Back when I was struggling with anxiety and panic attacks on a daily basis, I looked for reassurance often. I called my mom nearly every day, and sometimes even multiple times a day. She’d pick up the phone and I’d almost always say, “Mom, I’m freaking out. I need you to talk to me.”
But there were of course times that she wasn’t able to pick up the phone. And I remember one of those times vividly...
I was at work, lying on the bathroom floor with my feet on the toilet (so gross, I know, but I felt like I was going to pass out!). I was crying hysterically and shaking. And I thought, what am I going to do? And I knew that I had two options... I could either continue to convince myself that I was going to lose all control, or I could put my focus on what I had control of at that moment. So I chose to focus on what I had control of.
I acknowledged how I was feeling and I reminded myself that I was safe (even though it didn't feel that way at all). I allowed myself to feel it all, even though it was so uncomfortable and scary. I began breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth. I began to remind myself of how many panic attacks I had successfully worked through (which was literally all of them), and that none of them had led to anything catastrophic.
I stopped fighting. I stopped looking for a way out. And I slowly changed the story that I was telling myself.
Did I still leave that bathroom in tears, feeling embarrassed and defeated? I sure did! But I had worked through it, just as I always had. I didn’t lose all control, and nothing catastrophic happened.
This moment changed so many future anxious moments for me. In moments of anxiety and panic, I began pausing before immediately calling my mom. Instead of looking for my mom to rescue me, I began looking inward. I began relying on and BELIEVING in me.
Here’s the thing, it’s okay to ask for support, but seeking reassurance in anxious moments is different. If you currently find yourself immediately reaching out to somebody, or looking to Google, or to a device for reassurance, I want you to know that by seeking reassurance in others and in things, rather than in yourself, is actually preventing you from healing.
Here’s what happens when you seek reassurance in others rather than in yourself:
It heightens the anxious response because you are reinforcing the idea that you are unsafe or in danger and need help.
It reinforces the idea that you aren’t capable of working through anxious moments on your own (which is entirely untrue).
It causes you to question and overlook your skills and abilities for working through anxious moments.
It reduces your self-confidence.
It reinforces the anxiety and your fears, and it causes your fears to grow.
If you’re currently seeking reassurance in anxious moments, it’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up for doing it because this will only add to your struggles.
Here’s what to do instead:
Acknowledge when you are wanting to seek reassurance.
Before reaching out to someone, or to Google, or to a device, pause for 10 seconds and give yourself the opportunity to work through the anxious moment.
Remind yourself of your skills and abilities to work through anxious moments.
Acknowledge that uncertainty feels uncomfortable but it doesn’t mean that you’re unsafe. It’s also helpful to acknowledge that other people or things can’t make uncertain things certain.
Remind yourself that YOU are the one that has worked through every anxious moment, whether you were with people, alone, far from home, or in any other place or situation!
You don’t need to look to others, or to things in moments of anxiety. Look INWARD. That magic thing you’re looking for is in you… It always has been and it always will be.