More and more people are suffering with some form of anxiety or anxiety disorder. The world is changing rapidly and that in itself can be overwhelming; let alone the day-to-day pressures. Anxiety has affected my life for a number of years, and I remember one of the first questions that entered my head was “will this feeling ever go away?”.
The short answer is no. As frustrating as that is, it’s true. Anxiety is a part of human nature and we can’t eradicate that. It is a survival tool so really, we don’t want to get rid of it anyway. It is something that is inbuilt in our systems so that when we are faced with a threat, we can either fight it or run away. It’s just that these days, there aren’t as many physical threats as there are mental stressors (such as worrying about money).
Anxiety disorders also won’t just disappear. But they do become manageable. It takes a lot of time to understand your triggers and work your way through them as well as finding the tools that work for you. Take mindfulness for example. It’s a great way to reduce anxiety, but the first time you try it out, you may notice that you don’t actually feel less anxious. It only works by practising it regularly; almost like you do with muscles. Only with regular exercise, do you get stronger.
From my experience, once you suffer from an anxiety disorder, you will always tend to be more anxious than those who don’t. It just means a part of you is more perceptive to potential threats which in theory is a good thing, but in practicality, it can make life really difficult. The trick is, to try and embrace it. You may start to notice that you become more anxious in a particular situation (such as a meal in a restaurant), but as time goes on, you manage to cope with the physical symptoms and accept that that is a situation you are not comfortable in. Then you can choose if you want to keep pursuing it or if it is something that isn’t really important to you.
In order to overcome an anxiety disorder, you need to understand your triggers (Blog Post: ). Once you do that, it’s basically about making an exposure plan and continually practising being in those difficult situations. Each time you go to a certain situation, you should notice that you feel less and less anxious. It takes time but the difference is actually incredible. There was a time when going into a cafe would cause me severe anxiety and now, I tend to go there with friends for a catch up as a first choice!
The other thing that I did, and isn’t officially advisable, was to adjust my lifestyle. There are certain things (take, for example, going to the cinema) that I couldn’t do but I didn’t want to spend a large portion of my time trying to overcome it. However, as the years passed, and because I was doing consistently well in other areas, it suddenly wasn’t as big of a problem anymore. So cut out the unnecessary things and give yourself a break from time to time. If you are constantly battling anxiety, it becomes tiring and everything seems bad. But if most of your life is good, then you don’t even realise how much you’ve achieved. If you don’t feel like going into a shop, do some online shopping. If you aren’t sure about going out to a pub with friends, suggest a walk instead. You don’t want to let anxiety dictate your life, but you still want your life to be enjoyable.
At the same time though, it’s important not to become a recluse. If you start avoiding everything, it’s easy for anxiety to completely take over to the point where you don’t feel able to leave your house anymore. Here’s a video I made on anxiety and avoidance:
As time goes on, anxiety basically becomes manageable. It never goes away completely and although that can be a scary thought, it’s actually a good thing. You want to be in tune with the world around you but you want to have control over your physical reactions. Don’t underestimate how strong you are for being able to deal with anxiety every day of your life. People often assume that those who suffer with severe anxiety are weak, but that just isn’t the case. It takes immense courage to battle it every day and indeed conquer it. Once you do, it becomes something that you can use for your benefit.