Let’s dive in and talk about 7 things you’re doing that’s making your anxiety recovery harder than it needs to be! And before we even dive into these seven things, I just want to be upfront and say that I did all of these things. Most of what I share with you, are things that if I could go back, I’d do them way differently because I wouldn’t have struggled nearly as hard or as long if I did. So if you’re doing any of these things, or even all of them, it’s okay. No judgment here! Just know that these are things you can change, and that’s why I’m here sharing these things with you now.
7 Things You're Doing That's Making Anxiety Recovery Harder Than It Needs to Be
01. You’re looking in any and all directions for answers and solutions.
And this makes sense, right? I have a problem that needs to be fixed and I really want to fix it, let me find the fix. And this often looks like looking to books, social media, supplements, gummies, oils, diets, and on and on and on. The problem with this is, there isn’t one fix. And filling your brain with loads of information and opinions, and introducing a bunch of things into your system, and making tons of changes, is likely only going to add more overwhelm and stress to your plate. And more stress equals more anxiety, right?
I always like to give this analogy. Back when I was struggling, I tried anything and everything that promised anxiety relief. And I want you to picture this… Me standing in my backyard, with a shovel in hand, and there are about a hundred holes dug all around me. And these holes are a representation of all of everything and anything that I tried. And you know where there wasn’t a hole? Where I was standing. Yeah, imagine that. None of the work that I was doing was work that was me investing in me, it was all exterior, outside of myself.
I had created this belief for years that the answers and solutions would never come from within me, they had to be somewhere out there, outside of me. And this is not to say that I was the one who needed fixing, because I didn’t. But I did need to do some work within myself and invest in myself in order to do things like build confidence, and trust, and courage, and strength, and the belief that I actually held so much power, wisdom, and capability.
Here’s the thing, oftentimes we’re looking outward when we know what we need to do, but we just aren’t doing it. So maybe inside of digging holes all over the place, start digging where you are. Start digging where you are and start betting on yourself. Because digging where you are will help to show you that this type of work is actually way more beneficial and healing than anything exterior. And all of this leads nicely into number two.
02. You’re putting off healing - aka you aren’t making you and your mental health a priority.
This can look like saying things like… I just don’t have time… Or, I’m not ready right now... Or, I just don’t think I can do it right now. The truth is, you’re scared. You’re scared of what you’re going to have to do in order to heal. You’re scared to make some decisions that you know you need to make. You’re scared to face anxiety and the hard stuff. You’re scared to put yourself first because it doesn’t feel comfortable because you’re so used to putting everyone else first. You’re scared that you’ll fail. You might even be scared that you’ll succeed, because gosh, who knows what your life would look like without anxiety being the focal point.
Here’s a big truth about anxiety recovery… You always have a choice. And you have to choose to recover and do the work. And yeah, it’s hard, but I want to ask you a serious question. Can it honestly be any harder than what you’re facing right now? Really think about this. Can it get any harder? Because the reality is that right now, you likely aren’t living. And how can it possibly get any worse than that? Trust me, I know how hard it is to make the choice over and over again to heal and do the hard stuff, but I can tell you this… I’d much rather experience anxiety and panic while I’m on a mountain, or while traveling, or while I’m doing something fun and something that brings me joy, than to experience it while I’m choosing not to live my life.
Choose the type of hard that’s going to get you to where you want to be. Not the hard that’s going to keep you where you are. And you must, you absolutely must make you and your mental health the number one priority.
03. You’re hiding your struggles.
I did this for a long time. Even though I was in therapy, and I had the support of my mom and boyfriend (now husband), I hid my struggles in every other aspect of my life (and sometimes even in therapy and in my close relationships). I was really good at hiding my struggles. Most everyone around me had no idea that I struggled with anxiety, panic disorder, and agoraphobia for years.
I hid the symptoms, the panic attacks, and the fears, even while I was having full-blown panic attacks. I didn’t talk about these things. I tried to pretend as though I always had it all together because I didn’t want anyone to judge me, think less of me, or think that I was crazy. I didn’t want people to find out what I was struggling with for the fear that they may want nothing to do with me. I didn’t want people to see me for who I truly was. And that last one was really what a lot of it came down to. I thought that there was something terribly wrong with me. I thought that I was broken, unlovable, and unfixable.
If any or all of this resonates with you, I want you to really hear this… You aren’t broken, or unlovable, or unfixable. You don’t need any fixing. Sure, your relationship with anxiety needs some fixing, but there’s nothing wrong with you. You are amazing, anxiety and all. And the people you need in your life, they’ll stick around and support you. They’ll love you, especially when you show them exactly who you are right now. Because if the roles were reversed, isn’t that what you’d do for them?
I truly believe that some of the biggest things that help us to fight fear and set us free is vulnerability and courage. It’s okay to share the things you’re struggling with. It’s okay to let people see what you’re struggling with. It’s okay to speak these things out loud. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to give yourself permission to let go of the shame, embarrassment, and fear you’re holding onto. And it’s important for you to recognize that you aren’t your struggles. You aren’t anxiety. You aren’t defined by these things.
