When I first started to really dive in and work towards recovering from anxiety, panic disorder, and agoraphobia, I knew that it would be hard, but I quickly began to face some realities that had me questioning whether or not recovery was even possible. And quite honestly, some of the realities that I faced had me wanting to just give up.
My hope is that I can share some of the realities that I experienced with you, along with some tips so that your journey is less hard, and also to prevent you from believing that recovery isn't possible. Recovery is absolutely possible!
Alright, let's dive in!
01. Initially, there's lots of overwhelm! Let's face it, you're already overwhelmed by struggling with anxiety, the symptoms, panic, and fears on a daily basis, never mind figuring out how to recover and then actually doing the work. And there's so much information out there! Between books, podcasts, social media, and other resources, it can add to the overwhelm of recovery. Don't get me wrong, knowledge is power, but so is taking action!
If you're consuming all of your time with reading books, listening to podcasts, and scrolling through social media to find the answers, you're overlooking where the true power lies - WITHIN YOU. You have to take action in order to recover. I'm a big fan of focusing on one or two things at a time and really doing the work. What helped me tremendously was to set small goals each day.
Here are some examples:
- Face something I've been avoiding.
- Give myself 1-2 kind messages.
- Allow myself to acknowledge my anxious thoughts and feelings and give myself space to feel them.
- Unfollow accounts on social media that make me feel bad.
- Disconnect from social media at least once a week.
- Celebrate my wins.
- Do something that I enjoy.
Don't add to the overwhelm of recovery! Set small goals and take healthy action often.
02. Things get harder. I know that the thought of things getting harder is terrible, but there's a really good reason why it gets harder. When you start taking healthy action, you begin pushing back on unhealthy pathways that have been created and reinforced over time. These pathways are the anxious thoughts, the reassurance seeking, the avoidance, and the safety behaviors... And when you start working to create new and healthy pathways, it only makes sense that your brain is going to push back a little, after all it's different and a little unfamiliar.
This is okay, and it's actually a good sign! It means that your brain is learning and developing new and healthy responses. Yes, it's going to feel uncomfortable, and it'll even make things a little more challenging, but it's okay. This is temporary and you are extremely capable and powerful! Remember, small steps!
03. There are ups and downs (and anxiety, the symptoms, panic, and fears don't just disappear). People often think that they aren't recovering when they experience an anxious moment, or get hit with symptoms, or experience a panic attack, or still fear going to certain places or doing certain things. I remember going days without having a panic attack and then experiencing a bad one and immediately thinking… Well, all of this work has done nothing! Or… There goes all of my progress!
The truth is, some days you'll make incredible progress. Some days you'll feel lots of peace. Some days you'll be able to do things with ease that were hard to do months ago. Some days you'll feel anxious. Some days you'll experience panic. Some days it'll be really hard for you to do something that you just successfully did two days ago. And this is all a part of the journey. The hard moments don't erase your progress, and they especially don't mean that you're incapable or destined for a life filled with anxiety and panic.
Your response in these moments is most important. Give yourself grace. Be kind to yourself. Remind yourself that you are taking healthy action and that's what's important.
04. Constantly pushing yourself doesn't make you heal faster. You're likely willing, and probably doing everything humanly possible to recover, but this might be why you're struggling more. Your body and mind are working so incredibly hard and you need rest. Rest is a part of the recovery process. I know that you might feel guilty when you rest, like you "should" be doing something to support your recovery, but resting IS supporting your recovery! Make sure that you're making time to rest.
05. It often takes courage, not confidence. If you've been struggling with anxiety, panic disorder, or agoraphobia for some time now, you likely struggle with your self-confidence. You might second guess yourself often, and also find yourself leaning heavily into your comfort zone to avoid facing things that lead to anxiety. But if you wait around until you feel confident to face anxiety, panic, and your fears, you'll likely be waiting a while!
A huge lesson that I learned was that sometimes I just had to be courageous. And when I say sometimes, I mean often. Because the truth is, who feels confident or ready to face things that are scary, and hard, and draining? Sometimes you just gotta push yourself and know that you can fly, after all you've proven this many times before.
06. It takes commitment to practicing healthy habits and making healthy choices. I learned quickly that many of my habits and choices were actually leading to anxiety, the symptoms, panic, and fears. I didn't make sleep a priority. I didn't move my body regularly. I beat myself up often. My diet was terrible. I had several unhealthy relationships that I knew were negatively affecting me and my mental health. I consumed way too much information. And you know what? All of these were all things that I had control of! And so do you!
Committing to healthy habits and to making healthy choices goes a long way to support your recovery. We often overlook the basics because we're so focused on finding the big things that are going to support our recovery, but it truly starts with the basics. Things like making sleep a priority, moving your body, practicing positive self-talk, eating well, fostering healthy relationships and ending unhealthy ones, and limiting the information you consume.
Don't underestimate the power of the basics!
07. Support is necessary but YOU have to do the work. Whether it's going to therapy or getting support from a loved one or friend, it's absolutely necessary to have support, but you have to do the work. When I was regularly going to therapy I'd often leave my therapist's office and think, why the heck am I even coming here? She's not doing anything for me! But the truth was, she was teaching me helpful tools that would support my recovery but I just wasn't using them.
I'd often convince myself that the tools were silly and just weren’t working (or were even worth trying), and that there had to be some other solution or way that would help me faster or better. And you know what? I just wasn’t putting in the work. I wasn’t consistently taking the small steps that I needed to in order to recover. And this is one of the hardest parts of recovery… You have to do the work. You have to commit to you and to your mental health, and you have to keep taking the small steps.
08. Acceptance is a huge part of recovery. I'm talking about accepting what you're struggling with and where you currently are. I struggled for so long with this one. I didn't want to accept what I was struggling with or where I was because I felt like if I did, that was it, anxiety was a part of my life forever!
Let me let you in on a little secret... Anxiety is a part of your life right now. And it doesn't change who you are, what you're capable of, what your future holds, whether or not you're capable of living out your dreams, or anything else! It simply means that it's a part of your life right now. Not always, just right now. And accepting this truth will only help you to heal.
Anxiety can't take away all of the amazing parts of you, or what you're capable of!
And there you have it! I hope that these realities that I've shared help to shed some light on your recovery journey, have led to some "aha" moments, and have given you some motivation, inspiration, and belief that recovery is possible.
If you’d like some more tips on what action you can take now to help you push past the anxious thoughts, symptoms, panic, and fears, join me in my FREE live training! Simply click here to sign up!