Have you ever been a little bit jittery before an important event? Does your boss seem a little distant? Maybe an exam or a big meeting is coming up? Well, we all have this feeling around uncertainty or a big commitment. It means that we’re keen to see what’s about to go down. To see whether we can deal with pressure. Our nerves often help us and motivate us to do better, but sometimes. They can get the best of us. When we feel nervous about things on a more frequent basis, it might be a cause for the concern. In this case, it might not just be the ‘nerves’ taking over. It might be a little case of anxiety. So, what exactly is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a sudden onset of fear and distress that impedes us from functioning optimally. The feeling peaks rapidly, and may cause one to feel the following:
- Nervousness or restlessness
- Feelings of looming danger or panic
- An increased heart rate
- Increase in rate of breathing, hyperventilation
- Elevated perspiration
- Muscle spasms or twitching
- A certain level of weakness or lethargy
- Thinking clearly becomes harder
- Disturbed sleep cycle
- Avoidance of the things leading to anxiety
- Fixating on certain things, or the desire to stay away from people
The aforementioned symptoms can really affect individuals on a regular basis. In severe cases, it might render a fear of social interaction, or an obsession with certain rituals. This can really affect the way we interact with people around us. The modalities through which anxiety may affect our behavior are impulsiveness and avoidance. We’d like to explain these in a little detail, with some examples of situations that anyone could face.
Impulsivity, Avoidance and Anxiety
Impulsivity and avoidance are two facets of anxiety. We often see them in conjunction with anxiety. There have been relatively few studies that look at anxiety and impulsiveness. A study was conducted at Ryerson University to look at the same. Around 140 students classified as having Generalized Anxiety were surveyed. Research showed that impulsive behaviors exhibited had to do with functional or quick decision making, or with performing rash actions to feel better at a time of distress. For example, if you feel panicked in a meeting, you might act impulsively in a severe case. You may brush things off the table and storm away just to release the energy pent up inside you. Here, maybe thinking that being nervous is but natural might help you combat the itch of panic.
On the other hand, avoidance is the exact opposite of impulsivity. Rather than acting out to gain relief, those who experience avoidance may withdraw into a shell. This helps them to regain their balance without facing their fears. For example, an extremely anxious stage actor may throw a fit and hide backstage just to escape the curtain call! Maybe believing that a charged performance requires a little bit of nerves could help!
Let’s take studying for an exam our final example. If we’re actually just nervous, it’ll make us conscious enough to study harder. However, this nervousness won’t make us think that tragedy will befall if we happen to not do well. A truly anxious person would probably have these thoughts. They might think that their peers and teachers might mock and scorn them for their poor performance, affecting their reputation.
So, it’s pretty clear that the way anxiety affects personal interactions is manifold. However, what do you think is he way to deal with it? We’d say that sitting down, breathing deeply and thinking about how failing at something or messing up isn’t an apocalypse would surely do well. Re-framing your beliefs about the situation and understanding that you aren’t incompetent if you fail can get you through your obstacles with flying colors.
An undergraduate in Psychology, Shantanu is an aspiring Educational Psychologist who will be pursuing his Master’s in 2018 at the Ohio State University. He is adept with psychometric and statistical research, and has honed his grasp over psychology through a 4 year undergraduate course in Liberal Education at FLAME University, Pune.