Winding Up Versus Winding Down

Every so often, I deal with situations or moments that I’ve come to recognize as “winding myself up.” I know that it’s a pretty well-known phrase and this happens to a lot of people, but I wanted to talk about my experience with getting wound up because I think it’s a unique insight into what it’s like to experience anxiety. Even though it can be extremely easy to get myself wound up, it’s much, much harder for me to calm myself down in a similar fashion. So today I ask – why is it so much harder to get wound up than to settle down?

There are multiple dictionaries that have definitions for the term “wound up,” so I took a definition from the Cambridge English Dictionary to use. According to Cambridge, to get wound up means to get “very worried, nervous, or angry.” Similar synonyms are tense, jumpy, restless, jittery…it’s actually a pretty long list of words that are trying to describe this feeling of being on edge.

Even though they might not solve the problem, self-awareness can be extremely helpful when dealing with these feelings. Once you recognize what the thing, person, or moment is that’s getting you all wound up, you can learn from that experience and recognize it better the next time it happens.

Unfortunately, self-awareness doesn’t always stop me from spiraling down the well of anxiety. I’ve learned that getting wound up is so much simpler, quicker and easier to do than to calm myself down. I’m not quite sure why this is, but I know that after almost a decade of living with an anxiety disorder, falling back into my anxiety is as normal as breathing. It’s so simple to give in to the anxious thoughts and believe them, almost like a reflex.

What takes more training is seeing this anxiety for what it is, and working on ways to settle myself down, calm myself or find my center. One big reason I think that this is more difficult for me is that, to be honest, I don’t do it very often. I’ve developed a pretty strong habit of getting wound up, and a few good attempts at calming myself down can’t change years of doing the same thing over and over again.

I know changing my habits is a lot more than recognizing how often I do something, but to me it feels like the most important place to start. Depression and anxiety have made me a creature of habit in all the wrong ways, and now it’s time to learn habits in some of the right ways. Peace and love, friends!

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