04. You’re saying that you really want to heal but you’re keeping yourself in your comfort zone.
Did you just cringe and feel a little called out? Yeah, I get it. But saying that you would do anything to heal while continuing to make the choice to stay in your comfort zone just isn’t going to get you there and you know this. You don’t heal and grow while staying in your comfort zone.
Let me give you some examples of what staying in your comfort zone can look like…
I went, but I went when I knew it’d be less busy.
I drove on the highway again but I stayed in the lane closest to the exits.
I stayed home alone but I didn’t do anything that I knew might make me anxious.
I felt really anxious and I immediately left (or I didn’t go at all).
I went for a walk but I stuck to the same route again.
I went to the store but I stayed towards the front of the store, close to the exit.
I went but I took (blank) with me again just in case.
I always say to start small and take healthy steps, and I will always encourage this. But you also have to hold yourself accountable and recognize when you’re wanting to stay in your comfort zone, and instead give yourself a little healthy push to step outside of your comfort zone so that you can see just how capable you are. Will it be scary? Of course it will be. But you can handle the feelings, you always have. So let this be the kick in the butt that you needed to go out and do something outside of your comfort zone today. I promise, it’ll be worth it.
05. You’re minimizing your struggles and your accomplishments.
As humans, we often minimize our struggles. We convince ourselves that what we're struggling with just isn't that bad, and we should just be over it already. But the truth is, the stuff we often face is hard, like really hard. I want you to recognize this today… What you're struggling with is hard. The stuff you've faced has been hard. The stuff you face every day and come out the other side of is hard. It’s important to validate your experiences and your feelings. It’s so important not to minimize your struggles. Because when you do, you often minimize all of your wins and accomplishments, too (or you don't even recognize them at all).
I want to share something with you. I was working with a student recently and she said… Shannon, I hiked the mountain, which was something that I never would have even entertained months ago, but on the hike, I couldn’t help but think… Gosh, I’m just doing something that “normal” people do all the time. And to hear her say this killed me, but I completely understood it because when I was struggling I had similar thoughts often. But then she said… But then I thought, if these people were struggling with what I was struggling with, they’d be pretty happy with themselves, too. And I said, yes! Exactly!
The reality is, we’re all struggling with our own stuff, right? And it’s all hard, and it’s not comparable. Your stuff needs to be validated, not minimized. The work you’re doing needs to be honored and celebrated. I’m such a huge fan of celebrating your wins (big or small), because you need it, we all need it. And we deserve to recognize and hear that we’re doing a good job. I'm proud of you. And I hope that you tell this to yourself today, too.
06. Your goal is to do things without feeling anxious or without experiencing a panic attack.
I’m going to keep this one short and sweet because it’s pretty simple. The goal isn’t to do things without feeling anxious, or until you no longer feel anxious doing the thing. The whole goal of recovery is that when you feel anxious, you respond to it in a healthy way so that it doesn’t keep popping up. So instead of telling yourself that you can’t feel anxious or experience panic because otherwise it means you haven’t or won’t recover, make your goal more about doing things, while maybe feeling anxious or having a panic attack, and not caring that it happened. Now that’s recovery!
07. You’re putting so much pressure on yourself to heal.
I get it, trust me! You really want to heal and leave all of this in the past, but I can promise you this, the pressure you’re putting on yourself isn’t helping you to heal. Pressure can look like what we just talked about… Aiming to do things without feeling anxious or without having a panic attack, or to make anxiety completely go away, or for a trip to go well (aka, for you to not experience anxiety on the trip). It can also look like having a timeline of when you’ll heal, or telling yourself that you have to be in a much better place with anxiety before an upcoming event, or telling yourself that you can’t do things until you’ve healed.
So I’m not a fan of trying to get rid of anxiety, or setting a timeline for any sort of healing, or trying to be at a certain point in your healing journey before living your life, but I’m a huge fan of doing the complete opposite of these things! I’m talking about allowing anxiety to come along for the ride and not trying to get rid of it, and letting the healing happen without having any timelines and letting the healing happen while you’re living. Things that I often hear people say are… I can’t get into a relationship until I’ve healed. Or, I can’t take that trip until I’ve healed. And I hate this because it’s like, why can’t you? What’s stopping you, other than you?
I’m here now, giving you permission that I hope you take. Let go of the pressure you’re putting on yourself to heal, and start living your life as if anxiety doesn’t get to make any of the decisions - because it doesn’t. You do! So make the decisions you want to make as if you’re already healed. And I promise you this, along the way, anxiety will get the hint.
Alright, there you have it! Seven ways you’re making your anxiety recovery journey harder than it needs to be. I hope that these things have given you lots of insights and motivation to make some healthy changes. And until next time, my friend, keep taking healthy action!