Anxiety meltdowns are no fun. I’m sure you’ve had them at some point in your life. Especially if you were a student. Or child. Or parent. Or teacher. Or employee… Or HUMAN.
If you’ve had one (which you probably have), you know EXACTLY what I mean.
If you think you haven’t, then chances are that they’ve happened in a distant past nook of your life – so distant that it’s in the tape archives of your brain, rather than in its RAM (nor even in its hard drive).
If you truly haven’t had one, well, then you can count yourself amongst the lucky and incredibly tiny fraction of our population that may be in your situation.
I unabashedly admit that I have had anxiety meltdowns many times in the past. As a grad student, I delighted in my discovery that making lists of things to get done helped somewhat, but promptly realized that it was no panacea. Pretty soon, I’d found myself with an overwhelming list of TO DO items that were never getting done – there simply was no good reason to start at any particular task. Of course, I could rationalize that I must start somewhere and that getting one thing done was better than getting nothing done at all. But that was the rational and discriminative mind speaking, even tragically conscious of the fact that it was unable to spur the sweating body into action.
Anxiety meltdowns are crippling. We find our feeling mind to be completely aware of what needs to get done, and yet the body is too paralyzed to act. We are forced to watch with increasingly despondent anticipation of impending doom even as the torture of involuntary inaction is inflicted upon our most beloved one – our own self. Enough to make even a cold-blooded Bolton bastard shiver in his socks!
Can you relate to this? I bet you can if you were one of the many students who have talked to me about stress in their lives and how your medication isn’t helping. Medication may not help, but meditation will. Like making lists, medication alleviates the symptoms, but unless you leverage that temporary respite to step back and reflect deeply, it doesn’t solve the underlying (and growing) problem.
The answer that helps the anxious ones is clear when we admit that we have once been victims of the same affliction ourselves. Then we think back to how we came to address the situation and pass on the learned knowledge to the next generation so they can also put it to good use.
So, how do we, as adults, avoid (mostly) these anxiety meltdowns that seem to plague the lives of the little ones? Speaking for myself and those that I have observed and talked to, I see that we do this by nipping issues in the bud. An introspective nature equips you with the tools required to reflect upon your life. We calmly observe what we did, should have done, and should not have done to avoid certain painful situations.
As always, this is best illustrated using an analogy of an unforeseen physical setback. Of course, nothing can be done about sudden calamities. An unexpectedly sudden stroke, heart attack outta the blue or a devastating accident – these are things we have no control over, and need to learn to accept in order to carry on. That’s a different skill which is not the subject of this article. Here, we’re concerned with the non-sudden calamities. Those that happen with sufficient warning. Suppose a man has survived a heart attack. We find that he is usually acutely aware of any symptoms that might suggest the onset of the next one after the fact. When he notices one, he doesn’t ignore it. He doesn’t wait until the symptoms mushroom into a full-blown attack. He seeks medical attention promptly to put it to rest, yes?
So it is with those who have learnt to deal with anxiety. Because we have gone through the painful experience of an anxiety meltdown ourselves (YES, WE HAVE. And we know just how sickeningly awful it is. It’s nothing to look forward to. And everything to fear and loathe), we’ve developed such an aversion to it that we’ve started looking out for its earliest symptoms.
Because having one is such a personally traumatic experience, we are constantly evaluating everything to see if it has even the slightest likelihood of causing an anxiety attack. If so, we douse it as soon as we see it so it never even gets a chance to flare up into a full grown attack.
Sometimes age brings wisdom. With reflection and insight born of wisdom we can see and evaluate situations for what they’re really worth, and consider the value they bring to our lives. But being young comes with its handicaps. Because every situation and experience is so new, the mind is completely overwhelmed by them leaving little if any time at all to reflect. Here is where it helps to meditate. By training your conscious mind to calm down, you get an opportunity to peer into its inner workings. You get to see and observe the life cycle of your personal experiences and evaluate them. You discover new ways to tackle painful situations. You learn to identify common patterns at an intuitive level so you can respond appropriately to them before they even percolate up to your discriminative mind. You will then truly understand what your grandfather meant when he said that a stitch in time saves nine.
I believe that’s what we, as adults, do to avoid anxiety meltdowns. You should know that if we were in the same situation as you, we’d react exactly as you did. We too would melt down, incapacitated, hopeless, sorry, and almost every other emotionally negative adjective you could think of. But since we don’t want to get there, we’ve gotten good over the years in making sure to avoid them.
We address small problems when they’re still small not out of discipline or some other pride-making quality, but out of fear, and the knowledge born of experience that letting the situation get out of hand may well destroy us. Isn’t that why Google tried to buy out Facebook when it was still in its diapers? Isn’t that why Facebook tried to buy Snapchat?
It’s not that the sea is calm everywhere when we command our ships. It’s just that as seasoned captains of the sail, we’ve learned how to steer clear of storms by spotting dark clouds from a distance.
This article has been cross-posted to my meditation blog at https://MindfulAtFoothill.wordpress.com