Managing Anxiety Can Feel Like A Full-Time Job

We're all constantly wrestling our demons — some real, some not. The pressure you're feeling to deliver on a work presentation in an hour? Real. The vacuous idea that you're doomed in your relationship and that any day now your partner is going to walk in to let you know that you're a nobody? Not so much. Both of these premises register in our heads as anxiety, but they obviously have some inconsistencies in their merits. So how do we identify them?

Acute vs. Chronic
According to Murray Bowen, father of Natural Systems Theory, there are two types of anxiety: Acute anxiety and chronic anxiety. That uncomfortable feeling you get when you’re driving in bad weather is an example of acute anxiety. It’s a naturally occurring body alarm that lets you know you're in danger, so it’s actually a form of anxiety that’s good for your survival. When the stressor is eliminated — for example, the bad weather stops or you reach your destination — the acute anxiety should stop as well. This feeling is based on something tangible. Chronic anxiety? Not so much.

We're all constantly wrestling our demons — some real, some not.

Pretty much anything and everything negative that we harbor as the "definite future" of our relationship is an example of chronic anxiety. Every unlikely scenario that you dream up, every conversation you never had, every fight that might take place... these are all examples of chronic anxiety trying to infiltrate your relationship. And resolving these feelings is a little more complex, because it's not as simple as driving in bad conditions. These kinds of thoughts can put severe stress on a relationship — considering you and your partner have enough real obstacles to work through.

To sum up:

  • Acute anxiety: Immediate dangers & legitimate worries that act in our best interest and often protect our lives through self-preservation instinct
  • Chronic anxiety: Typically a figment of your fears, something far off in the future that may or may not ever happen, but is negatively impacting you in the present

Understanding the difference between these two types of anxieties will give you more insight into your deepest fears and worries. Name it means taming it, . This is the necessary first step.

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