I’m not sure that I agree that you have to tolerate your anxiety.
In reading an article titled “What to do (and not do) when children are anxious” there is a sentence that I would like to explore in this article. The sentence was “It’s to help them (your child) learn to tolerate their anxiety and function as well as they can.”
If you are a parent of an anxious child, or someone suffering from anxiety yourself, what I’m going to cover in this post, works just as well, either way.
What’s to tolerate something really about?
Let’s first look at the definition of the word ‘tolerate’
- allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one does not necessarily like or agree with) without interference.
- accept or endure (someone or something unpleasant or disliked) with forbearance.
- be capable of continued subjection to (a drug, toxin, or environmental condition) without adverse reaction.
From reading the sentence what I think the author is saying is that the idea is to teach your child to accept their anxiety, even though they don’t like it, in order to function as well as they can, on a day to day basis.
For me this is labeling anxiety as a ‘thing’ and something in the environment that needs to be treated, or managed; like an illness.
Is anxiety an illness?
I am aware that a lot of people might consider that someone with anxiety, or if they themselves have anxiety, that they have a condition and something that needs fixing.
What if there was a whole different way of approaching ‘anxiety’ that meant you didn’t view it as a bad thing. And yes, I am making the assumption that in labeling it as a condition that you might consider it a negative thing. And therefore it wasn’t something that you needed to ‘tolerate.’
I think many people have the misconception that anxiety is this thing that just won’t go away. You have it, you live with it and it’s just there, day in and day out and you need to suffer from it, and with it.
And yet in my own experience, my anxiety has completely disappeared, so it is something that you can shift and not have to experience.
It’s not something you have to tolerate
That’s why I don’t totally agree with using the word ‘tolerate’. The word that I would much rather link with anxiety is acceptance. To accept your anxiety for what it is and be willing to look at what has gotten you into this space of feeling the way you do, is more supportive of you as a person.
Acceptance is all about acknowledging where you are emotionally and where your mind is at, in the moment you feel anxious or overwhelmed. And you are probably going to tell me that that’s not an easy thing to do when you are in the midst of an anxiety attack.
Sure, I get it, I’ve lived with anxiety too, remember. And there will be the ability to take a step back and look at the situation you found yourself in when you were at your most anxious, after that happened. It will be possible to sit back and slow things down and notice the stream of emotions that were happening and what your reaction to them was.
Meet your anxiety with understanding
This is what anxiety and overwhelm is all about. Too many emotions at the one time. Too much going on in your mind for you to deal with.
Accepting and acknowledging that that is all that is happening is the first step to being okay with feeling the way you do, and not labeling it as bad or something that you will never lose. And then realizing that there is nothing really to ‘tolerate.’
You are simply having an experience, and sure it might feel uncomfortable in the moment or moments you are feeling it, and there is nothing wrong with being emotional or having emotions. It’s a natural part of life when you have an e-motional reaction to something you are thinking or believing.
So, give yourself a break and don’t ‘tolerate’ your anxiety, make friends with it. Accept that it’s your way of coping with too many emotions. You might find that it’s no where near as intense, in the moment. At least that’s been my experience.