Anxiety is something that affects so many people. So when it happens to you, all you want to know is why am I anxious and how can I beat it
Anxiety is becoming one of the world’s largest social issues, with more and more people falling victim to the symptoms and challenges of anxiety at some stage of their lives. With my own story, I was a confident, healthy, happy young man – but all of a sudden anxiety hit and threatened to tear my world apart. Stress, fear, worry, nervous, being concerned… These are all just code-words for anxiety and really all mean the same thing. Whatever you want to call it, anxiety is something that we want to beat. So have a read of my story to help you on your own journey to beating anxiety.
Why am I anxious?
So the first hurdle to beating anxiety is finding out WHY you are feeling anxious. This is not an easy one as we often find it hard to understand the underlying reason why we feel this way. This was one of the hardest parts for me. As mentioned before, I was a confident guy and doing really well with friends, family, work, fitness and life in general – so when someone told me that I had anxiety, I didn’t believe it. It took time for me to figure out the underlying reasons as to why I felt this way. Often it might be something at work, a recent change in your life, some kind of uncertainty you are facing. You will have to dig deep and search for the reasons why you are feeling this way. Write your thoughts down, use meditation, speak to someone that you find easy to talk to and hopefully it will come to the surface. Once you know WHY, I promise you that you will be well on your way to beating anxiety.
Why can’t I stop being anxious?
Ok now that you know why you feel anxious, why can’t you easily stop feeling anxious? Unfortunately it is not as easy as turning off ‘the anxiety switch’ and going back to normal (how good would that be?!), it takes time to start to understand the feelings and slow down your mind from feeling this way. Much of why you feel anxious is to do with a combination of your upbringing, personal experiences and your own personality. So this will take time to change. Accept that you can’t just ‘stop’ being anxious, and that it will take time.
Accept and embrace your anxiety
Another massive hurdle is to accept the anxiety. I bet you are thinking, why would I accept it? Shouldn’t I do something about it? The answer is not to try and stop it! This was something I struggled with at first, as I always wanted to get rid of the feeling. The best analogy I can use is the story of the annoying school bully… If he makes a joke about you – and you laugh at it and fail to retaliate, then he is eventually going to get bored of you and pick on someone else where he can get a better reaction. But if you get angry or show that his bullying gets to you, then he will keep coming back for more every day. Anxiety is the same. If you try and fight it, deny it, push it out, it will come back every day. As soon as you accept it, and let it be, you will have a much better chance of it going away. Watch your thoughts on anxiety, don’t try and fight them. Accept them and be at ease with them. ‘Oh okay, anxiety is here today. Oh well this is just a thought so I might as well go on with my day anyway. Maybe tomorrow I won’t feel this way’. I am going to focus my energy on what I can do, and not on my feelings of anxiety.
Understand that ‘you are not your thoughts’
This is huge! You are not your thoughts! I only learnt this one a few years ago and it was massive for me. I always believed that whenever I had a thought, that was part of me – the thought was something that I came up with. Over-thinkers and over-analyzers tend to have these traits, so it was a massive relief when I learnt that just because I have a thought, it doesn’t mean it is true, or that it is me, or something I believe in, or that I will take action on that thought. Watch your thoughts. Your mind is just something that you use to help you make decisions. It is not you, your soul, and who you are. Use your thoughts as tools to help you on your journey, and do not be ruled by your thoughts. There are heaps of good books to read on this. One book that I think has some good info on your thoughts is The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle. Check it out.
Control the controllables
So I am guessing if you are suffering from anxiety that you are a control freak. Don’t worry, I am too. Part of our anxiety is created because we feel that we can’t control a certain situation and we are scared of the uncertainty. Now I personally am still working on this, but we need to accept that life is not in our control. If you think about it, we really only control a small part of what happens to us. Did you control when you were born? Where you were born? What laws you have to live by? What people think about you? How people treat you? Unfortunately we have no control in a lot of the things that go on in our day to day lives. I am bringing up some different points here that might take a while to settle in. Yes you can make someone feel good and maybe they will treat you well, but really, how they treat you back is up to them. So this leads me to say that in life, we need to control the controllables and accept the rest. Yes you can be a good person (can control), but that does not mean that someone is going to be nice back to you (out of your control). Accept that bad things are going to happen, deadlines will be missed, you are not perfect, and the world will still go around at the end of it. Do what you can, do it how you want to do it, do it when and where you want to do it… And then let the universe sort out the rest – because no matter what you plan, it’s out of your control anyway.
