Anxiety is something that everyone’s familiar with to some extent. One would imagine that this widespread familiarity would mean that everyone would also have a lot of empathy for panic attacks and similar events. In reality this is seldom the case. One might liken it to the experience of someone who suffers from extreme migraines. Migraines are headaches taken to the next level. At best they can severely hamper people’s performance at any given task. But more commonly migraines are severe enough to keep people home, or even hospitalized. However, people tend to dismiss it as “only” a headache if they haven’t personally experienced migraines.
Sometimes familiarity with the lower severity version of a condition actually makes it harder for people to have real sympathy for people encountering the higher severity version. This is the underlying reason why anxiety can’t really be used as an excuse in today’s world. It can be a severe issue, but it’s also one that people tend to be a bit lacking in sympathy for. The end result is that anyone suffering from severe anxiety will really only have the option of dealing with it themselves.
Thankfully, this is less of a problem than many people would imagine. From the inside anxiety can feel like an insurmountable problem. It’s a cage that seems to force a firm separation of oneself and the outside world as a whole. In large part this is illusion. Though it’s important to keep in mind that the term illusion isn’t meant to imply that the condition isn’t real. It’s most certainly something that exists and which can cause considerable pain to people suffering from it.
Referring to anxiety as an illusion should instead be taken to mean that the emotion is intangible. Anxiety presents qualities which aren’t nearly as solid as they might seem at first. Calling anxiety an illusion also points to the real crux of the matter. As an illusion, the concept is self generated.
When a magician performs a trick he’s performing a mundane action. The real magic happens in the mind of the audience members. They see a mundane event but misinterpret it as a wondrous magical experience. Anxiety is the flip side of these magic tricks. Someone suffering from extreme anxiety will see a mundane event and interpret it as something ominous and terrifying.
This lengthy information might not seem like a prelude to anything quick. But part of any quick fix for a complex issue is having some of the homework done before the event occurs. This preparation is what allows someone to have a flexible relation to their anxiety. And in turn this flexibility is a necessity due to the fact that anxiety isn’t something that comes in a one size fits all container. Anxiety is an issue which has as many variations as there are events in a person’s life. Coping mechanisms or skills which look at anxiety as a singular and immutable idea will eventually become stiff and brittle. A flexible relation to anxiety is what allows one to fit a fix into every part of life.
The quick fix for anxiety hinges on a real understanding and acceptance of the fact that it’s illusionary. A person needs to fully grasp the fact that the anxiety doesn’t have anything to do with the outside world and instead sits firmly within one’s own mind.
From there it’s just a process of finding ways to direct one’s own thinking. This is going to be different for everyone. And it’s important to not become discouraged when one style of anxiety relief doesn’t work. Discovering which mental trick will be the one to finally work is often a learning process.
Some people find that detachment from emotion is the best way to fight anxiety. This can be as simple as counting to ten. But more often a person will need to push into slightly more advanced math. Going through multiplication tables or trying to list the alphabet backwards will engage some people’s conscious mind to the point where their unconscious mind will settle down.
Other people sometimes find relief by acting out a role. There’s an old phrase, fake it till you make it. In this sense it means that one might be able to firmly commit to acting as if they’re not feeling the effects of anxiety. Not by pretending the anxiety doesn’t exist, but by approaching an event in a totally intellectual way where every moment is examined as an acting choice. This reframes the experience as a logical game rather than something overwhelming. Acting can force someone to redirect actions that would normally be centered around emotion into the logical and consciousness driven part of the mind.
Sometimes it’s also useful to have a spotter. This is a person who’s aware of the anxiety issues and can signal whether one is showing signs of being overcome by the emotion. They might also be able to step in and take over if a particular event is proving to be especially difficult. Trust in the spotter, again, reframes things so that the anxiety isn’t the focus anymore. One ends up placing focus on the spotter rather than internal feelings. In many ways the existence of the spotter serves more of a function than his actual actions.
All of this highlights the fact that the quick fix for anxiety is to work with it at the source. Finding ways to short circuit or sidestep the feelings of anxiety are the best way to stop it from becoming an issue at any given point. It’s also why it’s so important to be flexible when working with it. Anxiety is always an internal process and as such it’s highly mutable. Being aware of different coping mechanisms will allow one to cycle through them as needed so that the fix can work as quickly as possible.