Am I Going Crazy?

How to find peace and healing in the midst of chaos

Seven out of ten adults in the United States say they experience stress or anxiety daily, but what can we do about it?

“Am I going crazy?”

It’s one of the most frequent questions I hear from someone who is battling anxiety.

Seven out of ten adults in the United States say they experience stress or anxiety daily, and most say it interferes at least moderately with their lives. About one-third report persistent stress or excessive anxiety daily or that they have had an anxiety or panic attack. See the study by the ADAA.

If you happen to be among the seven out of ten, and secretly wonder if you’re going crazy, I’ve got good news.  No.  It’s highly unlikely that you’re on the brink of a break down, but your body is talking to you.  It’s asking you to pay attention to what is going on inside.

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 Think of your body like a pressure cooker


A pressure cooker is a sealed pot that uses intense pressure to cook food fast.  As the pot heats up, the liquid inside forms steam (high velocity energy) which raises the pressure in the pot. 

Remember that basic lesson in Physics 101? 

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Energy always strives to be discharged.

That’s why a pressure cooker has a fail-safe release valve that regulates the pressure inside, by allowing steam to escape little by little. If the steam can’t escape, you’ve got big problems.  The water keeps boiling, the pressure rises, the temperature climbs, and suddenly a big explosion sends tiny bits of stainless steel and food flying every direction.

Here’s the connection: when stress goes unattended and we neglect opening the release valve, we set ourselves up for trouble.   We’ll either blow our lid in ways that hurt those around us, or we’ll discharge the tension into our body and become candidates for anxiety, depression, and host of other stress-related illnesses

National trends say that those under thirty-five tend to lock the lid tight on what troubles them.  The preference is to conceal trouble and appear calm and happy instead.  Stanford University calls it the “duck syndrome.” Picture a duck that looks like it is gliding gracefully and effortlessly across a lake. On the surface everything looks lovely. 

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But underneath the duck’s feet are paddling frantically to stay above water, so as not sink under the rising pressures (academics, work, family, money, health, and any other stresses at the moment).

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Pretending all is going fine when it’s not, is enough to rob anyone’s peace.

We aren’t wired to cope well with life pressures on our own. We are relational beings, hardwired for connection.  So what does a healthy alternative look like? Do we simply go public with our problems and risk others thinking that we’re messed up?

No.  Here are a few options:

Rather than faking good, open a release-valve by being emotionally honest with yourself. The truth will set you free.  Anxiety, as any form of distress, offers all of us an opportunity to pause, to look at the deeper questions of life, and to find personal meaning.  Anxiety can become a potent vehicle for personal transformation and growth.

Turn towards what’s troubling you and re-assess it.  With the help of neuroimaging devices that picture brain activity, research tells us that rethinking feelings and reinterpreting the meaning of an emotional trigger, reduces negative emotion to a greater extent than when we suppress and inhibit the emotion (stuff it and fake good.) Reappraising what worries you reduces neural activation in the emotion center of the brain and enhances neural activation in the part of the brain (pre-frontal cortex) that controls emotion. Suppressing feelings demonstrated an opposite pattern.   Make a special note of this:  

     Avoidance increases anxiety

    The bottom line?  The more you suppress and pretend, the more anxiety builds. 

    Remember the messy pressure cooker explosion? Let’s not go there.

    It’s better to face what is bugging you, and reach out to family or friends. You get to choose who, when, where, and how much you share.


    Going the opposite direction and avoiding others amplifies the brain's stress response. Social contact helps put the brakes on it.  Research shows that people who encounter major life stresses, come through challenges more easily if they connect with friends or family for support. 

    Peace and healing comes in the context of relationships

    Anxiety is part of being human. It’s like a flashing signal on your dashboard indicating that it’s time to check the ways you are viewing and relating to the world around you.

    There are benefits to facing the reality of what is and authentically connecting with others you trust. Perks like emotional freedom, deeper relationships, and increased peace. 

    P. R. Goldin, K. McRae, W. Ramel, and J. J. Gross, The neural bases of emotion regulation: reappraisal and suppression of negative emotion, Biological Psychiatry, vol. 63, no. 6, pp. 577– 586, 2008.

    Related Article:

    Is Anxiety Robbing You of Peace?  Foolproof Ways to Stop that Thief

    Pam Vredevelt

    Pam Vredevelt

    Pam Vredevelt is a Professional Counselor and Coach, Best-selling author of Empty Arms, and the Empty Arms Journal. Jessie Vredevelt Schultz is a business consultant and transformation coach. They co-lead Healing Your Empty Arms: A transformation experience after the loss of your baby or child, for emotional healing, personal growth, and spiritual renewal.

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