If physical pain is any measure of being human, anxiety is its greatest competitor. Mental anguish takes many forms: basic insecurity, deep-seated resentments, low self-image or self-hatred, academic slowness, jealousies, shyness, physical shortcomings.

And that does not take into account anxiety caused by the latest breaking news of disaster, financial pressures, racial tensions, traffic, flying, job insecurity and anything else that sharpens the edges of one’s uneasiness and fears.

While worry comes with being human, anxiety stretches that reality. It can take hold, pinch any nerve and create anguish worse than any nightmare.

Anxiety attacks may come and go but anyone who has experienced them is left on guard forever against their return.

Although there are many degrees of anxiety, even the slightest attack can throw off the rhythms of a life and lock one into the basement of immobility.

Anxiety’s worst face is extreme paranoia, but in today’s world one does not have to be paranoid to find reasons to feel frozen with fear. There is a cruelty in being human when people are unable to get past their worst fears to see the gift of life for what it is and make the most of it.

Platitudes and anxiety are like oil and water when dealing with the stresses cited above.

Maybe there is something to be learned from the mother whose teenage daughter asked her to help make her happy. Just knowing her daughter was unhappy tore at the mother’s heart. When the mother suggested that at the end of each day they sit together and share their days’ best moments, the daughter jumped at the idea. It wasn’t long before both mother and daughter were visibly changed.

Anxiety is often a war one wages against a perceived reality – a self, a life or a world that is not precisely what one believes it should be.

Many anxious people are frustrated perfectionists. Their perceptions almost always come up short of expectations or demands. For them the best is rarely good enough. Their push for perfection becomes a straitjacket entrapping a spirit meant to be free.

Because anxiety exists in the mind, there is no simple argument against it or antidote for it.

Anti-anxiety medications can help but the beginning of dealing with anxiety is acceptance that is, owning and embracing one’s humanness and the realities of living.

Acceptance is essential to finding inner peace. It acknowledges that neither life nor the world and everyone in it are perfect, that no amount of anxiety will make them so.

A healthy self views the world as it really is, with all its beauty as well as its imperfections. Acceptance of reality allows the self to begin to deal with the challenges to inner peace.