Are you nervous or anxious?
Anxiety. It is a term used loosely, often during times when we are overcome with feelings of nervousness, uncertainty, and lack of control. Anxiety is something that I have struggled with my entire life and although I can manage it quite well now, it still creeps back in under specific circumstances. I previously shared my story and experiences growing up with anxiety on my blog. If you would like to read it directly, click here. In the fall, I also shared my Anxiety Strategies, which you can directly link to here.
Since I have already talked in more detail about my story and strategies, I wanted to focus on a different approach today. I don’t believe anxiety is a one-and-done topic and it can always be brought up and discussed. Today, I wanted to shed some light onto when I can determine whether I am feeling nervous versus anxious and why I think this happens inside my brain and body.
I often find that “I feel nervous” and “I feel anxious” are used interchangeably. Sometimes, I even find myself inserting one when instead I really should have used the other. Nervousness is typically a short-term feeling whereas anxiety usually lasts longer. Nerves and anxiousness feel and look different to every individual, but nerves can sometimes be a positive thing too. I always find that I am nervous because I care, I am excited, or there is a new opportunity I am looking forward to experiencing. Anxiety is a whole other beast for me. It doesn’t always go away after the situation has passed.
Growing up it was school. Anxiety got the best of me most times and it was a long-term struggle for me. I will never forget in 2016 when I handed in my final undergraduate exam. The weight that lifted off my shoulders is indescribable. The magnitude of that feeling is something I will always remember, and also something I don’t think I realized would be so powerful. I always joke now that I have never felt anything remotely close to my anxiety while in school since graduating and I never stress.
Currently, since I am not in school, I find my anxiety comes out in different ways. Want to know the top things that truly give me anxiety?
dating and any emotions that go along with it
I got my G1 a month before I turned 17, almost one year later than when I became eligible and it is something that does not come naturally to me. It is difficult to describe my anxiety while driving to others because they respond with “once you get more comfortable you’ll be fine”. I won’t. The feeling I have when driving never goes away.
Not that I have done much of it in a long time, don’t worry mom and dad, (I’ll fill you in when needed), but it is something that also gives me anxiety in a completely different way. I think for me the act of putting myself out there in hopes that someone will like me in return is scary. I am confident enough in myself to know that I don’t need someone else to validate me, but the whole dating scene doesn’t sit well with me…which is probably why I choose to work lots and focus on my professional career over my personal life on any given day.
I HATE being late. I guess I don’t really know anyone who likes being late, but when I feel that I have lost the sense of controlling my time I feel that anxiety creeping back in again. The TTC definitely adds to this. The tightness in my chest occurs as soon as those doors stay open longer at a stop than usual and it remains tight until I am off knowing I still have plenty of time to spare. It is a similar feeling when I ride the Greyhound. If you know, you know, that bus has NEVER been on time in the 8 years I have been riding it.
I am sure there are other moments in my life where I might experience uneasiness, but for the most part I would now classify that as nerves instead of anxiety.
Why do I think I feel this way?
For me, I think anxiety stems from a lack of control. I feel quite confident in situations where I am in control. Driving and worrying about the other drivers around you, dating in hopes that something likes me in return, and having someone or something affect my punctuality and timeliness puts me over the edge.
I have gotten very good at recognizing when I need to let go of this anxiety in situations I cannot control. Going through that process in my head also helps me rationalize my feelings and puts them into perspective. I definitely still have work to do on this front.
What does anxiety feel like to me?
Because you cannot always visibly see anxiety on someone’s body it is often overlooked as overreacting, being dramatic, or simply confusing the feeling for being nervous. If you are someone who experiences anxiety however, you know it is a totally different feeling. For me anxiety looks/feels like:
tightness in the chest *number one indicator for me!!!
lack of focus when I have a big list of things to accomplish
lack of motivation to get things done due to feelings of overwhelm
isolation - this is easy for me to let happen since I live alone
intense, shallow breaths
freezing up, I get so overwhelmed I cannot make the next move (just ask my dad what happened mid 3-point turn while practicing for my driving test!)
Anxiety and other mental health experiences look different on everyone. Remember to be supportive, genuinely ask others how they are doing, and never judge a book by its cover.
Yours in self-discovery,