How To Accept Anxiety (and How I Accepted Mine)

Accepting anxiety as part of life is tough, likely because it might have been something that has caused you pain for a long time in your life.

The Good Men Project
Mar 15 · 9 min read
Photo credit: Shutterstock

By Sean Clarke

How do you accept anxiety and move on with your life? Accepting anxiety as part of life is tough, likely because it might of been something that has caused you pain for a long time in your life.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent most of your life battling against anxiety with antidepressants, doctor visits, and forcing yourself to smile and forget your worries. After all, anxiety is often seen as something which is ‘bad’, or it has a negative connotation attached to it. I get it, anxiety can be scary, and it can feel like an ongoing problem in your life that just won’t leave you alone. I spent most of my younger years bound by anxiety, I felt as if I couldn’t do the things I wanted because I wasn’t ‘good enough’ or I didn’t try and do things because I was worried I’d get them wrong and make a fool out of myself.

However, after a life of fretting, I’ve come to the conclusion at this point in my life that ‘fretting’ is not the answer. I had finally got to a point where I realized that the anxiety that had been making me feel weak was always there, and probably always would be, so I had an opportunity to either battle or try and accept it would exist in some form. Accepting anxiety as part of life can lead to your overall anxiety levels dropping. For example, having an anxiety disorder shouldn’t be something that you should ‘accept’, but accepting anxiety in it’s basic form takes away some of its power, and even if you take a way a small amount of its influence over you, it’s a win.

So, here’s what’s helped me to accept anxiety as part of life, and what has encouraged me to make it less of a deal in my day to day.

1. It’s Not Something That Can Be Destroyed

Often when we feel afraid, we search for ways to combat the negative emotion. It could be the reason why you’re here reading this very article. We do everything in our power to push back so we can find a comfortable place to be again. One key that has helped me to accept anxiety as part of daily life is seeing it in a new light.

Anxiety, happiness, rage, excitement, all of these emotions and feeling cannot be ‘destroyed’. Instead, they are energy, and as we all know — energy cannot be destroyed. It’s a force that’s constantly morphing and displacing itself. Think about it — if you were to roll a wheel down a hill, the energy of your push is transferred to the wheel. When the wheel finally hits the ground, the energy is absorbed into the ground. Anxiety and emotion is not much different. Emotional responses are just energies that have channeled themselves in a certain way. Have you ever heard someone say; “channel your anger into something useful”?

It can be possible to channel your anxiety and worry into something useful, or something completely different, if you can’t stop worrying about something. Usually, the ‘something different’ is something creative. Anxiety and creativity go hand in hand, in good ways and ‘bad’. Often we use our imagination to create outcomes to situations. Once we think about those outcomes enough, they become a real possibility, when in reality, we’ve designed them ourselves.

Instead, being creative in a progressive way is not based on thinking outside the box, or ruminating on what you might make or do. Being creative in a progressive way is instead about picking up a paintbrush and allowing your hand to take over, with little thought.

2. I Was Waiting For The Good Days

I had to accept anxiety when I realized that I was chasing the non-existent ‘good days’. You know the ones, they’re the day you’ll finally go to the gym, have a bigger house, get that job you actually want, and of course, grow up and not be so anxious anymore. I always thought that “one day I’ll grow out of it and won’t feel so anxious anymore”. What I didn’t realize was, those days don’t, and never really existed in my future in the first place. As time moved on, and my teenage years flowed into my twenties, I realized that I would never be a ‘different person’, and things wouldn’t suddenly change unless I made them change.

You’ll never finally get that body unless you quit sugar and get your ass to the gym. You’ll never actually get that job unless you work and put yourself forward. You’ll never really be able to live with the sensation of anxiety unless you face it and understand it.

The ‘good days’ don’t just appear by themselves. We can’t just wake up and feel like a different person. It takes a gradual and gentle change, at least it was for me. It’s a journey that everyone has to go on for themselves. Always looking outwards for help can be helpful at times, but experiencing and getting to a point of some degree of acceptance from your own actions is more beneficial. It’s like if you bought all the health magazines out there, but unless you actually implemented the advice in them and experienced them yourself, you wouldn’t make any change in your health and wellbeing.

Learning about how anxiety forms and how you personally react to it is priceless if you want to gain any sense of acceptance.

3. Anxiety Is Like The Weather

Even when you don’t feel anxious, you can be sure it’ll show it’d face again at some point. Just like even when it’s sunshine and rainbows, there’s always a storm around the corner and rain clouds — but I don’t say that to put a downer on things. Sometimes you just have to be realistic, and if I’m anything, I like to think I’m realistic. I’ll admit, although sometimes this way of thinking can put me in a negative mood, it has the benefit of reminding me that things can change quickly, and that’s just a part of life. But it also puts me in a good mood, because I feel more balanced and leveled.

