Tell me...how often do you feel like you’ve been working so hard, like you’ve been taking the steps and facing the hard stuff, but you’re still feeling stuck? Like no matter what you do, or how hard you try, you just can’t seem to catch a break and push past the anxious thoughts, feelings, and panic attacks? You have moments where things look and feel promising, but then you’re hit by things that you thought you had already pushed past.
Yup, I get it! I used to feel this way often. And the worst part, and sometimes the most defeating thing, is that you know that it’s not due to a lack of trying. Because every ounce of you wants to heal and you’re giving it everything you’ve got, but you feel at times like it’s just not going to happen. And I can tell you that when I felt this way, you know, stuck… I’d pretty quickly go down the path of convincing myself that I wasn’t doing enough, that I was doing everything or something wrong, or that I just wasn’t capable of creating a healthy relationship with anxiety and overcoming panic disorder and agoraphobia! Sound familiar?
If you can relate to any or all of this, I want to help you by shedding some light on some things that you might be missing that will help you to keep moving forward. And I can promise you this, it’s not that you aren’t doing a good job, or that you aren’t trying, or that you aren’t capable of healing, or that you aren’t making progress. There are likely just some things you don’t know, or you just need some helpful reminders to get you back on track. So let me share some helpful and actionable things that you can use that will help you to feel less stuck, and will help you to actually get unstuck!
Why You Might Be Feeling (or Are) Stuck in Anxiety Recovery
Okay, here’s the first… And get ready to roll your eyes… You just might be convincing yourself that you’re stuck when you aren’t actually stuck. We’ve all heard it, “the recovery journey isn’t linear.” And this is because it’s true! And it’s a really big truth that you need to acknowledge and accept if you want to keep moving forward on your recovery journey.
The reality is that anxiety recovery is full of ups and downs, swerves, bends, and slopes. It’s full of hard moments, and challenges, anxiety, and panic attacks. And sometimes you’re going to have incredible wins, and sometimes it’s going to feel like you’ve taken two, three, or even ten steps back. And when it feels this way, it’s important to remind yourself that it’s all a part of the recovery journey, and it doesn’t mean that you’re stuck, or that you’re doing anything wrong, or that you’re not doing enough.
And also, these moments are often just gentle reminders that can help you to get back on track. So when you’re feeling stuck, or you experience a tough moment, get curious! Pay attention. It can be helpful to ask yourself questions like… Is there something that I could be doing differently? Am I taking healthy action?
And this last one is a big one… Am I doing that thing where I convince myself that I’m stuck when what I’m feeling is actually just the result of me doing the hard work? Because the reality is that oftentimes you’re simply feeling more overwhelmed, more anxious, and more stuck because you’re actually doing the hard work that needs to be done. Acknowledge that you’re feeling because you’re doing the work! And, too, just let it be hard without it meaning anything or without it saying anything about you, your capabilities, or your recovery journey.
And give yourself some stinking grace! You’re struggling with something that is really tough and telling yourself that you aren’t making progress when you are can be incredibly defeating and actually cause you to be stuck!
And this is a great segue into the next… You might be convincing yourself that you’ve experienced a setback when you actually haven’t. I hear the term “setback” being thrown around a lot in the anxiety recovery world and it’s a term that I think is hugely misunderstood. When experiencing anxiety or panic, people sometimes say… I’ve experienced a setback and now I’m back at square one! But the reality is, experiencing anxiety or panic doesn’t mean you’ve experienced a setback. And additionally, experiencing a setback doesn’t and can’t put you back at square one. Your progress can’t be erased by anxiety, panic, or even a setback.
I’m not going to dive into setbacks in this episode, because I did a really awesome interview with Drew Linsalata of The Anxious Truth, where we talked about all things setbacks. So if you feel like you don’t really understand what a setback is, or if you’re often convincing yourself that you’ve experienced one, I want you to go back and listen to episode 3. There is so much helpful knowledge, insight, and tips shared in that episode!
Alright, this next one is a BIG one. I’m talking, about one of the biggest things that can actually keep you stuck, and it’s having the belief that it’s a particular place or situation that is causing you to feel anxious, and so in turn, you avoid it. Here’s the truth… It’s not the car, the train, the traffic, the fact that there isn’t a bathroom nearby, crowds, the store, waiting in lines, being far from home, or being at doctor’s appointments, that’s leading to anxious thoughts and feelings. Sure, you may often feel anxious in these places or situations, but this is the case because of how you’re responding to your anxious thoughts and feelings. And yes, of course, there are other factors that can lead to anxiety and panic, but how you respond to your thoughts and feelings is such a major contributor.
When you start to avoid certain places or situations because you don’t want to feel anxious or experience panic, you’re actually reinforcing the idea that those places and situations are dangerous and not safe, which just isn’t true. And when you avoid and have an unhealthy response to your thoughts and feelings, you reinforce the anxiety and panic, which is why the hard stuff keeps popping up.
A big focus in what I teach, and what I heavily focus on in my online courses, is teaching you how to change your response to your anxious thoughts and feelings because this is what ultimately helps you to create a healthy relationship with anxiety. A relationship that doesn’t have anxious thoughts, feelings, symptoms, panic, and fears popping up and making all of the decisions for you.
Alright, another big one that will keep you stuck is having a goal that looks like this… I’m going to do this without feeling anxious! Or, I’m going to get rid of anxiety! To put it bluntly, these aren’t good or helpful goals. Sure, you don’t want to feel anxious, but feeling anxious is a big part of the recovery process.
