On Anxiety and ‘Meta-Worry’

“People worry, what are they worrying about today?” -Violent femmes

Today I wanna talk about something which has been a central theme in my life for quite some time; that being anxiety.

If there are any solid regrets in my life (there are a plethora of semi-regrets which sit in the gray area of my Ethical/moral compass.) it’s the amount of time I’ve wasted and number of times I’ve embarrassed myself as a result of various states of anxiety or panic.

Even more profoundly disrupting is a state which I have become quite familiar with and dub ‘meta-worry’ which I would describe as a state of worry which revolves around a state of worry, its frequency of occurrence, and or what one ought or ought not be worried about.

One could see meta worry as the negative side of meta cognition which is defined as the psychological process of thinking about thought itself.

I’m sure there’s already a word out there for the phenomenon (besides the broad term of ‘thought-loop’) but I have yet to see one during my quite limited armchair research of psychology.

I should probably state that my understanding stems more from personal experience with mental illness cross referenced by conversations with certain friends and peers about their respective experience.

Most of us understand that worry and panic are counterproductive to maintaining good mental health and increasing the odds of desired outcome (or lack thereof). This however doesn’t seem to make it any easier when faced with acute states of anxiety and panic.

Some of us spend so much time in perpetual worry, that when we don’t have anything to be worried about we don’t quite get the memo. This for me has been a primary trigger of what I described as meta-worry.

It often start with getting worried that you aren’t worried, or worse contriving a false perception that perpetual worry is an asset or a virtue(possibly because of an inability to distinguish between worry and care as I’ve heard it described.) So whether intentionally or not, one begins inventing unnecessary or even unheard of reasons for themselves to be in a tizzy.

It’s quite a curious experience really, by the end of it I found myself so bewildered at the complex chain of ironies in every thought and event which transpired that I could hardly care about most of the personal misfortunes And psychologically injuries sustained as a result.

My experience was pretty atypical though, and I in retrospect have at many times held far too much (and others far too little) of a capacity to find amusement in various forms of ones own degradation and misfortune.

Another cause which I have experienced is a state of worry induced at the concern over the effects which panic and anxiety have on your existence and social reality. Though I have experienced this on many more occasions than the former, I do not have as much to say about it simply because it seems to be, at least for myself, more easily recognizable and far more easily untangled and removed from consciousness.

One method of success I’ve had with passively reducing the frequency of anxiety on a longer term scale is by reminding myself consistently that by not worrying one may often increase quality of life along with the odds of seeing favorable outcomes in general.

Conversely if your more of a negative reinforcement type of person it may help to remind oneself that worry actually decreases the respective odds and your quality of life though for many this can add another layer of problems.

As for actively removing oneself from a state of escalated anxiety (which I am required to do rather often.) If I am not in a social or work environment and the cause of anxiety is a more internal thing I often find the best course of action is to seek a compelling distraction.

If I am seeking to distract myself, I often find simple things to reorient ones consciousness such as listening to music reading, exercising, cleaning or doing something creative, or just plain productive in nature all seem to have some inherent ability to transform inner anxieties into a sense of either calm, focus or excitement.

However I also often opt to take the other route, mostly when an anxious state becomes so intense that conventional forms of distraction cannot rid of it. For me this most often involves the previously described state of meta-worry because of its perceived ability to take me much further away from a normal psychological homeostasis thus disrupting normal tactics of quelling anxiety.

This method is a bit more complicated, and more fit for those with a psycho-analytic- or introspective preference of dealing with psychological problems. This can be done In ones thoughts, or through conversation, I often find asking myself questions on paper as the preferred medium. No matter what the objective is the same: to break down the causes of your unrest to the point where it can no longer hold any power over you.

I find paper to be preferable because trying to sort things out in my mind can often be very difficult especially while experiencing wide arrays of various racing thoughts associated with anxiety, as well as because allowing this to happen in conversation can often make one come off as pessimistic, cowardly, overwhelming or in some cases flat out crazy.

Kinda ironic to think that one would do something as crazy as talking to themselves on paper to avoid looking crazy but it surprisingly provides me with one of the best outlets I’ve ever found.

An incredible outlet not only for anxiety, but also thought patterns that might be described as ‘magical’, delusional, self-defeating, narcissistic, paranoid and or self destructive in nature.

Some of these I can verify from experience and some only through word of mouth though I do not wish to be specific on which ones.

I can however attest that opting to learn more about the way you think by writing down your thoughts and questioning them as well as yourself about them causes an extreme reduction in the frequency of these thoughts, the extent to which they may negatively impact decision making, and the chances that they will accidentally surface in a conversation where they would not be appropriate.

Well that’s enough babbling for a day, I hope someone is able to find some kind of benefit or use from this article, if you have any non-medicinal methods of dealing with anxiety feel free to let us know in the comments section below.

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