Anxiety is a terrible thing. It ranges in magnitude from the most normal and benign of feelings to something that is entirely debilitating for the person experiencing anxiety. Regardless of how strongly a person feels anxiety, it is a special kind of hell. For others witnessing another person completely twisted up in anxiety, it is a truly excruciating thing to behold.
I mention this because I want to share a couple things I’ve come across that have helped me. I hope they can help you too.
My first interesting breakthrough came after I read this article on overcoming a fear of public speaking on Sam Harris’ blog. Sam’s message here was that the very act of trying to calm myself was unproductive, and was actually making me more anxious. Instead, a better approach is to be open to the entire experience of anxiety. As Sam explains:
You can also strip the symptoms of anxiety of their psychological content—by experiencing them as purely physical sensations, like a pain in the knee. In fact, the feeling of anxiety is nearly identical to excitement or some other state of arousal that is not intrinsically negative. You can choose to feel it as a mere influx of energy and even use it as such. This is liberating—and your freedom does not depend on getting rid of these sensations.
More recently, I also came across this video, “How to Turn Anxiety Into Excitement,” by Jeremy Raff and Olga Khazan. Though the people responsible for the video came to the same conclusion, there is no other clear connection to Sam Harris. Regardless, I wanted to share this, in hopes that it helps someone.