Life becomes easier to handle and more fulfilling once you accept this difficult truth:
Anxiety doesn’t go away!
There is no cure.
It is a part of the human condition. Sure, it might lie dormant for periods of time and give the illusion that it has left forever, but the moment something exacting triggers it, such as a quarantine, it rears its ugly head and can return with a vengeance.
Recently a few former clients have reached out to me in a panic, drowned by feelings they had “left behind years ago”. Frustrated and believing they had screwed up somewhere, they are beating themselves up about it daily.
No, I tell them. There is nothing wrong with you. It is completely “normal” (whatever normal is) to be suffering from more intense symptoms right now–symptoms you might not have experienced for years, or even decades.
We are living through uncertain times, to put it mildly. Health fears, unemployment fears, financial fears . . . the list grows daily. And uncertainty often triggers those of us with a history of severe anxiety. We experience that anxiety more deeply than others, as our minds race and wander through all the scenarios that could, but most likely, will never happen.
Remember, life gets easier…
Accept it. Do not be so hard on yourself. You have done nothing wrong to invite the unwelcome feelings, so do not fret! Just as we purchase physical toolboxes for “fix-its” around the house, so should we acquire emotional toolboxes to use when our anxiety “wrecks” things in our minds. One of the ways I prepare my clients to learn when their toolboxes are needed is by teaching them to identify their triggers. For example, in my case my heart races. Some people get sweaty palms; others get a ringing in their ears. Do you know yours? Think about the very first thing you notice when your anxiety kicks in. Use that awareness in the future and take action immediately by utilizing your toolbox to navigate the bumpy roads your mind is racing across. Here are some tools that are amazingly successful:
- Breathe. Always. And often.
- Identify your 3-5 go-to distractions: cleaning, listening to music, going for a drive. Turn to one of these the moment you notice yourself escalating.
- Make sure you have supports in place–your “go to” people, the ones who know you best and who are most reliable. Consider letting them know you are struggling, so they can support you while you are getting back on track.
- Be kind to yourself. Do not beat yourself up or act as if you have failed. And remember that although you are tied up in knots, your emotional state is not visible to others. Your secrets are not being exposed to the world.
- Focus on what you have control over. For example, if you are heading back to work, have you gathered everything you will need to feel safe and protected? (Masks, gloves, sanitizer, etc . . .) If you can stay home but are still worried about exposure, can you arrange to have items delivered to you to limit your exposure? In other words, focus on the things you can control, instead of things you have no control over.
- Reach out to a professional if the thought has crossed your mind. Do not wait until you are a mess. Accepting support is a sign of strength, not weakness. In fact, it is a giant strength that shows courage!!
Anxiety is often triggered by unrealistic fears, but in today’s climate your anxieties are real. Do not minimize them or yourself. They are a part of you and trying to fix them or ignore them will only make them stronger and will worsen your condition.
Accept your situation. In fact, I encourage you to embrace it. It is part of being human and you are not alone. You have gotten through this before and you will now again.