Everyone feels anxious at times. Anxiety can come out of nowhere. It can come when life is going well. It can come when times are tough. I would be lying if I said I don’t have anxiety. Because lets face it, most of us struggle with some form of anxiety. Just because I am a therapist doesn’t mean that I am not a human being. I always tell my clients that I am here in this line of work because I understand what it feels like to struggle.
I struggled my whole life with anxiety. I mostly struggled with social anxiety. I managed my anxiety with food and other obsessive compulsive behaviors. I developed a nasty inner critic that took over my thinking and impaired my relationships with myself and with others. I developed co-dependent relationships as a result of my anxiety.
It took me many years of therapy to understand my anxiety. In therapy I never really learned how to overcome the anxiety, how to think differently, how to make the negative thinking go away. I studied 6 years in college classes to learn about anxiety and other mental health disorders. I still didn’t know how to manage my anxiety. Maybe I wasn’t ready.
I tried medication for a couple of years. That was just a bandaid. The anxiety was still always there and when the medicine wore off doctors insisted on adding more medications.
A few years ago I decided that I was ready to do what it took to make the anxiety go away. It was at that time in my life that I discovered what the word “surrender” means. I am not talking religion here. I am talking about surrendering to things we have no control over. Letting them go.
After learning how to surrender, some amazing things started to happen. I began to implement a process into my life that would help me manage my anxiety. Little by little it melted away. What I found was that the anxiety did not disappear over night nor was it one specific behavior or thing that made it go away. It was a lifestyle change I made that slowly began to shift my thinking and my behavior.
Here are four things I do when I am feeling anxious.
1. Embrace the anxiety. “What!! Embrace it. Are you crazy?” No I am not crazy. Let the anxiety in. Feel it and embrace it. Your anxiety is there for a reason. It has a purpose. It is your mind and body telling you that there is something not working in your life; something not healthy perhaps. By embracing the anxiety I was able to explore and understand why it is there and what needs to change. In order to manage and rid the anxiety you need to make some changes. You can’t make changes if you don’t know what changes you are supposed to make. You can’t identify the changes you need to make if you don’t embrace the anxiety. Do you see? It is a vicious cycle.
2. Surrender. Once I was able to recognize, understand and feel the anxiety, I had to learn to surrender it. I found that the anxiety usually served a purpose in my life. It is almost always a sign that something is not working or something is not healthy for me. I struggled with surrender because to surrender means one must give up control. Well I finally decided that my way was not working anymore so I surrendered trying to control every little detail of my life. Surrender also meant having to change my way of doing or thinking. Many things changed as I implemented the word surrender into my life. My job changed, my relationships changed, my eating changed, my lifestyle changed. For me change is very uncomfortable and difficult. Now I enjoy change. Because I know that on the other side of the changes is a much brighter way of life.
3. Trust. Once you surrender what you are anxious about you must trust. This is where my faith was very helpful. You do not have to be a religious person to have faith and trust. Trust that the situation or problem will be naturally dealt with and trust that the way it will be dealt with will be better than your way. Because let’s face it…your way isn’t working so well if you are having anxiety. I find that every time I trust, the situation always turns out better than expected in the long run. I may not understand the whys and hows in the moment, but eventually it always makes sense in the end. I may not like the reasoning or the outcome, but I always, always, always find that there is a bigger picture.
4. Let Go. Lastly, I learned to let go. Trust that the situation will turn out the way it is supposed to in the end. Letting go of the fears, worries and anxiety was the last step in managing my anxiety. Once I let it go I was free to use my time and energy to focus on something else….something more purposeful.
This new way of thinking, behaving and living is not a one time thing for me. I have to do this on a daily basis with each and every situation I encounter. Sometimes I need to do it several times for the same situation. But it works!
I will address in a different article the types of things I implemented into my life to be able to do these four things each and every day with each and every situation.
If you would like to talk more about how I can help support you on your journey, please check out my website at http://www.mindbodyspiritcounseling.net. I offer small group coaching, individual coaching and professional counseling services. Don’t forget to “LIKE” https://www.facebook.com/mindbodyspiritcounseling on Facebook for daily tips and inspiration.