Is it ever possible to free yourself from Anxiety if you have always suffered from it?
Can you live your life feeling calm when you once had an anxiety disorder?
Let's explore this...
If you suffer from anxiety, or consider yourself an anxious person, this piece might prove helpful. The predisposition to worry can be genetic or can be a learned behaviour. Either way, we are taking about being wired up for worry. The neural pathways are set up, usually from an early age, to fire. Repeatedly. Constantly sometimes. Our bodies may have constant adrenaline and cortisol spiking all day long, as our mind looks for things worry about. Or our bodies are just locked into panic and stress, and our adrenals produce adrenaline for no reason at all. Either way, what I am really saying is, anxiety is behaviour based. Either through our minds looking for things to worry about (well worn pathways that fire all by themselves) or through our adrenal glands producing adrenaline and cortisol all by themselves for no reason. So tackling anxiety, is a multi layered approach.
Thankfully nowadays we know this. It has been a long time since I heard a client think that an anti-anxiety pill would work by itself. There has been enough public education done to inform us that it is not that easy. If anti-anxiety pills worked, well then, we would all take them, and be done! While these medications are invaluable and often necessary, more is needed.
Let's break down the layers.
Learning how to observe your thoughts is crucial here. We can't believe what we think. We just notice what we think. We learn to observe the worrying thoughts. In becoming masterful, it is no harm to take a daily inventory of all the things that trigger your anxiety. All the worries you have. I know this was a key piece for me in mastering my anxiety. Learning the patterns and seeing all the fears, and seeing how they show up as thoughts, just firing all day long sometimes. Keeping a journal to become aware of your thoughts, and practising mindful mediation is so helpful, to learn how to separate you from your thoughts. A crucial piece of space that is needed.
Next you want to create new thoughts. This is classic Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. For all the worries you have, you create new thoughts that are equal and opposite to the worries. For example, I am worried I am sick. New thought will be, I will take care of myself and visit the Dr when needed. This in itself won't cure your anxiety, but is a key basic step in your journey. New positive, empowered thoughts must be knitted in to the cognitive landscape, in response to each worry. I also think of this as re-parenting yourself. Think of a child telling you they are worried about something. You immediately tell them everything is going to be okay, and outline why. When this parenting has been absent for us, we can create it ourselves later on. Through work and focus. We can calm ourselves. Every anxious thought is an opportunity to show up for ourselves. And calm ourselves. It may not feel natural at first, but after a few weeks, the neutrons will fire by themselves and we will automatically reassure ourselves of our worries. It is not to say, we won't worry. But we will now have a counter-argument, and that feels better. Calmer.
A small note before we move on. Also it goes without saying, that action must be taken to address your worries and fears also. No point worrying about a problem and not taking action to resolve the issue as well. This goes without saying. Actual problem solving is needed too, to fully calm. For example, book in the GP appointment, make that call you need to etc.
Caffeine, alcohol and sugar have dramatic effects on our anxiety. If you are wanting to become anxiety free, these need to go/reduced significantly. Learn what works for you and stick to it.
Next you need to prioritise sleep. Sleep regulates our mood and emotional states each night. Such a priority when you are wanting to be calm.
Design a calm life for yourself. Only you can know what that is. Anything that makes you anxious needs to go. For now. Until you get masterful of yourself. Until your body has learned what it's like to be calm. For now, mind yourself. Again, like a parent would. Create a lovely calm environment, so your body can re-learn what that is.
If you had an event in your life, where you felt significantly changed as a result, when you felt you were not the same person after it, where nightmares are occurring, and other extremely stressful emotions are repeating themselves in your life, you may want to consider PTSD. PTSD occurs when an event or period of time in our lives, causes us more distress than we are capable of dealing with. Numbness, suicidal thinking, black despair, nightmares and flashbacks are all markers.
If you are living with PTSD, your anxiety will not settle down without professional help. Seek help for yourself, and your anxiety will massively improve.
Another common cause of anxiety is a build up of unprocessed emotions and experiences in our lives. Having to push our feelings and pain down to survive, not having the opportunity to heal and grieve, can cause our anxiety to fire constantly.
I usually describe anxiety as the red light on our dashboards. It tells us something else is wrong with us. Time to pull over, pop the hood and take a look at the engine. Therapy is a great place to take a look at our deeper selves, but we can do this though writing our thoughts down. I can't recommend daily journaling enough. Now with the science to prove it, we move our brain state into one of reflection and calm, when we write reflectively. So writing helps us process our emotions and places us into a state of calm.
It is so possible to move out of anxiety permanently. No matter who we are! Yes it takes work. But so worth it. Living anxiety free, no matter how difficult things may be from time to time, is invaluable. Putting the work in for a few months, to get to know yourself, and learn new skills, is so worth it, when you get to live calm forever after.
Some links for calming yourself: