Meta-Anxiety: What It's Like Being Anxious About Being Anxious

Meta-Anxiety: What It's Like Being Anxious About Being Anxious


Anxiety disorders affect over 18% of American adults. This means that you or someone in your immediate family is likely to have anxiety or to develop it when he or she gets older. In this sense, anxiety is not something to take lightly, nor is it something to joke about. But those of us who suffer from anxiety - be it an actual disorder or frequent anxious episodes - know that anxiety can be downright laughable. If you have anxious tendencies, you've probably caught yourself getting worked up over otherwise "normal" situations.

I've personally gotten anxious over not getting to brunch on time, being without a pen or pencil, and navigating family dinners. Friends, family and peers have all had to steer my thoughts in another direction.

"Why are you so worked up?" "It's nothing to be nervous about." "Relax!"

I hear these things all the time. Now, if those of you who utter these words were in my head, you would understand that it's just more complex than that. You see, I'm not nervous about not having a pen. I'm nervous about the implications of being without one. Am I not prepared as a student? Am I unintelligent? Am I really so unprepared for life that I forget to have a pen with me? And you see, even when I'm not anxious about these things, I find myself in a circle of meta-anxiety.

Meta-anxiety doesn't actually exist in any dictionary or DSM that I've heard. To me, it's a concept I'm extremely familiar with but may have to explain to others who don't know. Meta-anxiety is the idea that when I'm not anxious, I become anxious over my lack of anxiety. Or, when I'm anxious, I get anxious that no one else is anxious. It sounds crazy, but let me break it down. Say I have a test coming up. I've read over notes, made flash cards, tested myself, and really have a firm grasp of the information I'm going to be tested on. I find myself feeling prepared and settled for the coming exam. And then, I hear my classmates completely frazzled over the test. They claim to have spent hours in the library, never really attaining any sense of the information that we're going to be tested on.

Here comes the problem. I begin to get anxious over how I'm not anxious.

"Everyone else is freaking out. I'm not freaking out. I should be freaking out."

Maybe this still doesn't make sense, but it's a phenomenon I face all too often. Maybe it's my personality. Maybe it's the fact that I go to an extremely competitive school where having anxiety and being unhealthfully stressed is the norm. At Penn, if you're not stressed, you're not doing it right. Tons of us cope with these anxieties in a variety of different ways. Most of us just keep working, easing our anxiety, only to have it return the next day when we realize we have another assignment coming up.

The best advice I can give to someone facing anxiety (or even "meta-anxiety") is to reevaluate your fears such that you recognize them as irrational and insignificant. When I find myself becoming anxious over my lack of anxiety, I remind myself that this is simply ridiculous and that I'm really just prepared for a test that other students only began studying for hours before the exam.

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To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Suicidal thoughts are not black and white.

Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.

Suicidal thoughts are thought of in such black and white terms. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is there are some stuck in the gray area of those two statements, I for one am one of them.

I've had suicidal thoughts since I was a kid.

My first recollection of it was when I came home after school one day and got in trouble; and while I was just sitting in the dining room I kept thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to take a knife from the kitchen and just shove it into my stomach." I didn't want to die, or even hurt myself for that matter. But those thoughts haven't stopped since.

I've thought about going into the bathroom and taking every single pill I could find and just drifting to sleep and never waking back up, I've thought about hurting myself to take the pain away, just a few days ago on my way to work I thought about driving my car straight into a tree. But I didn't. Why? Because even though that urge was so strong, I didn't want to die. I still don't, I don't want my life to end.

I don't think I've ever told anyone about these feelings. I don't want others to worry because the first thing anyone thinks when you tell them you have thoughts about hurting or killing yourself is that you're absolutely going to do it and they begin to panic. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but I don't want to die.

It's a confusing feeling, it's a scary feeling.

When the depression takes over you feel like you aren't in control. It's like you're drowning.

