Today I want to discuss coping with anxiety day in and day out and getting through the really difficult periods- as prompted by this email I received yesterday:
My question to you is where do you find the strength to press through the really tough stuff? I admire that. I find myself going with a job that is comfortable & on my terms so to speak. Do you ever feel like, what if I just cannot do this? I know, more “what if” thinking, but I know we are no stranger to that type of thinking.
My immediate answer that comes to mind is this: If I do not press through the tough stuff, where does that leave me?? Answer: defeated, depressed, and still anxious.
I’ve had anxiety and panic attacks for most of my life, but it has only been in the past 5 years or so that I have really taken charge of my situation- and turned from living at the mercy of anxiety to successfully coping with anxiety. When I decided to actually try doing the “really tough stuff”, that’s when I started to truly get better…
Coping With Anxiety Day by Day- How I Do It
It can be helpful to think about successfully coping with anxiety – and actually recovering from it- much the same as you would if you were preparing for a marathon, or committing to losing 50 pounds. It is a lifestyle change that involves mind, body and spirit. It takes commitment and perseverance.
Whenever you make a big change in your life, you have to be in the correct mindset- both in order to see yourself through to your goal- and to help get you through the bad times as well.
As much as I might not want to admit it, one of the main reasons I remained crippled with severe anxiety and panic attacks for so many years was because I didn’t think I could change it. Anxiety for me was so all-consuming and terrifying (as I’m sure it is for most people), I just didn’t think I could possibly do anything to stand up to it.
Sure I’d bought and read tons of self help books over the years. But when it came time to implement any of the strategies I learned, I rejected any of them- thinking no way could this or that help me. My case was far too complex and severe. Surely no one had suffered more than me.
I had to get to the point where the pain of living with daily panic attacks and anxiety outweighed the risks I would have to take to get better.
So even though it happened after far too many years, I finally did come to the realization that Yes I could help myself to get better.
I made it a goal. A promise. I promised myself that I would give it my very best shot. I would learn and practice every anxiety self help strategy I could find. I knew the only thing I had to lose… was anxiety. My life simply could not get worse, it could only get better.
Important things I learned the hard way:
- Get off the pity pot- no one with anxiety has it easy
- You’re not unique- you can get better
- One of the reasons you stay anxious is because you give up before you even try
- Don’t make it more complicated than it has to be.
Sorry if that sounds harsh, but you kind of have to hear it. Please know I say this from a place of great love and respect for all anxious people.
Coping with Anxiety- Having the Right Frame of Mind
The anxious mind is fraught with negativity. We engage in catastrophic, “what-if” scenarios long before an anxiety triggering event ever happens. We feel disturbing anxiety symptoms and automatically conclude we’re having a heart attack or dying. We end up in Emergency Rooms and the doctor sends us home, assuring us we’re fine. But still we think he missed something, because we still feel like crap.
Anxiety is very much a wrong-thinking habit– and most of us know this on some level. We know we over-think, do horrific negative self talk, see the glass half empty, and go around with a cloak of gloom and doom. (I was the Queen of Negative Thinking -ask me to show you my crown someday, lol…)
All this negativity feeds the anxious mind and can only set us up for even more anxiety.
Calming racing thoughts and getting out of the negative thinking trap takes practice. It involves catching yourself when you’re doing it- and not going over into “what-if” territory. Instead, detach yourself from your thought stream and put your focus on the here and now. Stay in the present.
Commit yourself to learning how to be in the present. Practice for a few minutes every day. It is not hard, but it does take practice. It is a wonderful habit that makes you feel good and really helps to banish fret, worry and anxiety.
Remember: EASY Does It… But Do It 😉
Commit yourself to doing something little every day to challenge your anxiety. Go into that store you’ve been avoiding. Take that walk down the block. Get in the car and drive to the mall. Make eye contact with the person you’re talking to.
Do some small thing that is hard for you to do- but not impossible. Challenge yourself to confront your anxiety head on and be prepared to let it do it’s worst to you.
For me I had to say, Screw it. I am going to church. I am going to sit there and I am going to just let the stupid panic come. I am going to do the techniques I learned from this program. I am fully prepared to sit there and let the panic attack come. I may stop breathing, choke, die, scream like a banshee, vomit all over myself, hemorrhage, stroke out, or die on the spot. But I AM NOT LEAVING. I am going to sit there and let that stupid panic attack run it its course. I am going to do this if it kills me…
Guess what I didn’t die. In fact it was only really uncomfortable. And it got better. And I kept going to church. Once a week. And I learned I could sit wherever I wanted, not just in the last pew next to the exit.
I used this same principle for coping with anxiety in other areas of my life- grocery shopping, going to the gym, getting a haircut, interacting with neighbors, going to work. And I just keep doing it.
My anxiety recovery is a work in progress, and it feels so good! I am truly getting my life back! 😀
Coping with Anxiety Through the Hard times
Not every day is going to be a victory. You will have days that are harder than others. Sometimes you will just feel too overwhelmed to do much.
I’m here to assure you That is Perfectly OK! Learning to face your fears and confront anxiety is like building up muscle mass. It’s important to get out there and do the work. And it’s just as important to be gentle and loving and kind to yourself and realize when you need to take a break from it.
Know that the hard times do pass. Know that if you back off for a few days and let yourself rest, you will be able to handle your anxiety situations again once you feel better.
So there you have it: My basic How- To’s for Successfully Coping with Anxiety:
- Make it a goal- know you can do it.
- Next, work on Staying in the Right Mindset, practice being in the present for a few minutes each day.
- Challenge yourself a little every day- doing a little gentle exposure therapy as you learn to put yourself out there.
- Take breaks when you need to. This is not a race.
If you did nothing else but followed what I am talking about today in this post, you will find that coping with anxiety is something you CAN DO TOO. You will start to get better. 🙂
I wish you peace,
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