First off, Anxiety is normal. It’s a normal automatic reaction to stressors in our environment.
Anxiety is not inherently bad. Its uncomfortable, it sometimes gets in the way. And because of the stigma around mental health, we’re led to think of anxiety as a bad thing. A comment about our abilities. We think to ourselves, “I should be able to be calm about this… I shouldn’t be overreacting to that.”
This idea is rooted in perfectionism. The idea that I need to be able to do something without looking like I’m having a hard time. We often use our fear and shame surrounding anxiety as a way to continue to criticize ourselves for having it, but its also a way we avoid actually feeling it.
But avoiding our anxiety actually makes it worse. What we resist, persists.
Think of it like trying to push a beach ball under water. Eventually the beach ball will always find its way back to the surface, popping up even higher the harder you try to force it down. Even if you’re really good at keeping the beach ball underwater, you’re probably spending a lot of your energy trying to control beach ball, energy you could be spending on things you actually value.
If we remember that anxiety is normal and we don’t have to be afraid of it or judge it, we can look at it, instead of from it. Anxiety typically signals something we feel is dangerous in our environment. Ask yourself, what triggered my anxiety? Is something I value at risk? Am I feeling vulnerable? Am I lacking something I need to feel secure?
If we look at our anxiety as a signal that we are actually just in need of something to feel safe and secure, we can respond compassionately to it to meet our needs instead of denying that we have any needs at all.
Ask yourself, what is it you need today?
If we stop trying to control or bury the beach ball and just let it be, it will eventually float to the other side of the pool. It will still be around, but it won’t bother you as much.
You don’t have to like your anxiety and you probably never will. But you don’t have to get rid of your anxiety to be able to go out and live a life you value. You just need to change your relationship to it.
Tell yourself, “this is uncomfortable, and I may struggle with it at times, but I am capable of doing hard things.”