How to Create a Healthier Relationship With Anxiety
Anxiety can take control of your life and ruin your reality.
I used to take my simple and structured life for granted. My anxiety had become so manageable that the idea of losing the progress I had made over the years wasn’t a possibility.
Suddenly it felt like I was taking one step forward, and 100 steps back. I put too much pressure on myself, and I didn’t think about my anxiety.
If we don’t acknowledge our anxiety, we risk losing all the progress we have worked for. I went to years of therapy to be able to get to the stage where life seemed normal, and it felt as though I lost all that progress simply because I was reckless.
There are ways to avoid anxiety from taking over our lives by being aware of the situation and listening to our emotions. We have to make sure to take care of ourselves and acknowledge our anxiety.
Ignoring my anxiety
The problem is that it’s easy to forget about something that isn’t there. We can’t always pay attention to our anxiety and make our decisions from a place of concern when our anxiety is not present in our everyday life.
I had been living with anxiety for as long as I could remember, but it was no longer an issue in my day-to-day life. When I was deciding whether or not I wanted to attend a contest across the country for my hairdressing class, I accepted. I had forgotten about my anxiety at the time and made an impulsive decision.
My anxiety kept growing in the pit of my stomach in the days leading up to the competition day, but I didn’t want to back out. When the day finally came, I broke down completely. There was no way I could go across the country and compete in the championships. What was I thinking?
There was no use in asking the people around me for advice, because half of them told me I’d regret it if I didn’t go, and the other half told me I shouldn’t go. I realized that I shouldn’t listen to those people, and pay attention to how I’m feeling instead.
When I took a moment to listen to my anxiety, I understood that there was no way I would be able to go. Maybe I would regret it, but there was no other option than to back out.
In hindsight, I shouldn’t have put all that pressure on myself. I should have acknowledged my anxiety and listened to it, even if my life seemed to be going smoothly before the event, I was always aware of my limits.
“You never change your life until you step out of your comfort zone; change begins at the end of your comfort zone.”― Roy T. Bennett
A lot of people are familiar with this message. Even though this is great advice, it’s a bit different for those who suffer from anxiety.
We have our limits, and some may call it a comfort zone, but it’s our limitations. We can’t enjoy an unexpected and unplanned adventure — because that means we’ll have to face our fears, and that’s both challenging and scary.
We don’t have to test the waters to see how far we can go, because that is not our answer to success. The way to conquer anxiety and succeed is not to force ourselves to do something we’re not comfortable with; it’s to understand our anxiety and work with it — not against it.
Additionally, we shouldn’t feel burdened by what the people around us have to say. How we feel is the only thing that matters at all times. If someone doesn’t agree with our decisions, that’s their problem — not ours.
We have to prioritize our needs and our emotions above anyone else’s because our anxiety requires special care and attention. If we don’t listen to it, we will have to deal with a lot more than a temporarily disappointed friend.
We must take care of ourselves and acknowledge our boundaries.
I created expectations of how I wanted the day of the competition to go, and I included the people I love into those expectations. I imagined how my parents, teachers, classmates, and myself would feel if I won the contest.
The thing about expectations is that they will often lead to disappointment. I created expectations, and I didn’t want to let people down, so I didn’t allow myself to back out as soon as I should have.
When we put pressure on ourselves because of our expectations, then we’re not only setting ourselves up for disappointment, but we’re also giving ourselves unnecessary stress and anxiety.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to give ourselves goals to have something to work towards, but we must also acknowledge when they become untenable.
If we want a challenge
The best thing we can do is take a moment to think through our decision. If we notice that our anxiety is saying “hey, maybe we shouldn’t do that”, then we should listen to it.
However, if we step back and listen to our anxiety and it says “I think we’ve got this”, then it’s alright to give it a go. Because we have to listen to and value our emotions.
After all, the only way to overcome anxiety is to face it head-on. So if we feel up for the challenge, we can always give it a try, even if we can’t complete the task we set out to do.
Everything we do that feels intimidating or scary should be planned with a “success list”. This is a list where we break down the bigger picture into small, manageable items on a list.
If we’re about to do something that makes us feel anxious, we should create a list of all small steps we need to take until we’ve completed it. Not only does this help us to remain focused, but it also gives us a way to keep track of our progress.
It’s almost like a “to do” list, but as soon as we’ve completed one item on the list, we reward ourselves. Something as simple as saying “I’m proud of myself” or a small chocolate bar is sufficient, we just have to celebrate the small victories.
Even though we should always listen to our anxiety, we should also attempt to face it whenever we can so that we can regain control of our lives.