Don’t take your thoughts seriously
You might get some pretty strong thoughts, especially if you are dealing with anxiety. These might compound and make you feel worse because there is a constant barrage of thoughts. Again, like I mentioned before it is up to you to accept these thoughts and let them go. Don’t concern yourself with what thoughts come into your head. Have a laugh at them. So you had a thought that you are going to miss a deadline? Laugh at it. If you were watching a comedy movie and this happened, you would laugh at it. So why are you so serious about it now that it is happening to you? Hopefully by now you can see that it is all about knowing why you are feeling anxious, accepting that you are feeling this way, and letting the thoughts pass. Just a thought from me.. Maybe the anxiety is a warning sign from yourself – to yourself. That you need to change something in your life?…Maybe the anxiety is there because you are going down a path that does not align with your goals, your values, your dreams, your desires. If this is the case, I would strongly consider getting on the right path to wherever it is that you want to be. It might take time, it might be challenging, but I can guarantee that it will be worth it.
Remove the importance of whatever you are doing or thinking about
Often when we are anxious it is because we think that something is so important. Ask yourself, does it really matter? Like does it really matter if you fail that test? Or if your relationship breaks down? Or if someone at the party thinks you’re a loser? So you failed the test, sit it again. Your relationships broke down, okay be sad for a while and now let’s move on – if you lost your partner, then maybe that’s a blessing in disguise and you’ll find someone better? Maybe not? Either way you will get by. Oh yeah, that guy at the party does think that you’re a loser, so what? He tells a few friends about it, they have a laugh, and then they move on to the next topic of conversation. What I am saying here is that nothing is really that important. Think to yourself, am I really going to care about what that guy at the party said about me in 100 years? I don’t think so… So why is it the end of the world now if not everything in your life goes right?
Lose the fear of failure
So you’re anxious that you’re going to fail. You’re going to fail this one thing in your life that means so much to you, and your life will be over. Everyone will label you a failure and that will be the end. This is so silly. Think about it. How many marriages end in divorce these days? Probably 50%. So 50% of the people that decide to make a lifetime commitment to each other, 50% of the people that think they have met ‘the one’ technically fail at a marriage. Is it really a failure? Did they live at least some of their days in happiness? Did they beat some challenges and achieve some goals together? Maybe they at least enjoyed that one special day. So does this mean it is a complete failure? No. So why do we rule something as a success or a failure, and why does failure mean so much. Don’t we learn a lot more when we fail? Imagine that every day for the rest of the life you would play a game with a friend, anything. Chess, a computer game, a card game. Would you expect to win every single game for the rest of your life? Even if you were so much better than your friend, you would still FAIL on some occasions. So why don’t you fail one last time, and ‘lose’ the fear that is holding you back. Accept that you will ‘fail’ a million more times in your life, but know that each time you fail, you learn, and you grow, and become a better person.
Change the meaning of anxiety and enjoy the ride
We put so much emphasis on the meaning of anxiety. We need to relax it a little. Everyone is going to feel anxious at some stage of their lives, so just go with it. Ronan Keating sang a song, Life is a roller coaster which had some pretty cool meanings. You are going to have your ups and downs, you are going to be scared, happy, excited, nervous, exhilarated all along the way. If you were about to go on a roller-coaster at a theme park, you would have a nervous smile, maybe a nervous laugh, and then do it. So I want you to translate this to your real life. Yes we might feel anxious at times, but it is a roller-coaster, enjoy it. I am sure that it is much more fun than sitting in the stands watching…
Accept anxiety as a part of life and start living again today
I think I have said this too many times throughout the post, but I will say it again – anxiety is a part of life. It is all about how you deal with the anxiety which separates those that can beat it and those that can’t. I know it’s not easy, but if you make small changes to how you behave and how you look at things, you will be well on your way. This post will hopefully just get you excited to know that you are not alone, and there are many things you can do to help yourself. Get professional help if you want it (don’t say you need it, say you want it – and own it). You can do this, you can beat anxiety. Read books, change your mindset and tell me all about how YOU beat anxiety. We can do this!
About the author – Stef – Mental Health Advocate
Stef is a mental health advocate who dedicates much of his free time to improving his own and others mental health. Accepting and dealing with challenges such as anxiety and depression are passions that Stef wants to help others with. Click here to have a read about Stef’s story and why he is so passionate about mental health, wellness and positive living.