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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A Love Letter To The Girl Who Cares Too Much About Everyone But Herself

You, the girl with a heart full of love and no place big enough to store it all.


Our generation is so caught up in this notion that it's "cool" not to care about anything or anyone. I know you've tried to do just that.

I'm sure there was a brief moment where you genuinely believed you were capable of not caring, especially since you convinced everyone around you that you didn't. But that just isn't true, is it? Don't be ashamed of this, don't let anyone ridicule you for having emotions.

After everything life has put you through, you have still remained soft.

This is what makes you, you. This is what makes you beautiful. You care so deeply and love so boldly and it is incredible, never let the world take this from you.

Have Your Voice Heard: Become an Odyssey Creator

You are the girl who will give and give and give until you have absolutely nothing left. Some may see this as a weakness, an inconvenience, the perfect excuse to walk all over you. I know you try to make sense of it all, why someone you cared so much about would treat you the way they did.

You'll make excuses for them, rationalize it and turn it all around on yourself.

You'll tell yourself that maybe just maybe they will change even though you know deep down they won't. You gave them everything you had and it still feels as if they took it all and ran. When this happens, remind yourself that you are not a reflection of those who cannot love you. The way that people treat you does not define who you are. Tell yourself this every day, over and over until it sticks. Remind yourself that you are gold, darling, and sometimes they will prefer silver and that is OK.

I know you feel guilty when you have to say no to something, I know you feel like you are letting everyone you love down when you do. Listen to me, it is not your responsibility to tend to everyone else's feelings all the time. By all means, treat their feelings with care, but remember it is not the end of the world when you cannot help them right away.

Remember that it is OK to say no.

You don't have to take care of everyone else all the time. Sometimes it's OK to say no to lunch with your friends and just stay home in bed to watch Netflix when you need a minute for yourself. I know sometimes this is much easier said than done because you are worried about letting other people down, but please give it a try.

With all of this, please remember that you matter. Do not be afraid to take a step back and focus on yourself. You owe yourself the same kind of love and patience and kindness and everything that you have given everyone else. It is OK to think about and put yourself first. Do not feel guilty for taking care of yourself. You are so incredibly loved even when it doesn't feel like it, please always remember that. You cannot fill others up when your own cup is empty. Take care of yourself.

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He Was Too Worried About The Future That He Forgot To Live In The Present

I just wish he could be present, even when everyone around us is in a rush.


I know this guy. . . or maybe I don't because he's always changing. He's always on the go. He never sits down. He never takes a break. He's so focused on his future and all of the obstacles he has to overcome to get there, that I think he forgot to live in the now.

And it would be selfish of me to say, "Forget the future! Worry about today!" because in the long run, our today's are building our future too. It's all a little messy, and it's all a little complicated. . . but there has to be a balance.

I wish he would take the chance to get to know those around him. Enjoy the simple things in life every once in a while and quit holding back because he doesn't know where he's going to end up.

There's a difference between letting your future possess you and letting your future shape you. We're all on the same boat at this stage - unsure. We don't know what we want, we don't know who we'll become, we don't even know what we're really working for. Yeah, some of us have ideas and expectations about our futures but the reality of life is that we don't know what life is going to hit us with. We just have to be okay with a different tomorrow.

There's a lot I don't know about him. There's a lot I wish I knew. Thing is, I've accepted that I won't. Our time is limited here, and although he may stay here for the extra schooling he needs, he'll be even more focused then than he is now.

Throw away your responsibilities just once. It doesn't have to be every night or every week - but give it a shot. See where life takes you when you aren't worried about the future for just one second.

Life is neat and while some of us are so glued to our technology and social media, others of us are taking in the moments as they come. He may be looking down at books and writing assignments, but if he were to look up for just one second he could see how much he's missing out on.

I know he's going to get where he wants to be someday, I don't doubt that. I just wish he could let others in his life on his process of getting there. And if he were to ever stumble upon this and know this is exactly about him, I just want him to know can say hi. He can talk to me.

You meet people, you set different expectations, you have new experiences.

You focus on your studies for four years and then you continue them or you finally begin life. Don't rush, don't wear yourself out. In the end, I just wish he could be present, even when everyone around us is in a rush.

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