A chronically anxious person wants only one thing:
“I want this anxiety GONE… and preferably sooner than later!”
Because anxiety is so unpleasant and painful and difficult-to-ignore – it’s a perfectly natural reaction to wish it gone!
And so you decide to embark on a great crusade to end anxiety; trying all manner of things to make the unpleasant feelings go away.
Fasting, “thinking positively”, taking a laundry list of supplements, and the list goes on…
What I have found, though, is that this crusade against anxiety can backfire on you.
It may cause even more anxiety and despair and fearful thoughts such as:
“Despite all my efforts I am not getting any better – this anxiety is going to stick around forever!!!”
Which indeed is a very stressful thought to have!
The problem with obsessing over “when is my fear/anxiety going to go away” is that you are creating more stress and tension within the body.
Somewhat paradoxically, anxiety lies in the resistance to our own fearful emotions and thoughts. By waging a war against your own thoughts and feelings, you risk getting stuck in a vicious circle where your brain becomes afraid of the thought of anxiety and panic, which then leads to even more anxiety in your body.
If this sounds relatable, here is a piece of advice that you may find useful.
Try to shift your focus away from:
“when will I finally be 100% free of fear and anxiety?”
“what is one thing thing I could do today, which would help me relax and feel a bit better?”
This does many beneficial things.
3 Benefits of Focusing On The Process
Firstly, it gets rid of some of the pressure of having to solve all your problems TODAY.
This ‘urgency of getting well’ can be an enormous burden.
And getting this monkey off your back, so to speak, helps an awful lot to reduce tension in body and mind.
Secondly, it gives you permission to relax.
The way to fight anxiety is by de-stressing and learning how to relax.
If you are constantly preoccupied with thinking “woe is me – when will I get rid off my anxiety?!” then you are not in a relaxed state.
Thirdly, it moves your attention away from worrying about your mental health, to instead doing something practical.
Try going on a 30 minute walk in nature without having any great expectations of benefits. Simply use your senses to look at what is around you and what sounds you can hear. Practice being aware and taking in your surroundings – that is all you need to do.
Doing this can help reduce the excessive thinking, thinking and thinking about your problems
(If you feel anxious while going on your walk, that is completely okay!)
Or you could make yourself a healthy and nourishing home-cooked meal.
Or engage in some activity which you find interesting or meaningful or relaxing e.g playing an instrument or painting.
The key is to not beat yourself up or feel discouraged – though easier said than done – when things are not improving as quickly as you’d like. It takes time for the body and brain to begin to relax.
This is a continuous journey, not some end destination!
Focus on the process (i.e what practical things can you do improve your well-being?) instead of the goal (i.e when will I be free of fear and anxiety?).
What you will find is that by doing these seemingly insignificant things everyday, you will begin to get small glimpses of what it feels to be relaxed and a little less anxious or panicky.
At first it may be just 1-2 minutes where you forget to worry and be anxious.
These small glimpses will give you the motivation to do the things that make you feel less anxious, and these will build over time and you will start feeling better and better, and less and less anxious.
Don’t worry too much about tomorrow or next year – just focus on the good feelings when you realize you’ve made a small step forward, and do more of those small steps every day.
Hope that helpful 🙂
For ideas on practical things that can help calm down anxiety, I outline quite a few tips in this article here!