I’ve been alive for 29 years, and I’ve suffered through anxiety for almost all of them. I might even consider myself an expert in being anxious, except that now I’m working toward becoming an expert in avoiding anxiety.
What am I doing to get there? I’m reading books, going to therapy regularly, writing a lot, and challenging my current beliefs. I’ve built a framework for this based on everything I’ve learned so far.
Here are my goals:
Don’t judge your thoughts or behaviors.
One of the key points I have learned in therapy is that emotions are just information, and we don’t need to judge them. It is enough just to notice them. I don’t need to call my anxiety “bad” or “good.” I just have it, and I need to notice it, consider why I might have it, and then move forward. I am not bad for feeling anxious.
Focus on Facts.
Some of the most difficult moments are those in which anxiety feels like it takes over, and you are just a ball of stress. It’s not really enough to remember to breathe slowly. Instead, I try to focus on the facts of the matter, repeating them in my head until I can calm down.
“You’re sitting at your desk. You’re trying to work. You are frustrated. You’re sitting at your desk. You’re trying to work. You are frustrated.”
Don’t Assign Suffering to Pain.
When I see somebody struggling or in pain, my brain automatically wants to assume they are suffering. When somebody is in pain, I feel terrible for them. It affects my mood and sometimes even my day.
Pain and suffering are not the same thing. Even when we struggle, we can have moments of joy. I can’t take on the suffering of others. I need to step away.
How Can You Be Into It?
I used to ask, “How are you going to get through this?” Now, I make a conscious effort to ask, “How are you going to enjoy this?” Reframing activities and events I am not looking forward has been so instrumental in feeling better about my life.
It Takes a Little Discomfort for Long-Term Rewards
Brené Brown says in one of her videos that it takes eight seconds of discomfort to ask for something you want. I try to think of this when I am doing something I really don’t want to do. If I have to sit through a few moments of discomfort, I can count on it leading toward something that provides a long-term reward.
These are just some of the guidelines I’m using to enjoy life without feeling anxiety. This list is constantly evolving, and it might look a lot different weeks, months, and years from now.