When I stopped trying to get rid of anxiety, something that had plagued me for years…it went away.
Why you should stop trying to get rid of anxiety
It must be about 3AM. My bedroom is pitch black and I’m staring at the ceiling as though I can see it. My boyfriend is fast asleep beside me – he’s so lucky. I’m here with butterflies in my stomach and a heavy feeling in my chest.
Anxiety. For no reason – again.
I reach over to grab my cell phone. Maybe it’s closer to morning than I think it is. The sun could be up any minute…
That sinking feeling – the night has just begun.
The cause of my anxiety has changed throughout my life.
It has been school, homework, a big project, a new crush. Social situations like the school dance, a house party, moving to a new home or a bad relationship. More recently it’s been an overwhelming and stressful job. One with too much work and too little time.
How can you try to fix something that is simply caused by life?
But try to fix it, I did. Except nothing worked. Let’s try Yoga aka. a quiet room where you’re alone with your thoughts. A place for overthinking, over analyzing and anxiety to breed. It didn’t work.
Let’s try meditation… even worse.
Whenever I was alone with my thoughts, I would worry. I tried to push them away, let them pass or think of something else. Pushing them away just made them fight back harder. Trying to get rid of anxiety was like trying not to think of a pink elephant. As soon as you thought about fixing it, it was there.
Today I consider myself anxiety free.
Sure, it pokes its head and says “Hi” to me every once in a while. I say “Hi” back and it goes on it’s merry way. I have learned to cope in a way that I never thought would work: I stopped trying to get rid of my anxiety.
All those anxiety treatments that people talk about: Yoga, meditation, mindfulness, morning routines, self care etc. They do work, but only if you’re thinking about them in the right way. If you think about them as “trying to get rid of anxiety” it puts a lot of pressure on yourself and it makes you, well, anxious.
A shift in mindset was what I needed.
When I started doing my morning routine, I did it because I wanted to wake up early and be less rushed when leaving the house. It wasn’t to get rid of anxiety, it was simply to have more time in the morning.
When I started meditating, it was just to practice an ancient skill that humans had developed over the years. Like juggling or riding a bike. The goal wasn’t anything other than learning to meditate.
Life is full of things we cannot control.
We could lose our job, our house could burn down, we could have a chronic illness, or we could have anxiety. If we try to fix these things or prevent them from happening, we will fail.
I decided to focus on things that I could control. I put an emphasis on self care, took time to relax, put off chores that didn’t need to be done right away. I developed healthy relationships by learning to communicate better, being more open with my partner and letting go of friends who were negative and pulled me down. At work, I asked for help and delegated tasks which lightened my workload.
Then one morning, I woke up to the sound of my alarm.
I had slept through the entire night. No butterflies, no staring at the ceiling, no glancing at my sleeping boyfriend with the utmost jealousy. Quickly I realized something – I hadn’t stared at the ceiling for probably the entire week!
Whatever you do, I told myself, don’t try to fix your anxiety. Accept it. Give up control.
There’s something comforting about this thought. Giving up control, letting go. Realizing that anxiety is like a little puppy that you’ve let into your home.
He pees in your shoes, he gets fur all over the couch, he broke your favourite picture frame and he can make you so angry. But he’s there because he loves you, he wants to protect you and he wants to keep you safe.
Anxiety comes to us from our ancestors.
Back in the day, the people who were anxious, always on edge and always looking out at their surroundings were the ones that stayed alive. They were the ones that spotted the lion coming to eat them before anyone else. Anxiety was developed to protect us.
Making my life/environment feel safe was key.
The more I made my life feel safe, the less my anxiety felt like it needed to protect me. I took time to see people that made me happy, I left my stressful job that I hated and found one that I loved and I learned how to have a healthy romantic relationship without unhealthy fighting.
The safer my environment is, the less the little puppy wants to pee in my shoes and the more he wants to cuddle up on the couch.
It will never go away completely
Anxiety is a normal emotion. If I am feeling it, it means I’m human. Expecting it to go away completely is totally unrealistic and dangerous.
Remember, anxiety is there to protect us. This thought gives me comfort. It allows me to welcome and accept my anxiety rather than try to push it away.
In my life I control my friends, my relationships, the way I communicate, my attitude. I control my hobbies, my interests, my career choices, my work ethic, my sleep habits, my morning routine, my diet, my exercise, my mindset, my living situation, my possessions etc.
I control a lot of things.
Looking back it seems so obvious. I’m almost embarrassed it took me this long to realize this but I’m so glad I eventually did.
I can’t control my anxiety, and neither can you.
If you’d like a few ideas on how to get started with self care, you might be interested in my self care challenge. It’s absolutely FREE. Click here to learn more.
- 18 Self Care Products that Will Calm Your Chaos
- How To Fight Anxiety: 7 Ways to Stop Worrying All The Time
- The Self Care Morning Routine that Changed My Life
- Self Care is Not Selfish: How Putting Yourself First Helps Others
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