I’d love it if things were dandy all of the time, but when is that actually ever the case? Maybe I just don’t like surprises, so I’m always aware that things can go sour. Maybe I just need to let my hair down a bit more! The point is though, understanding that anxiety comes and goes is key. It comes along every once in a while, as does contentment and joy. Life is one big piece of putty, pulling and stretching in all directions. Sometimes it expands, and sometimes it retracts. One things for sure — it never stands still.

That’s why when all is said and done, it’s important to enjoy the good times, and remember that it’s never long lasted in the bad times (we can even learn from being in the bad times). A rain cloud might cover the sun now and again, but the sun is still behind the cloud nonetheless.

4. You’ve Survived It Before

Anxiety is described as the sensation we feel when we worry about the future, or some kind of future event. Much of the anxiety I have felt over my life has felt unusual or over the top. Maybe it has been a little higher than the average Joe, but I got to realizing something a few years ago…every time I worry about something, it starts off as a seed in my brain. Maybe someone says something, or maybe I see something that freaks me out. Although it scares me, it’s not too bad — it’s just a ‘moment in time’. The problem is, I know that if I then take that situation and push all other thought out, the seed begins to grow into a bulging tree, with each branch representing a catastrophic outcome. Many of my worrying thoughts when I was a child were about health. I would get worried about my health, and my family’s health. I’d go as far as worrying about getting hit by a bus, or a plane, or anything that weighed over a tone.

Whilst this is quite common for people to worry about their health extensively, I realized that I was simply worrying about things that may never happen. I let myself get wrapped up in the thoughts until they became realistic to me. Being able to stop and catch yourself is crucial when it comes to reducing anxiety, because you can see in that moment that you (and not life or anyone else) are fuelling those flames. Whether it’s health anxiety or not, you can then see that you survived previous anxiety you have experienced.

For example, you might be anxious about being in a group setting, but you can remind yourself that although you felt the same way the last time you were in that situation, nothing that you had conjured up in your own mind actually happened, it wasn’t catastrophic, and you’re still here. You survived it once and you can survive it again.

You can use the evidence of the past to get you through the next situation you’re anxious about.

5. Get To Know Your Brain

Okay, so whilst the brain is the most complex organ in the human body, you can still start to understand how your own mind works. For me this meant finding out what made me anxious, agitated and annoyed. I’ve always blamed my irritability on anxiety, and so because of that, I wanted to really find what made me tick. As I stated before, the anxiety I have experienced has been heavily built on assumptions about the future. I have always had trouble going into my own thoughts and accepting them as fact and realistic rather than looking at them through a logical lense.

If you want to know how to accept anxiety, you have to get to know yourself a bit better, without judging yourself or calling yourself a helpless person. You’re not, you’re probably just in a bit of a rut that many of us find ourselves in sometimes. I looked at what I was doing in my spare time. I spent hours watching TV, scrolling Facebook, and playing on the Xbox. Whilst some people can do these things excessively and not feel any worse for it, I had started to notice they made me feel more anxious about leaving the house. I also looked at my diet and how it was affecting my mind.

Junk food made me grumpy (and feel like junk). I read a ton of research based around the ideas that if you eat junk, your brain doesn’t get the right fuel to function properly. So if it doesn’t function properly. it’s probably not a good environment for worrying and low mood. When I started eating better whole foods, my mood improved, and my mental clarity improved too. Again, some people might be able to eat junk food all day long and feel fine, so it’s about finding how you own mind reacts to different environmental factors. Accepting anxiety is kind of like accepting that you can make things better or worse for yourself by the actions you take in your day to day life.

Please leave comment below if you’ve found an exercise, outlook, or anything else that has helped you to accept anxiety.

The story was previously published on The Good Men Project.

About Sean Clarke

Sean Clarke is a father, writer and all-round deep thinker. After dealing with bouts of anxiety and depression he now blogs about his experiences with mental health, fatherhood and living a healthy lifestyle. You can find him at
https://www.projectenergise.com/

The Good Men Project gives people the insights, tools, and skills to survive, prosper and thrive in today’s changing world. A world that is changing faster than most people can keep up with that change. A world where jobs are changing, gender roles are changing, and stereotypes are being upended. A world that is growing more diverse and inclusive. A world where working towards equality will become a core competence. We’ve built a community of millions of people from around the globe who believe in this path forward. Thanks for joining The Good Men Project.

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Change Becomes You

Life advice that will (actually) change your life.

The Good Men Project

Written by

We're having a conversation about the changing roles of men in the 21st century. Main site is https://goodmenproject.com Email us info@goodmenproject.com

Change Becomes You

Life advice that will (actually) change your life. Curated stories from The Good Men Project.

The Good Men Project

Written by

We're having a conversation about the changing roles of men in the 21st century. Main site is https://goodmenproject.com Email us info@goodmenproject.com

Change Becomes You

Life advice that will (actually) change your life. Curated stories from The Good Men Project.

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