Every bad memory, every single thing that hurt you, every bad thing you've ever done comes back and grabs you by the ankle and drags you back under the water just as you're about the reach the surface. It's suffocating and not being able to do anything about it.

The hardest part is you never know when these thoughts are going to come. Some days you're just so happy and can't believe how good your life is, and the very next day you could be alone in a dark room unable to see because of the tears welling up in your eyes and thinking you'd be better off dead. You feel alone, you feel like a burden to everyone around you, you feel like the world would be better off without you. I wish it was something I could just turn off but I can't, no matter how hard I try.

These feelings come in waves.

It feels like you're swimming and the sun is shining and you're having a great time, until a wave comes and sucks you under into the darkness of the water. No matter how hard you try to reach the surface again a new wave comes and hits you back under again, and again, and again.

And then it just stops.

But you never know when the next wave is going to come. You never know when you're going to be sucked back under.

I always wondered if I was the only one like this.

It didn't make any sense to me, how did I think about suicide so often but not want to die? But I was thinking about it in black and white, I thought I wasn't allowed to have those feelings since I wasn't going to act on them. But then I read articles much like this one and I realized I'm not the only one. Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, and my feelings are valid.

To everyone who feels this way, you aren't alone.

I thought I was for the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way and I didn't understand how I could feel this way. But please, I implore you to talk to someone, anyone, about the way you're feeling; whether it be a family member, significant other, a friend, a therapist.

My biggest mistake all these years was never telling anyone how I feel in fear that they would either brush me off because “who could be suicidal but not want to die," or panic and try to commit me to a hospital or something. Writing this article has been the greatest feeling of relief I've felt in a long time, talking about it helps. I know it's scary to tell people how you're feeling, but you're not alone and you don't have to go through this alone.

Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, your feelings are valid, and there are people here for you, you are not alone.

If you're thinking about hurting yourself please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit to live chat with someone. Help it out there and you are not alone.

Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

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Meditation Is Not A Perfect Practice, But It's Still Worth Your Time

You'll thank me later.


I began doing yoga a few years ago, and I instantly loved it. The combination of stretching, mental relaxation, and emotional release is amazing. It creates a sense of zen and peace in my life that I can use during the stress that comes from school, work, and everyday life. But the one part of yoga that I am not in love with is the meditation aspect.

I absolutely dread meditation. I do not know what it is, but I can never quite seem to get my mind to quiet down. No matter how hard I try, there is always a million thoughts running through my brain. "Did I finish that homework assignment?" "Am I breathing too loud? Can other people hear me?" I become so focused on other things happening around me that I just can't seem to calm down and relax.

But meditation is not about just clearing your mind and going completely blank. It is about focusing on a single thought, object, or intention and just allowing those emotions and feelings to overcome you. Focusing on one intention in your life allows you to become focused and re-centered. Meditation is not a set in stone practice, it is adaptable based on each person's needs.

There are seven general types of meditation: loving-kindness meditation, body scanning meditation, mindfulness meditation, breath awareness meditation, kundalini yoga, Zen meditation, and transcendentalism meditation. Each of these general types can be adapted to fit ones specific needs in that time. All seven of these meditations offer stress release options to help with daily stressors and inconveniences.

There is no perfect way to meditate. Meditation can also be as simple as just closing your eyes and simply breathing for a few seconds while focusing on one important thing in your life to help you remain grounded. There is no one set meditation type that works for all people. Some people enjoy all of the forms or even several of them, while others such as myself strictly enjoy the body scanning meditation.

The body scanning meditation focuses on scanning the body for areas of tension and to encourage the release of tension in that part of the body. Once the release occurs, the whole body can begin to relax even more. It usually starts by focusing on the toes and relaxing then moving up the legs, the torso the arms to the fingertips, and all the way through to the tip of the head.

My ideal meditation type is not for everyone. Playing around with the different types of meditations is the best way to find an ideal type of meditation that fits what the body needs. Unlike with most things, practice doesn't make perfect. Practicing the art of meditation just helps to refine the overall calm and zen that is felt.


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