Anxiety is a preoccupation with thoughts. When anxiety takes over in our minds, it floods our forethoughts with an unending and consistent stream of worry. Our worries can be relevant or irrelevant, but are most likely improbable. What separates anxious worry from normal worry is how likely it is. Anxious thinking tends to be catastrophic thinking, meaning it is obsessed with the worst case scenario and what that would mean. At the core, anxiety is a misfire of an ancient human response to danger. On a neurobiological scaled, when anxiety takes off, the brain goes into a fear response mode. Instead of confronting and reducing gear, however, anxiety creates more fear, then becomes afraid of that fear and so forth. Rather than read the thought process as a means of survival, the anxious mind picks up on each new thought as a brand new threat.
Most coping tools for anxiety include shifting the attention of the thoughts to somewhere else. For example, to a calming guided meditation. Spending time in mindfulness to focus on the breath and move the attention away from anxious thoughts is highly recommended as well as highly effective. Is practicing these tools the same as a distraction? Can we just distract ourselves away from anxiety? Is that a good thing?
Distraction vs. Stuffing
For The Good Men Project, blogger Matt Papa’s confronts distraction and anxiety. He writes that there is a difference between distraction and stuffing. Distraction is fine and normal. However, it comes with a caveat. Distraction is only a good practice for anxiety after the anxiety has been acknowledged. Pappas writes “it’s important to be mindful of Anxiety and acknowledge it when it starts to creep back into our minds. Not just ignore it and hope it will go away.” Even though the thoughts within anxiety might be irrelevant and not probable, they have a root cause which is attached to something significant in our minds. “When we stuff our feelings and just push them aside,” Papas writes, “we are asking for more trouble down the road.” Though anxiety is uncomfortable and overwhelming, it cannot be ignored. Acknowledging anxiety and even taking time to reflect on what is making us anxious is essential to working through anxiety, not just around it.
Learning to live with anxiety can take time and professional care. If you feel your anxiety has gotten beyond your control and are in need of help, call Avalon By The Sea today for a confidential assessment. We provide primary care for anxiety as a primary diagnosis as well as dual diagnosis care when anxiety is co-occurring with substance use disorders. For more information, call 1 (888) 958-7511 today.