One of the questions that I get asked most often is, “How long did it take you to overcome anxiety, panic disorder, and agoraphobia?” And every time I get asked this question I think of why somebody is asking me this, and I know that it’s because they want the reassurance that it is possible, and that it’s not going to take them years to do it. So whenever I get asked this question, I bring myself back to when I was struggling, and I ask myself what would have been the most helpful advice for me to receive back then? So here it is!
You know when you’re exercising on a treadmill and you can see how much time there is left before you’re done? In this situation, my brain does one of two things.
Option 1: I keep looking at the time that I have left and I’m relieved that I only have 10 more minutes. The finish line is right there, but the more I look at the time that I have left, the longer and harder it starts to feel. And once I’m in my head, all I can think about is how tired and over it I am. Not to mention feeling a little defeated and in pain.
Option 2: I glance at the time and notice that I have 10 minutes left, and so I throw a shirt over the timer so that I can’t see the time as it passes. And by doing this, I consciously make the decision to shift my mindset and take control. I tell myself, it’s just 10 minutes and I’m going to finish strong. So I push myself, not focusing on the time but instead I focus on the actual work that I have to put in that’s going to get me to the finish line.
See where I’m going with this?
The more you focus on the time it’s going to take you to overcome anxiety, the longer and harder it’s going to feel (and be).
I wish I could tell you how long it’ll take you to overcome anxiety, panic disorder, or agoraphobia, but I can’t. But what I can do is help you to get there faster!
So let me share with you 3 tips that I wish somebody had shared with me when I was struggling. These are things that you can put into practice today!
1. Treat your body well. The basics are so important. When I was struggling, I wish somebody had literally shook me and expressed how important it is to treat your body well. Your body and mind are connected, and if you aren’t treating your body well, your mind will suffer. Let me give you a few tips!
Drink lots of water! I know that it seems so basic and silly, but staying hydrated really does help to relieve anxiety. Staying hydrated will allow you to have more clarity, it will improve your mood and your sleep, among many other things!
Move your body every day. I live by this. I move my body every day for at least 30 minutes. Besides the many obvious benefits of exercise, moving my body helps to improve my mood, reduce stress, and allows me to sleep better.
Get on a sleep schedule. What I mean by this is, go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. Doing this has helped to improve my sleep so much!
Remove caffeine and alcohol from your diet (especially if you struggle with panic attacks). I know how hard it is to give these things up, but caffeine and alcohol are likely contributors of some of the anxiety and panic you’re experiencing.
Eat well. I’m not just talking about eating lots of fruits and vegetables. What I mean by eating well is, don’t consume things that make you feel bad. For example, if you notice that sugar, dairy, or gluten makes you feel bad, make a plan to eliminate it from your diet.
2. Recognize when you’re beating yourself up and start being kind to yourself. I firmly believe that beating yourself up is one of the biggest contributors of anxiety and panic. I used to beat myself up so much that most of the time I didn’t even recognize when I was doing it. It took really slowing down and listening to what I was saying to myself to undo this unhealthy habit. When I caught myself beating myself up, I would stop and acknowledge it so that I could work to change the messaging that I was giving myself.
Whether you have a good day or a bad day, whether you successfully set out to do the thing you wanted to or not, in hard moments and after wins, when you wake up and before you go to bed, give yourself a kind message. Giving yourself kind, healthy, productive, and positive messages will help to build your self-esteem and your self-confidence. So much of the anxiety recovery process is working to create a mindset that will allow you to push past the stuff that is causing the anxiety and panic, and giving yourself kind messages often will help you to get there!
3. Practice doing the things you fear, even when you don’t feel ready, capable, or confident. I can’t tell you how many times I pushed myself to do the things that made me scared, uncomfortable, or anxious, even when I didn’t feel ready. Because you know what, there is never a perfect moment, you’ve got to create it! And the best part is that you are capable, and you’ll prove it to yourself over and over again.
By pushing myself to do the things I feared, I began to train my brain that I didn’t actually have to fear those things. I also proved to myself that I was capable of doing them. And the more I did them, the less scared, uncomfortable, and anxious I was.
Let me give you a big piece of advice, don’t set out to do something that scares you, makes you uncomfortable, or anxious and tell yourself that you aren’t going to be uncomfortable, anxious, or scared (because that’s lying to yourself, which won’t help). Tell yourself, this is going to be hard and scary, and I’m going to be anxious but I am capable! And then do it!
The part where you don’t succeed is when you make the decision not to do the hard things, because not doing the hard things is what will keep you stuck.
So how long will it take? The time it’s going to take you to overcome anxiety, panic disorder, or agoraphobia depends on how much work you’re willing to put in. Once I dug in and really dedicated to me and my mental health, it took me months (not years) to overcome it!
Keep taking those small steps forward, because the small steps will help you to reach those BIG goals.