our list of things to worry about is getting quite long. Everyday seems to bring a new thing to fret over.

In the past week alone, how many mass shootings have we had? We’ve had a veritable outbreak like a common pandemic. Here’s the conclusion of an article on a shooting in North Carolina from 16 May.

This list doesn’t include the recent flea market shooting in Houston that left two dead and three injured or the string of shootings in the Dallas Asian community.

Anxiety as a Net Good

Is it any wonder that anxiety has become a growth market in the mental health industry with over ten million real live anxiety ridden Americans taking real live anti-anxiety medications at any given time and a hunnert million being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder sometime during their life times. Anxiety is booming, amirite?

So, what if I told you that anxiety wasn’t so bad once you got to know it? You wouldn’t believe me, would you? That’s because we’ve got a perfect storm of anxiety misinformation and abuse happening here with all the usual suspects contributing all their usual contributions. At least that is according to clinical psychologist, Tracy Dennis-Tiwary, anxiety researcher and author of Future Tense: Why Anxiety is Good For You.

Her basic premise is that anxiety evolved to help us survive to alert us to some kind of danger or change in the world, something that might be bad. It’s kinda like pain in that sense. Pain tells us something is going wrong, and we should attend to it. In that sense, she’s not wrong. I’m sure her anxiety is much relieved now that she has the Psy of Life seal of approval. She’ll probably even include it on the cover of the next addition of her book.

Her point is that we should treat anxiety like we do all of our emotions, like it is information about our world, which helps us interpret and understand our world. If we did that we’d be more like, Whoa, hold up there pardner! I’m feeling anxious right now. What’s THAT all about? Do I need some support? Should I be working harder on this problem? How can I round up those wanderin’ lil doggies and regain my good mental health. Kinda like you do when you step on the scale one day, and realize that you’re twenty pounds into obesity and your cholesterol is in the shitter and your blood pressure is just this side of the moon and you’re not getting any younger, so you should do something about your physical health. You know, like, get healthier. Go vegan or do one of those keto diets. Exercise more. Start running or yoga or something. Those kinds of things.

Like I said, she’s not wrong, except have you been living in our world today? Shit is fucked up. If you aren’t anxious you must be doing all the molly and opioids because man this is the worst reality. Couldn’t we just shift over to the one with evil Spock for just a bit until things get better here?

If it were just the #COVID19 pandemic, climate change and Putin making nuclear noises, it would be bad, but we got that PLUS — doubleplusungood — Fox News and the Wannabes and every GQP politician with a hurdy gurdy and a dancing monkey fear mongering and hyperventilating about trans kids, CRT, grooming, abortion, Gr8 Replacement Theory, and all kindsa crap. I’m surprised there isn’t a caravan forming in Southern Mexico of fluidly sexual liberal teachers coming to do all the abortions to all the groomed children while making them feel bad about the ancestors of slave holders and supporters of systemic racism.

Debilitating Effects of Anxiety

All this anxiety invoking stressful hype has two effects:

It keeps liberals running around like popes with their heads cut off screaming about how the sky is falling and only taking the occasional break to piss and moan that those other pretend progressives over there are doing it wrong. We are exhausted after four years of the Ol’ Pussy Grabber in office, three years of the pandemic, and a year of insurrection and coup truthers. Then, there is all the voting suppression and nullification laws and a SCOTUS gone wild! Now, we’ve got a wave of mass racially motivated shootings and the end of Roe v. Wade. Seriously, if you’re not wanting to curl into the fetal position and suck your thumb for the next decade, maybe you should check your temperature because sick.

They’re doing it to make us want to quit. To tire us out. To get us to withdraw. To get us to be so numb to the bullshit that we let the election slip by us unnoticed. We’ll see if it actually works. It didn’t in 2020 or 2018. Maybe we’ll still be angry enough to carry the day in 2022.

The other effect is on the MAGA base. As covered elsewhere, living in continual chronic stress and emotional distress stops people from thinking critically. All that cortisol literally stops the rational parts of the brain from functioning. The end result is that MAGA will believe anything. ANY. THING. ANY-FUCKING-THING!

Making Anxiety Saving Changes

So, yeah. We can use anxiety to help us cope with some real difficult shit in our lives. Like anger is motivating. Like pain is motivating. The old trope, you only change when you’re in enough pain to change, is true. Anxiety is part of that discomfort mix that motivates change.

We all need to take a long cold hard look at our lives and eliminate stressors that we can safely eliminate. It isn’t necessary to keep yourself hyped on the latest MAGA outrage du jour. Sending that really good meme to your senators isn’t really going to change anything even if you get a bajillion likes and shares out of it. Arguing with the trolls isn’t going to do anything other than bump your BP up a couple more notches. Figure out what you can disengage from and what you can’t.

Get some exercise. Walk more often. Ride a bike.

Get out into nature, even if it is a city park.

Do something for someone else even if it is just holding the door open or giving someone a smile and a hello — just don’t be creepy about it, okay?

Volunteer for a political campaign, a social movement, or a get out the vote effort. Doing something other than the false something of social media actually helps you gain some control over these issues that feel like their so far outside of our control.

Comment on a blog post. Like that blog post. Give it a five star rating. Follow it! All of these things will help that blogger feel seen, heard, and understood.

Image Attribution

The Cutting Edge of Doubt” by Giles Watson is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

8 replies »

  1. Here I am, with nothing better to do than comment on a blogpost while loading on forty pounds of walking weight to head out the door for a five mile walk in the park and out of sheer boredom a couple/three hundred core calisthenics: pushups, pullups, stretches, torso-twists and windmills. Smoke three joints.

    Roll … with the punches. It will amaze you …

    Liked by 1 person

    • Howdy Ten Bears!

      Until the punches you’re rolling with are to the kidneys, which is kinda how I feel about SCOTUS and Roe v. Wade and most of the other authoritarian power grab that the Republicans are making.Trying to find that balance, to sit in the sweet spot, that’s the trick.

      Huzzah!
      Jack

      Like

  2. Hmmm – Anxiety, Dopamine, Cortisol, Adrenalin, blood pressure, bouncing glucose level(?), urge to flee, intense desire to just feel “normal”, symptoms of withdrawal when separated from social media or cable news – odd, how it all reminds me of another condition, one for which something appropriate was written: “God [or whatever for the unbeliever], grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” Yep, and the tricky part is that wisdom to know the difference part.

    Is anxiety addictive? If so, does tolerance develop leading to a need for ever increasing dosage?

    Liked by 1 person

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