In my early recovery days, I remember setting out to do things and telling myself… Alright, Shannon, you aren’t going to feel anxious! You’re going to do this without feeling anxious! And I still cringe at the fact that I used to tell myself things like this. But back then, I didn’t understand that my goal never should have been to not feel anxious. Because just by setting a goal to not feel anxious, it actually created anxious feelings! And when I felt anxious while doing the thing that I declared I wouldn’t feel anxious doing, I immediately convinced myself that I sucked and I had failed.
Here’s the truth, you have to be willing to feel anxious. You have to be willing to experience panic attacks. And you have to be willing to lean into uncertainty. If you aren’t willing to do things while feeling anxious, recovery simply doesn’t happen. And it’s so helpful to just acknowledge that you’ll likely feel anxious while facing things, but it’s okay because you are capable of facing things while feeling anxious.
So when you wake up in the morning, or you go to bed at night, or when you’re facing the hard stuff, make your goal more about facing the hard stuff while feeling anxious rather than telling yourself you won’t feel anxious. Because if you focus on doing this, you’ll actually start making incredible progress.
Alright, this next one kind of ties into the last… You’re waiting until you feel ready or confident to do the hard things. Do you know what leads to confidence? Taking action! I want to share a little story with you. We vacationed in Arizona last fall and Adam and his brother wanted to go cliff jumping. Yeah, because jumping off a cliff into unknown water sounds like a good idea, right? And to give some background, I’ve never been a good swimmer, and I don’t love water that’s over my head. But, I do love a good adventure, especially adventures that typically include some level of fear!
So as the three of us were climbing up this cliff, I told myself… You’re gonna get up on that cliff and you’re gonna just jump. Obviously, after Adam and his brother jump because you know, I’m going to make sure they don’t get hurt first. And when we got to the top, I watched Adam’s brother jump, and then Adam looked at me and said, “Want me to jump first or after you?” And I immediately said “First!” Because I knew if he jumped, I really had no choice but to jump.
Adam jumped, and there I stood, alone on this cliff, feeling super hesitant and anxious for about 5 minutes, all while listening to my 3-year-old saying “Mama, just jump!” So I did a little dance to shake off some nerves, I counted down 3-2-1, and I jumped. I just did it! And it felt so darn good.
And trust me, much of my anxiety recovery journey looked exactly like it did that day when I jumped off of that cliff. On a daily basis, I faced things that I knew would make me feel anxious, and I allowed myself to feel it all. And I kept telling myself, you gotta be courageous and just do it.
When I look back on my journey, I can’t tell you how many times I remember saying to myself… Shannon, remember when you were a little kid and had no fear? Like to a point where it was a little dangerous? Be that courageous! Because the truth is, I can’t remember ever feeling ready to face stuff that I knew would likely lead to feeling anxious. But choosing to be courageous is something that leads to more confidence and a knowing of just how capable you are. It looks like taking the small steps, facing the hard stuff, and doing the things, all while not feeling ready or confident.
Is it hard? Of course it is! But it’s also necessary. And the beauty in acting with courage is that it starts to uncover parts of you that you thought had gone away, never to return again. And it starts to lead to a deep knowing that you aren’t just an anxious person and that you are capable of doing not just everyday things but also amazing things!
Another thing that can lead to you feeling stuck is not tracking or acknowledging your progress. Do you sometimes (or maybe often) think that you’re not making any progress? Like you’re right where you started even though you’ve been working so hard to recover for months or even years?
The reality is that when you’re so deep in something, like struggling with panic disorder or agoraphobia, you often convince yourself that you aren’t making any progress when things are hard. Because the reality is, things often feel (and are), really hard. And on the days when you’re hit with a panic attack after not experiencing one for a week, it’s really easy to convince yourself that you aren’t making progress… even though you know that this isn’t the case.
And too, I think as humans we’re just really bad at acknowledging the good things. We often get so caught up and consumed with the stuff that isn’t going well, that we completely overlook the things that are going well. We often let those little, and even big wins, pass us by without even recognizing or honoring them because we’re so focused on getting to some end goal. Or we convince ourselves that the win wasn’t worth recognizing, honoring, or celebrating.
If you’ve been following me on Instagram for some time now, you probably already know that I do this thing called Wednesday Wins. It’s essentially where I give you a platform to share your personal wins and to be recognized and celebrated. And I love it so much! I love reading and helping to recognize and celebrate everyone’s wins, but most of all, I love that it helps people to acknowledge a few things. It helps people to acknowledge that they do in fact have the skills and abilities for doing and working through hard things while struggling with anxiety, panic disorder, or agoraphobia. It helps people to acknowledge that their wins, and they, are worth being recognized and celebrated. It helps to inspire and motivate others. And it gives hope. These are all such amazing things.
I can’t say this enough, it’s so important to acknowledge your wins, your progress, and your amazingness. Because in those moments where you feel stuck, or you feel like nothing is going right, it’s often because you need to do more recognizing, honoring, and celebrating. So if for some reason you aren’t already following me on Instagram, which would be crazy, join me on Instagram @ahealthypush and start sharing your wins! The little ones, the big ones, and everything in between!
Alright, that was a lot! And there are so many other reasons why you might be feeling stuck or are actually stuck. Things like not being compassionate with yourself, hiding your struggle, having unrealistic expectations, unhealthy lifestyle habits, and having an unhealthy response to your anxious thoughts and feelings, are other big things that can cause you to be stuck. And these are things that I dive into in my online courses and I teach you how to begin approaching things differently so that you can continue to heal and overcome.
My goal here on this podcast, and through everything that I share, is to always help you to take healthy action, get and stay unstuck, and to help you avoid things that will ultimately cause you to feel and be stuck. So if you’d like to learn and gain more support from me, head on over to ahealthypush.com and check out all of the things that I offer. And the next time that you’re convincing yourself that you’re stuck or you’re feeling stuck, come back to this episode and give yourself some healthy reminders.
And as always, until next time, keep taking healthy action.