I have a funny relationship with my anxiety. I have, over many years, managed to get it under control… most of the time. And with this clarity, I realised, that my anxiety is an absolute lying little bitch, it’s quite literally a bully that follows you around. It tells me I’m not good enough, it tells me I can’t make it, that people don’t like me. That my work isn’t good enough, my hair looks shit, everyone’s talking about me…. it really never stopped. And anxiety the big bully? It’s not just mentally battering you but physically. The feeling that you cannot breathe, the heart palpitations, the shaking, the feeling of being paralysed in situations out of your control.
But what happens when you start to believe the lies the ‘bully’ anxiety is telling you? When we’re told something over and over and over again, we start to believe it. By telling yourself certain lies, anxiety strengthens itself so it can keep a hold on you and your life. For example, when I suffered from social anxiety so many times before going out to socialise i had extreme anxiety, but every time I managed to push through it, I always end up having the best time – my anxiety lied to me. So many times it told me I was going to fail when I actually succeeded – my anxiety was lying to me. So many times I worried about what others thought about me that it actually stopped me from enjoying myself.
Anxiety makes up false stories about you, and the worst thing is, its all in your mind – like a bully constantly following you around, telling you how to think and feel. Our boss asks to speak with us, our friend doesn’t return our call, the train gets delayed and instantly we fill in the blanks, coming up with the worse case scenario. These stories aren’t simply inaccurate; they’re destructive and toxic. They isolate us and damage our relationships and our life and they are feeding the bully that is anxiety, making it more and more powerful.
I have found, that by talking about anxiety in the third person – a bully – a liar – this has helped me see my anxiety as something outside of me rather than inside me, it helped me heal through the increasing that i was not my illness. Anxiety isn’t who i am, and it will not win.
Steps to take to help anxiety:
Be more mindful
First, accept that in order to become more mindful, we must recognize that we are solely responsible for the thoughts our minds produce. Meditation has helped me so much with controlling my thoughts and anxiety, I meditate everyday and highly recommend the headspace app to get started. While we can’t stop our minds completely, we can take control over them and create moments of peace for ourselves.
When my anxiety was at its worst I got so angry when people would tell me to breathe. “BREATHE?!!! I’M ABOUT TO HAVE A PANIC ATTACK BREATHING ISN’T GOING TO HELP!” I used to think it was ridiculous, but honestly it’s so so important, as anxiety is not just mental its physical, breathing helps to calm and ground the body.
When thoughts of anxiety arise, try to do the following as soon as you are aware of what’s taking place in your mind and body:
* Take a long, deep breath in and out. In your mind say “in” as you breathe in and “out” as you breathe out in order to ground yourself in the present moment.
* Then, feel the ground beneath your feet. Notice the way your clothes feel against your skin, the wind against your face, the sun on your cheeks. Listen to the birds singing, the rain falling around you, or the ticking of a nearby clock.
All this will ground you in the present moment. Even if thoughts want to drag you away with them, coming back to recognize the breath will give you the control you need to prevent this from happening, again meditation helps with this.
Unfortunately, these steps are by no means a quick fix in saving you from suffering with anxiety – trust me, I know its not easy. In fact, at first it will take all your energy and resolve not to react to what your mind and ego are doing. It will exhaust you as you are literally re-training your brain. Sometimes we need medical help or therapy and that’s totally fine! If you had a physical illness you wouldn’t think twice about getting help or taking medicine, don’t fight this battle alone.
You can’t argue with science… so I am going to get a bit geeky on you. Exercise not only increases blood flow to the brain, it releases endorphins, the body’s very own natural antidepressant! I work out daily for around 30-40 minutes before work and honestly its changed my life, I don’t go to the gym to lose weight I go for my mental and physical health, and since incorporating this into my daily routine it has changed my life!
Face your fears.
The famous psychoanalyst Carl Jung observed that the single most effective way to overcome your fears is to face them.”that which you resist persists.” For instance, if you fear flying, take a vacation – on a PLANE he said. If you fear that you have a serious problem in your relationship or friendship, address it with them, he said. Because if there is a serious problem, then at least you’ll know what to work on, instead of worrying, ruminating and feeling stuck – which is a huge cause of anxiety. Try and push through your demons and shut the bully down.
It’s also quite possible that even once you’ve covered these steps, you will still get lost in your thoughts and fears, and anxiety does sometimes still eer it’s head in my life but I now have coping mechanisms in place to keep it under control.
Push through your anxiety and fears one step at a time and you will realise that your anxiety has been lying to you all along. That you are worthy, that you don’t need to punish yourself, begin the process of taking back control of your mind and your life.
Do not believe the lies your thoughts are telling you.
No matter how relentless and real your anxiety and thoughts may feel, you must remember they are not true. They are not who you are. You can get past this.