While anxiety may, in theory, sound better than depression, it’s just as debilitating. Men are more apt to say they have anxiety than depression–perhaps it sounds less emasculating? The names for these things though are less important than finding a way to feel better. And feeling better may be by allowing yourself to feel anxiety.
There are some great ways to cope with anxiety. I’ve written about some of them and there are a ton of workbooks, self-help books, blog posts that can teach you skills for this.
Experiment with them and do what works for you. But coping is different from learning to feel anxiety.
But if anxiety is not completely taking over your life, you may still be actively trying to not feel anxiety. This means that while you don’t “look” anxious, your anxiety is coming out as
- irritating (or irritated)
- anger (this is a big catch-all emotion for guys)
All of those manifestations can feel pretty bad. In fact, I’d say they are often worse than if you just allow yourself to feel anxiety itself.
Feel Anxiety to Get Through Anxiety
You’ve heard the saying, “the coverup was worse than the crime”? That applies to a whole slew of mental health issues.
And definitely for feeling anxiety.
I’ve written before about how overthinking is a way to attempt to bypass the anxiety–but, like BD Wong kind of told us in Jurassic Park: “Anxiety finds a way.” (Ok, he didn’t exactly say that.)
So try it out. I’m not necessarily speaking to those of you who are regularly having panic attacks or major attacks of anxiety. Finding some coping skills first may be more important and you may want to work with a professional for a bit regarding this, but those of us who seek to avoid it–try to feel anxiety.
Or try one of the 5 strategies below:
- Note where it is in your body. Breathe into that body part.
- Sit with it without trying to “fix” it (I know–that’s a difficult one).
- Talk to someone about it.
- Write about it.
- Draw it.
It may pass by sooner than you think. Or it may lead you to focus more on the issue that you’re avoiding. If it’s a procrastinating problem it might lead you to just make that phone call that you’ve been putting off.
Stop running away from our basic emotions. That gives them control over us instead of allowing us to learn from them.
Having a difficult time with this? Feel free to contact me for a free phone/online consultation.
Justin Lioi, LCSW is a men’s mental health and relationship expert based in Brooklyn, NY (and online throughout New York State and internationally.) He received his degree from New York University and has been providing counseling for men and their families for over 10 years. Justin is on the Board of the National Association of Social Workers and writes a weekly column for the Good Men Project called Unmasking Masculinity. He can be found on local and national podcasts talking about assertiveness, anger, self-compassion, all with the goal of becoming the man you want to be.