As fellow human beings, our behaviors and genetics have allowed us to survive generation after generation. We come from a long line of ancestors who were cautious and often overestimated dangers in their environment to survive. Those who were more careless and did not constantly scan the environment for threats had less of a chance of living to pass on their genetics. Today, we are dealing not only with anxiety-provoking genes but also with an anxiety-provoking environment that has changed dramatically faster than we’ve been able to adapt. Debilitating anxiety has now become widespread and is one of the more common reasons help is sought from medical and mental health professionals.
We all know the experience of being “stuck in our head” as we live our daily lives with the constant internal dialog: What if I fail? How will I make this work? What will they think of me? Most of our adult life is spent overestimating dangers and threats to our egos and self-identity. The self-talk dialog in our heads that previously served our ancestors to survive physical threats has now become, in some ways, a crutch as we try to survive mental and emotional threats. It is common that we live most of our lives either analyzing the past or worrying about the future with little time spent in the present.
We do not choose to develop anxiety, rather, it can happen gradually over time as we fall into certain automatic thought patterns and reactions that eventually become damaging. Traumatic experiences will happen to us as well. These events can cause not only immediate psychological harm but can also divert us down a path of unhealthy thought patterns without even being aware it’s happening.
Some levels of stress are healthy and normal and even drive us to achieve great things. However, we know that stress can rise to levels where it causes more harm than good. When this occurs, know that there are many scientifically studied methods that can help turn things around. Talk with your primary care provider. She or he can be a great resource to help you start the journey back to wellness.
Russell Beckstead, DO
Canyon View Family Medicine