Do you ever feel like everything that you’ve ever learned about how to work through anxious moments goes right out the window when you’re experiencing anxiety? Like your brain is already so overwhelmed that it can’t possibly remember what to do when you’re facing the symptoms, anxiety, or panic? I’ve been there countless times!
I went to therapy for over a decade and learned so many amazing tools that actually worked, but there were so many moments that I would forget everything and just panic. If this sounds familiar, I’m glad you’re here. I’m going to give you some basic do’s and don’ts of experiencing anxiety. I like to keep things simple, because struggling with anxiety is already incredibly overwhelming, and so is trying to remember all of the tools you’ve learned along the way to help you in anxious moments.
Here’s what NOT to do:
Tip 1: Don’t wait for anxious moments to use the tools. You’re probably thinking to yourself, Shannon, what? Stick with me! One of the biggest lessons I learned throughout my recovery journey was not to wait until I was experiencing anxiety to practice the tools that would ultimately prevent the anxious moments from even happening. Things like mindfulness, positive self-talk, and challenging your thoughts, are all tools that can help you to work through anxious moments, but practicing the tools in moments of calm helps you to create new and healthy pathways in your brain that don't lead to the anxiety, symptoms, panic, and fear in the first place. Think of it this way, the tools exist to help you heal but they aren't a magical fix for anxious moments. This is a good transition into tip number 2!
Tip 2: Don’t rely on the tools to get you through anxious moments. It’s great to have tools to help you work through anxious moments, but relying on them to fix the anxiety or make it go away is sending a message to your brain that there is actually something to fix in that moment. Sure, feeling anxious isn't fun and it's one of those uncomfortable emotions, but you aren't in danger, it's just an emotion! Rather than try to fix it or make it go away by scrambling to use tools, it's so helpful to just acknowledge and feel it so that you can send it on its way. And if you’re relying on the tools, you’re going to overlook the thing you should be relying on most… YOU. Because you are the one who has gotten you through every anxious moment.
Tip 3: Don’t immediately look to others for reassurance. If you currently do this, it’s okay. I used to do this all the time, and I mean all the time! I would call my mom or Adam, and when they didn’t pick up it was full blown panic. It’s okay to ask for support, but when you find yourself not even giving yourself the opportunity to work through the anxious moment, this will lead to you not recognizing your own power and it’ll reduce your self-confidence. Before seeking reassurance, wait 10 seconds and give yourself the opportunity to feel it and work through it. You’ll often be surprised by what happens.
Tip 4: Don't fight your anxious thoughts and feelings. Fighting them, trying to make them go away, or trying to find a meaning in them is an absolute waste of your time. In fact, fighting your anxious thoughts and your feelings will only heighten your anxious thoughts, the anxiety, symptoms, and panic. And your anxious thoughts don't hold any meaning and will never lead to profound messages. Your anxious thoughts are just thoughts, and one's not to be taken so seriously! If you're currently doing any of these things, it's okay. You can work to change your response by taking healthy action. It's going to take some hard work and practice, but you're absolutely capable!
Here’s what TO DO:
Tip 1: Allow the uncomfortable stuff in. This is a hard one, right? Who wants to welcome in anxious thoughts, the anxiety, fear, the symptoms, and just general discomfort? Allowing this stuff in rather than trying to fight it, suppress it, or act like it isn’t currently there is what will help you to work through it. And sure, acknowledging your thoughts and feeling your emotions is going to suck (especially initially), but trying to fight, suppress, or hide these things is only going to strengthen the anxiety and fears. You’re not looking for short-term relief, right? You’re here because you want to push past anxiety, panic, the fear, the symptoms, and live your life peacefully and joyfully. Remind yourself of this! If it feels uncomfortable and hard, it’s likely leading to lots of healing and growth.
Tip 2: Do something other than think! During anxious moments, we often think that we can think ourselves out of it. And by trying to solve and correct, we often end up heightening the anxiety, symptoms, and panic. In addition to allowing the uncomfortable stuff in, do something other than think! Go for a walk, listen to music, write down your thoughts, dance around your living room. Yes, I'm serious! Sometimes our brains just need to focus on something else to help us push past the anxious moment. And doing something other than thinking isn't a distraction, it's taking healthy action!
Tip 3: Give yourself some grace. Experiencing anxiety, especially often, takes a toll on your mental, emotional, and physical health. It’s draining, frustrating, and full of so many tough emotions. Rest is necessary. Taking breaks is necessary. Making time for self-care is necessary. Saying no is necessary. Putting you and your mental health first is necessary. Recovery doesn’t look like taking action and pushing yourself all the time. You’re not going to heal quicker by constantly focusing on healing and not allowing yourself to live and rest.
Tip 4: Acknowledge your strength and abilities for working through anxious moments. This one is so important! We often anticipate anxious moments, and we spiral when they happen, but we don't stop to acknowledge the fact that we've always successfully worked through every anxious moment. You have everything you need already in you in order to work through anxious moments. I know that it often doesn't feel that way, and it doesn't always look pretty, but have always successfully worked through every anxious moment and panic attack. You are so smart, capable, and strong. Don't lose sight of your wisdom, abilities, and strength. And especially don't lose sight of the fact that you are capable of peace, this ability/truth won't ever go away.
Try putting these tips into practice! You are absolutely capable of living a life of peace and joy.
And if you want a little extra help and support from me, check out my online course, Pushing Past Your Anxious Thoughts. In the course, I help you to change your relationship with anxiety so that it doesn't lead to anxiety, panic, the symptoms, and fear.