Anxiety feels like the world is against you, but that’s not true. In fact, it’s all you. Even if the world suddenly became amazing right now, you’d still feel the pangs of anxiety; the fretting mind, the aching stomach, the hunched shoulders, and the undeniable belief that everything is out of control.
Yeah, I’ve been there too.
And yes, I wish I could give you the one surefire way to overcome your anxiety — it’s something even I wish for — but there’s no catchall cure. There’s no right way to practice mindfulness and there’s no amount of tea that will shield you from fear. Hell, even anti-anxiety medication come in many different forms. And that’s because anxiety is not meant to be cured.
It’s completely natural to be anxious. If we didn’t have anxiety, we’d always end up in bad situations. We wouldn’t run for our lives at the sight of a grizzly bear or drop-and-hide at the sound of a loud bang. Having anxiety is useful.
But, of course, having too much anxiety isn’t, and that’s why I’m here. I can’t offer you a cure for your anxiety, but I can offer you a better way of thinking about it. Here are three things I remind myself whenever I feel the storm of anxiety brewing. And I believe they can help you too.
Come on, it’s time to cast off the shackles and live again.
Your thoughts are opinions, not facts
The driving force behind much of our anxieties is rumination. Put simply: thinking too much. Maybe you did something wrong and you’re clambering for a solution. Maybe your current circumstances aren’t to your liking. Whatever the cause is, you’ll soon be inundated with negative thoughts.
Am I doing the right thing? God, I shouldn’t have done that! What if I get fired? Oh my God, I’m useless! Maybe I should have done this? I think they hate me now.
They flood the mind, drowning you in negativity, and thus building your anxiety. And when your feeling anxious, you continue reeling through those negative thoughts, exacerbating your anxiety. It’s a neverending spiral with no clear end.
So your best bet is to stop the spiral. And the best way to do this is to remember that your negative thoughts are just opinions, they are not facts.
It’s important to remember this because it helps you to either challenge your negative thoughts or accept their silliness and put them aside. Some thoughts are worth challenging, especially those where you doubt yourself (I recommend looking at your past successes to elevate your self-pride).
But some thoughts are not worth challenging and should be accepted and put aside. The best examples of this are questions about possible future scenarios.
(Will I get fired?!)
Nobody knows what will happen tomorrow and thinking about it isn’t gonna solve anything. But maybe you could alter the possibilities. As computer scientist Alan Kay once said: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” You’re not going to invent anything with just your mind.
At the end of the day, all your thoughts about you and your life are opinions. None of them are factual unless you have proven evidence.
Distractions are treatments, not cures
Almost all the quick remedies for anxiety can amount to distraction. Even mindfulness is a distraction. You close your eyes, breathe deeply and focus on your self, distracting you from all the tension you are feeling and thinking. But you must remember that they are not cures. They are treatments of the symptoms of stress and anxiety.
Anxiety arises from life’s many problems. Sometimes we stuff up, sometimes another person stuffs up, and sometimes the world stuffs up. Most anxiety can be remedied by understanding the root cause, accepting it and, if possible, solving it.
Stressed over your current job? Find a way to change it. Maybe you need to relinquish certain tasks or maybe you just need to find a new job and quit.
Stressed by the uncertainty of this pandemic? You’re not alone. A lot of people are. Even I’ve drowned in negative thoughts about Covid-19. But our only remedy is accepting this fear and finding ways to mitigate it, and distractions are the best trick.
Find ways to bring yourself back to the present moment and not fearing over future possibilities.
Yes, distractions are not cures, but they are a great way to tolerate the anxieties in our lives. To treat the symptoms and help us stay grounded. But to truly cure your anxieties, you need to solve the root cause first.
And if you are struggling to do so, I highly recommend reaching out for professional help. It has helped me in the past.
Be your own best friend
What would you do if your best friend came at you in distress, angry at the world, and hating themselves? Would you tell them they deserve it? Or would you pick them up and hug them? The answer is pretty clear, but too many of us do the opposite to ourselves.
We let the negativity flow, and sometimes we create it.
My final bit of knowledge is a simple one: be your own best friend. You are going through a hellish time right now and you need some tender, loving care.
Be nice to you by offering yourself healthy food or plenty of water. Take yourself for a walk. Have a super-relaxing bath with a dozen dazzling candles and Michael Bublé crooning in the background.
And if your not going to tell yourself this, then I will: YOU ARE AMAZING AND TOTALLY WORTH IT!