Anxiety can be extremely elusive when you try to control it. The more you increase your own awareness and concentrate on ridding your anxiety, the more prominent it often becomes. It’s a frustrating game of cat and mouse where you can never truly win.
This is why I hated when anyone suggested I could “self help” my way out of anxiety.
It drove me crazy. I knew what that path was like.
I had already tried the self help approach. Books, podcasts, articles – they only made it worse. All it did was better my understanding of my anxiety. I started to recognize just how bad it was disrupting my life, and I didn’t like the man I saw in the mirror. It was causing my self-esteem to plummet. I was rehearsing past events in my mind and seeing how the anxiety had interfered, and I hated myself for it. If anything, researching anxiety made things worse.
Meanwhile, I had no practical tools to overcome it. It never seemed like the ideas or methods were something I could actually implement after I got done reading. I felt directionless because even after trying, I was still stuck.
It was only when I decided that I would no longer try to “rid” myself of anxiety that I actually started making progress.
Things started to change for the better.
When I made this change, I started struggling with my anxiety A LOT less than I used to. Don’t get me wrong – I still got nervous, I still felt afraid at times, and my anxiety still affected me, but I was a lot better at coping with it.
I began to gain confidence with every situation that I handled better than I would have before. This new approach made me feel capable, for once, of making progress.
I came to understand that this is the right way to approach anxiety and I didn’t learn it from a doctor, therapist, or even someone else who overcame their own anxiety. I learned it on my own. It was true self help, possible because of my own experiences.
I realized anxiety can never be completely eliminated
Eliminating anxiety isn’t a practical expectation. Everyone has moments that cause them anxiety, even if they’re an extremely calm and confident person.
Just think of an actor, actress, or other celebrity who has to do a public speaking event. They’re in the limelight constantly, and they are the most likely person to not experience anxiety in this type of situation, but many still do. If they were to let this anxiety ridden moment overtake them, it could cause depression and lingering anxiety. That’s why it’s so important to recognize that anxiety happens, it’s normal. You can’t expect perfection or you’re setting yourself up for failure.
I remember thinking – there’s always going to be more anxiety in store for me, no matter what, so I have to get better at dealing with it and stop fighting it.
You can’t be afraid of your anxiety, as that only makes things worse. Recognizing that it will never fully go away was the first big step for me.
It’s like an alcoholic who recognizes their problem and understands it will be a lifelong struggle for them. They are never not an alcoholic anymore. Everyday from that day forward, they have to put in the work to stay sober. I look at anxiety a lot like this, although it’s not as much of a battle that needs constant awareness. Instead, you just work to keep a positive mindset and not let yourself get engulfed in the negative thinking cycles that anxiety causes.
There’s no magic pill or solution
Don’t buy into it. There’s nothing that will completely eliminate your anxiety. If you’re human, you will always still get anxious over things. It’s part of our biology.
When people reach their breaking point and decide to use pills like Valium or Xanax, that’s essentially no better than drinking alcohol and running from your problems. If this were another fight or flight experience, you’re choosing flight, again, which is only perpetuating the issue.
There are some medications that can help you cope with the symptoms of anxiety, but benzodiazepines (Valium and Xanax) generally aren’t one of them. If your anxiety is so bad that you need immediate relief, benzos are a good short-term solution, but it’s not something you should use for years. It doesn’t fix the core of the issue, it only masks its symptoms.
Instead of running, face your anxiety for what it is
I used to think, and mostly still do, that the “self help” you can find on anxiety is complete garbage. I came to this conclusion because it’s often pedaled by people trying to sell you their products or services. They pretend there’s some magic fix and that one day, your anxiety will be gone forever. They keep you in constant pursuit. Feeling better is always right around the corner and just one more purchase away.
They don’t care whether you make legitimate progress overcoming your anxiety. I know this because if they did, they would tell you the truth.
That you have to come to terms with your anxiety. Accept it and face it.
It’s Okay to be Afraid
Your brain does everything, at all costs, to protect you. Sometimes that means making you afraid of things you probably shouldn’t be.
For those of us with intense anxiety, we often recognize this and are very aware of it. You know your anxiety holds you back. It stops you from:
- applying to new jobs
- asking someone on a date
- speaking up during meetings
- staying on top of your bills and finances
- being outgoing and friendly
- starting your dream business
- public speaking
- sticking to your goals, your dreams, etc.
How severely these things affect you depends on how much of an introvert you are, how bad your anxiety is, and what types of things cause you anxiety.
To actually make progress, you have to realize that it’s okay to be afraid. Something that causes you anxiety now, might always cause you anxiety. It’s the severity of the anxiety that you hope to change. You do this by taking action and doing things that are anxiety provoking, but doing them anyway, by facing the fear and bearing through it.
If you’re fearful, that’s normal and just part of who you are. It’s not something to be fought or to expect that it will ever be completely eliminated.
There are paths of least resistance
Sometimes our anxiety has reached a point where it’s not plausible to face the fear. This is generally when there’s an activity that is overwhelmingly fearful for you, and there’s no way you would subject yourself to it.
This is often the case with things like public speaking. For some, public speaking causes their heart to race, adrenaline to pump, voice to shake, legs to tremble, and other noticeable physical symptoms. These types of experiences are obviously embarrassing, but also bad for our anxiety. They perpetuate the problem and stop us from making progress.
To overcome this, there’s a medication called propranolol. You can take this before you do something that causes anxiety, or you can take propranolol on a regular basis, so that its effects are always in-action in the body.
Proranolol is a beta-blocker. It slows your heart rate , lowers your blood pressure, and reduces the effects of adrenaline. Your body releases adrenaline in times of stress and emergency, which those with anxiety experience more often than others. Propranolol and other beta-blockers are a powerful way to combat the physical symptoms of anxiety.
Talk with your doctor about using propranolol as an anti-anxiety option. It’s a great medication for when you need to control your physical symptoms so that you can gain the confidence to do things that cause you anxiety.
Continue to strive for progress
Something that I’ve found is common for those who struggle with anxiety, is overthinking. We tend to be very rapid thinkers and to combat this, you have to keep yourself busy.
Part of continuously striving for progress is to just stay active. Keep yourself actively engaged. Whatever it may be, as long as you’re staying busy and trying new things, you should start to feel better on a day-to-day basis.
Anxiety doesn’t get easier right away. It’s often more difficult before it’s any easier. Sometimes you have to trudge through uncharted territory, to teach yourself that there are other ways of thinking besides what you’re used to. It’s these experiences that help you discover yourself and make the most progress.