Many people think that anxiety should be something that’s easy to overcome.
After all, they’ve all felt anxious at some time and have “changed their thinking” and successfully overcome it.
How tired are you of hearing that kind of advice?
What most people don’t understand is that chronic anxiety is neither a simple disorder nor is it one that responds in a consistent fashion to drug protocols.
Anxiety is a people’s disorder that is personal to each person struggling with it.
Like my black co-worker who shared with me that she had told our black manager that his black was not her black, my anxiety is not your anxiety.
While we have shared symptoms and related experiences of both panic and anxiety disorders, while I can share with you what’s worked for me and the whys and wherefores of why it’s worked, while I can encourage you to try the techniques and tweak them so they work for you, I cannot put everything in one neat, step-by-step process to help you recover from anxiety.
There is no pill that will make your life what you want it to be.
You have to design, redesign, strategize, create and recreate your own path to recovery.
That’s how you take back your power that anxiety and panic have stolen from you.
You Are More Powerful Than You Think You Are
In the morass of fears, failings and feelings of futility that chronic anxiety can create in you, there is a you that has been struggling and will not give up struggling against this tyrant.
I can’t recall the number of years, the number of times, and the number of failures I had with trying to manipulate, mitigate and otherwise manage things in order to keep my anxiety in check.
Many of them worked, but like many of you, I was stuck constantly in that “M” phase because I didn’t know what else to do.
Then life came crashing down and my panic and anxiety became too big, bad and utterly unmanageable.
At that time, there was little online help available and no anti-anxiety techniques that would work at reducing the overwhelming impact.
I was lucky in that I encountered non-anxiety specific techniques that I was able to tweak and make work for me.
The more I did for myself, the more information, advice and ideas came my way.
Bit by bit I was taking back my power from anxiety and panic.
It wasn’t that I didn’t still struggle with anxiety and panic.
What was happening was that I was changing how I interacted with these two tyrants.
Creating the Path to Recovery
Panic and anxiety can totally up-end your life, your ideas about what life is supposed to be, and they screw with your hopes and dreams of the life you imagined happening.
They are disorders. They disrupt and tear down not just your life, but your sense of who you are. They make you doubt yourself in ways that erode your self-confidence, your belief in yourself and your abilities.
It would be easy to say that what’s been “disordered” can be reordered but while true, it would trivialize the work that needs to be done in reordering your life.
It took me a long time to understand is that anxiety is a disorder that has to be dealt with on many levels that center on the totality of who you are.
It’s all about you and your perspectives, expectations, relationships, frustrations, fears, insecurities, emotional baggage, habits and ways of thinking that don’t serve you, plus your relationship with yourself including your physical body.
The good news is that you don’t have to deal with everything at once! In fact, trying to making everything in your life “right” is the wrong way to go about it.
The First Piece of Your Path
Taking back your power from anxiety means identifying and taking multiple small actions that have you focusing on doing what’s best for you in that moment.
It means you stop thinking about your anxiety for a moment. For one moment or even five or ten, the technique helps you get involved with yourself away from your anxiety. It helps consciously take an action that benefits you.
But not just any action.
It has to be an action that helps you take distance yourself from your anxiety. When you do so, you automatically take back one or more pieces of your power that have been stolen from you.
That action can be as simple as ignoring your feelings of anxiety for a moment while you focus on take a couple of conscious breaths.
For me, that action was creating a mantra from the first three sentences of the Buddhist Loving Kindness meditation practice, I used it as a focus to create a momentary refuge from my anxiety and panic.
I chose a mantra because I needed that type of mental focus. At that time, I couldn’t create a refuges just using my breath.
With this first step, two things need to happen:
- Using trial and error, you will need to find a short, simple and easy to use technique or process that helps you change your focus from your anxiety to creating a small space of peace for yourself.
- You need to use this technique six or more times a day in order to build up the neuro-pathways in your brain so that pathway becomes easier and easier to use as time goes by.
The act of selecting a technique is more important than the technique itself.
Don’t try and make a perfect choice. Pick one that sounds good and play with it!
See how you like it.
Check in with yourself to see how you feel when you use it. Does it need tweaking or will it work fine for now?
If necessary, have a backup technique or two – but no more than two as you want to make it as easy as possible for you to use the technique through out the day.
Making Time to Use Your Technique
The technique works when you work the technique.
That means you need to make a conscious effort to put the technique to work.
Since my anxiety was running high 24 x 7, using the mantra technique was something I did A LOT each day and at night.
Now, when I want to put a technique to work, I’ve learned to link it to another activity.
So before jumping out of bed in the morning, I say my current technique, and my new one. Same thing when I let the dogs out, wait for Jillie to eat her breakfast (which she likes around 11 AM), break for lunch, break for dinner, and before closing my eyes at night.
I use them at other times throughout the day depending on what’s happening.
What’s important is that you remember to do do your technique. Remembering is a better choice of words than “don’t forget” because your mind lets the negative slide by and focuses on the action.
The other thing that’s important is how you treat yourself when you don’t remember to do your technique.
The Second Piece of Your Path
When I chose the Buddhist Loving Kindness mantra, I did so intentionally because I was aware that the way I treated myself was not very nice.
Some part of me knew that if I didn’t change how I treated myself – if I didn’t begin changing how I related to myself – if I wasn’t kinder to myself – then nothing in my life would change.
I realized that my behavior towards myself was reflective of how I had been treated as a child and how I had seen the adults in my life treat one another.
My behavior towards myself was part of the reason for my anxiety.
Can you accept that the same is possible for you?
Next week’s post is going to go into more detail about the components that are necessary to help you build a good relationship with yourself.
In the meantime, try and become conscious of the ways you negatively talk or behave towards yourself.
When you identify them, start thinking of ways you can be nicer to yourself and pick one to work on.
Nothing big. Something small.
Small, easy-to-do actions done multiple times throughout your day help you create a method of practice on which you can build.
A good foundations makes future changes happen more easily.
Small wins over anxiety are big wins for you – even if that small win happens just once in a day or even in a week.
A win – no matter when it occurs – is a win for you!!
You can do this. I know you can, because as I keep telling you, if I can do it . . . you sure as hell can do it!
All the best!