For several years a woman had been having trouble getting to sleep at night because she feared burglars. One night her husband heard a noise in the house, so he went downstairs to investigate. When he got there, he did find a burglar. “Good evening,” said the man of the house, “I am pleased to see you. Come upstairs and meet my wife. She has been waiting 10 years to meet you.”
Anxiety is a very real part of many people’s lives and can be very debilitating to live with. Are you an anxious person? Anxiety affects everyone at some level. We get stressed and we rush around. In spite of our technological advances that make our life ‘easier’, we don’t seem to be free from the stress factor.
Stress and anxiety can really move in a direction that can be quite scary. We may not even know that we are experiencing anxiety. About a third of all people will suffer from some kind of anxiety disorder.
So what is anxiety anyway?
The word is one of those, like love and faith, that is thrown about so carelessly as to have very little real meaning. Anxiety actually is best defined as unbearable stress. It is considered unbearable because in time it will do damage. It is much more intense than worry and often has physical side effects.
Anxiety carries worry to an unhealthy degree. It may be rational, based upon circumstances, or it may be irrational. There is a sense of fear, uneasiness of the mind, worry, tension—in its extreme it can lead to depression, drug abuse.
So anxiety then is worry raised to an unhealthy degree. And if not treated, it could cause damage. The body will not tolerate it for long. Anxiety is worry raised to unhealthy levels. That is, anxiety can, over a period of time, produce health-endangering consequences—and that becomes serious.
Reasons to Be Anxious
When you look at your world, it’s easy to find reasons to be anxious:
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- Death is a fact of life. No matter how pleasant our lives are, some very big, bad news is waiting at the end: each of us will die. Everyone we love will die. Death is the source of very intense anxiety for almost everyone. This anxiety fuels our fears, not only about our death, but also about our health and the health of those we love.
- Relationships don’t last. Relationships are also a huge source of anxiety. We value relationships, but they change and sometimes break apart—a spouse dies, a marriage fails, children leave home, and friends drift away or even turn on us. We fear the loneliness, the loss, the hurt, and the betrayal that comes with broken relationships.
- We might not have (or say we don’t have) enough money. Most of us worry about money. We can’t escape this anxiety—it touches every part of our lives. Money worries are tied to so many things: security, identity, status. Each one of us can be affected by how much money we have or don’t have.
We should not be too hard on ourselves, or feel guilty all the time if we feel anxious. Remember the Bible says that God is not unmindful of the human condition: “He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14).
(Read Coping with Anxiety – Part 2)