Moving Through Anxiety
Anxiety is fear, shame, sadness, hopelessness, regret, guilt and a complete lack of trust in who you are. Convincing you of dangers that need to be avoided, panicked about and controlled. Taking away who you are, leaving you with a shell of who you used to be. It feels impossible, confusing and too powerful to stop.
It’s so powerful that living with anxiety can be like being in constant survival mode. Each day needs to be ‘gotten through’ leaving little space for enjoyment and peace. It leaves no stone un-turned as it interferes with you thoughts, memory, sleep, immune system and general well-being. Starting the day can feel like an impossible task, thoughts and worries racing through your mind taking you far far away from the present moment. You might have been anxious for so long you don’t actually remember what anything else feels like. I believe there is still hope, a chance for anxiety to take a back seat and for you to start to live again.
You have to move through anxiety. Stop trying to push it away or punishing yourself, for being anxious.
It can be stopped
It can be stopped from taking over your life. Anxiety doesn’t need to be a barrier that stops you from living. You can move through anxiety. Although it feels impossible to stop, you are stronger than you think. So strong that you’ve been battling this thing for too long. And maybe that is where some of the problem is. The battle. Anxiety is fear, a powerful fear that pushes you to your limits. I know you feel it within every inch of your body when it comes. It’s paralysing but it doesn’t have to paralyse you.
“Fear is only as deep as the mind allows” Japanese Proverb
This kind of saying can be annoying to someone with anxiety because it makes it feel like a choice. Let me be clear anxiety and panic attacks are not choices to experience. Feeling overwhelmed in the comfort of your own home is not a choice. You have not done anything to deserve to feel this way. But I do believe you can help yourself on the road to recovery.
Understandably, everyone wants a quick fix. A promise of what is going to help them feel better. Through my own journey and professional study I don’t think one exists. If it did no-one would have anxiety. The reality is unfortunately, recovery is complex. You only move through anxiety in your own way. It can take time, be scary and you’ve got to be willing to do anything to get better. By that, I mean face your fears that are feeding the anxiety. Heal from traumas that have left wounds in your heart and be willing to change certain parts of your life – if necessary. Don’t make your life about anxiety, don’t lose sight of anything else in your life.
Face your fears
This starts with being honest about what your fears are. Find someone supportive you can openly talk your fears through with. Only once you acknowledge them outside of your own mind can you start to take the power away from the anxiety. The fears you are aware of may seem completely unrelated to anything that makes sense. This is normal. Face them anyway and slowly things will start to make more sense. It might be helpful to have a flexible plan of how you’ll start to regain your life.
Healing starts with some forgiveness of yourself and maybe, depending on circumstance, other people. Depending on what has happened to you this could be way more difficult than anticipated. Someone may not deserve your forgiveness, in which case I would work instead on learning to let go. For your own sake. Not theirs. The worst thing you can do is let something that has happened to you, define you. Defining you it keeps you stuck and continually suffering from something you cannot change.
If there are things in your past you’re not proud of, work on forgiving yourself. Offer the forgiveness and kind words you would to a friend. I am personally much more effected by how I have treated others, compared with how others have treated me. In some cases I have reached out to people and apologised. If that isn’t possible why not write a letter to the person you hurt, allow yourself to feel the emotions and express everything you need to into written word.
Do you like yourself? How do you talk to yourself? Do you like the way you look, sound, dress, act? Are you proud of who you are? Answer these questions honestly and look at why you feel the way you do. You deserve love and you definitely deserve the love and care you give to others in your life. The relationship you have with yourself is the most important. You are with you all the time! Your self-talk has the ability to heal or harm you. Work on the healing.
Be open to change
Anxiety can leave is feeling fearful of the unknown. It can keep us anxious because at least the fears we have now are familiar. When I felt a continuous anxiety all throughout the day, I became more fearful of not being anxious because it became my normal. In some strange way being anxious felt like some kind of control. I didn’t have to recognise situations for what they were because anxiety overruled everything. A part of me must have known the degree of change I would need to make in my life and that’s why it took me so long to let go.
I lost relationships, which at the time was difficult but looking back I can see that these relationships were not good, for me or the other people. My life is now shaped around an acceptance of who I am and what I want to do with my time.
“People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh
Whilst exploring anxiety and opening up it is good to have some activities that have nothing to do with your anxiety. Doing things that remind you of all that you are. When I was coming to an end of my counselling I realised I didn’t even know who I was, what I enjoyed or what I could create within my life. Having something that you do regularly to ‘lose yourself’ can be a good way of balancing out the attention being paid to your mental health. Think of an activity you do where you are so focused and in the moment you’re not even aware of being anxious. For me this is when I paint, draw, ride my bike or do yoga. Walking in nature also brings me calm. Even if I start the walk not feeling OK.
If you don’t have anything at the moment, that is completely normal and OK. These things can be brought in at any time.
The worst things to do – in my opinion
Berate yourself for feeling anxious
Not accept your anxiety
See anxiety as a weakness
Think of yourself as not normal
Push anxious or any other feelings away
The best things to do – in my opinion
See anxiety as an intense amount of stress
Be open to listening to the anxiety and finding the root cause
Find someone you can trust to talk to or write the anxious thoughts down
Be gentle with yourself, you’re likely going through a lot
Find something nurturing to do, to relax or distract yourself
See anxiety as a part of you that gets scared and needs some care
Address any area of life that may be causing you stress