I get it.
You’re sick of panic attacks, tired of that suffocating lump in your throat, had it with body tremors, and totally done with sweat stains on your favorite shirts.
My guess is you’re exhausted from tossing and turning all night, and wonder if your stomach will ever unravel itself from its perpetual knot.
I know this because I’ve lived with anxiety for most of my life; I’ve experienced each of these symptoms of anxiety and more.
Like you, I suffered for years.
I tried counseling, medication, exercise, and yeah, some pretty radical substances; and whereas each of these did help in their own way, I still struggled with anxiety.
It was when I finally dove into the research, learned as much as I could about anxiety, including my own, and created my own personal protocol for my anxiety that I finally started feeling relief.
After years of integrating knowledge and self-discovery, here’s 3 do’s and 3 don’ts for anxiety that I wish someone would have shared with me years ago.
1. Do become your very own anxiety expert.
If you experience a lot of anxiety or have an anxiety disorder, don’t you think you should learn as much as you can about anxiety?
We read and study everyday; there’s always something that we’re learning or wanting to know more about.
So why not learn everything there is to know about anxiety?
For example, and I’ll keep this brief, the neuroscience research tells us that anxiety, one of our many emotions, starts in the brain.
In times of possible threat, danger, or harm, anxiety is triggered by a myriad of miraculous chemical reactions that drive us into what’s coined “fight or flight” mode that keeps us from leaping over cliffs, dancing with cars, playing tag with bears, sashaying down dark allies, and helped us survive as a species.
Knowing this, I accept anxiety’s usefulness and that it’s not out to get me or ruin my life.
However, because there’s so much more to anxiety than my simplified version, and because the anxiety that you and I deal with is anything but simple, I recommend reading Dr. Matthew Mackinnon’s article, “The Neuroscience of Anxiety Disorders” that lays out the science of anxiety, whether you have an anxiety disorder or not, and includes his genius graphic, “The Anxiety Circuit.”
Because knowledge is power, learning as much as you can about anxiety quiets uncertainty, which can cause anxiety, and puts you in a more informed position that can actually provide some relief.
2. Do keep an anxiety journal.
Journals are a super awesome tools for learning about your anxiety, and especially your anxiety patterns and themes; so no whining about how you don’t like to write.
You must come to know the daily details of the “who, what, when, and where” of your anxiety.
So grab a nice journal or notebook, along with a favorite pen and start journaling:
Who’s around when you feel anxious? Jot down all the people near when you start feeling anxious, even if you don’t know who they are.
What’s going on when you feel anxious? Note what you’re thinking, feeling, and doing when you start to feel anxious.
Make note of the weather, temperature, crowds, traffic, sights, sounds, smells, sensations, and even the type of clothing you’re wearing.
When do you feel anxious? Include the date, day, time, month, and even the season or holiday.
Where are you when you feel anxious? Specify the place, area, vicinity, or location.
Commit to your daily anxiety journal for at least 30 days so you can clarify patterns and themes, while coming to know your anxiety really well.
3. Do invest in support.
Emotional support continues to be one of the most important factors in achieving, accomplishing, changing, and recovering.
The type of professional you choose is purely your choice; however, do seek support and guidance from an anxiety expert versus a general practitioner.
The health, wellness, and medical field is saturated with all types of geniuses; it’s essential that you locate an anxiety expert that you trust, who listens, and who is open to exploring a variety of strategies and options with you.
In other words, it’s important that you work with a professional that can help you create a personalized plan for responding to your anxiety.
You want a guide on the side who is open to a whole host of strategies versus prescribing only a select few because the research said so; what’s effective for some research participants, might not be effective for everyone, including you.
For example, whereas yoga, mindfulness, meditation, and mindset practices work wonders for me and my anxiety, you and your anxiety might respond better to Tai Chi, acupuncture, medication, and a Paleo diet.
1. Don’t beat yourself or your anxiety up.
As frustrating and annoying as anxiety can be, getting angry at your mind, body, and anxiety will not serve you.
Beating yourself up will only cause you to feel more anxious.
Think of it this way: How do you feel when someone gives you a hard time, judges, and criticizes you? Anxious, right? Exactly my point.
Would you treat a friend or loved one the way you treat you and your anxiety? I didn’t think so.
Starting today, promise that you will no longer criticize, judge, rant, rave, berate, yell, or scream at your mind, your body, your anxiety, or you ever again.
Respond to yourself and anxiety with loving kindness and curiosity.
Be gentle, compassionate, and forgiving.
2. Don’t complain.
If I had a dime for all the times I complained about my anxiety, well, let’s just say I’d have enough money to fund a lot of anxiety research.
What did all that complaining get me? Nothing, but more anxious.
Complaining comes from feeling powerless, helpless, and a victim.
We don’t know what else to do, so we complain in hopes that someone or something will change our ferocious anxiety.
Yet, complaining keeps us in victimhood, and increases our feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and powerlessness.
This doesn’t mean that you should stuff your anxiety and hide it from the world; that too will only make your anxiety worse and keep you powerless.
Instead of complaining about anxiety, consider sharing it from an empowered, hopeful, accepting place.
Let others know when you feel anxious by honoring your feelings.
Share when you’re in the midst of an anxiety attack and need some space.
Honor when it’s healthy to set boundaries and limits to take care of you and your anxiety.
And don’t let outside opinions, judgments, or reactions derail you; you know you and your anxiety best.
By responding empowered, hopeful, and assured, you might be surprised with how you begin to feel.
3. Don’t give up.
Wanting to throw in the towel is normal; I felt that way often.
I had days when I felt so amazingly anxious that I wanted to lock myself in my home and never leave again.
These feelings are normal and okay; accept and honor them.
If we will allow ourselves to feel all of our feelings fully, courageously with curiosity, they will ease.
In those moments when you want to give up, self-compassion and loving kindness are so important.
These are times to grab your anxiety journal and dump it all; get everything out of your mind.
When you want to give up, get outside in nature, listen to your favorite Spotify playlist, dance with your dog, or cat, or do something creative or expressive that gets you into a different head and body space.
Most important, never, ever, ever give up on you or your anxiety.
Originally published at simplysublimecoaching.com