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I can’t believe ten weeks has passed since we started this series. Time flies! I also can’t believe how popular it’s been… these posts have kept my little blog very busy. I have received emails from some of you who are struggling with anxiety – thank you for writing, and keep trying new things until you win! Anxiety sucks, but you can win! And obviously it’s something we need to talk about, because there’s lots of us who have it.
I could write endlessly about hundreds of aspects of anxiety, and what I’ve found to be beneficial. But the series has gotta end eventually. There are some thoughts I have to leave with you, that didn’t fit in anywhere else, before we finish. These are paramount thoughts, for me anyhow, even though they aren’t full gown enough to merit their own post. Sometimes I just want to yell these things at people who are suffering with anxiety and make them understand. (But that wouldn’t really benefit anyone, so I don’t.)
When you are Anxious, remember, Perception is NOT reality
Perception is NOT reality. I actually came across this twice this week, once in a blog post and once in a movie, where people stated that “perception is reality”. Yes, I get what they mean. When we believe something, we act accordingly. That’s a fact, and I’m not arguing with that. That fact is the problem, actually.
I’m a member of a local charity group, and right now we are working to raise money to buy dolls for dementia patients. The patients love the dolls, they believe they are real babies and it gives them something to do, a reason to live. They take care of the babies and it occupies their time. Which is absolutely fantastic, since dementia is something we can’t beat, I think finding any way to bring these people joy is awesome. But the fact that the patients believe the dolls are real does not make them real. Their perception is not reality. It is their perception. It feels real for them, but it is NOT real.
You have anxiety, not dementia. Anxiety is beat-able. Your brain is powerful enough to recognize that perception is not necessarily reality… especially in the case of anxiety.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is used very successfully to deal with the fact that we when believe something, we act accordingly. I think it’s totally worth while and you should consider it. I also think that it’s the long version of learning to understand that perception is not reality.
99% of the time (it’s actually probably more like 99.9% of the time) the things that I am afraid of are not happening. The things that are giving me anxiety are not threats. The anxiety I feel tells me there is some reason to fear right now, when there really isn’t. Sometimes it might be something as simple as a hormonal imbalance telling me to feel anxious. I am able to recognize, now, that just because I FEEL anxious, doesn’t mean that anything bad is going to happen. Anxious feelings can remain anxious feelings, they don’t need to become a panic attack.
I can’t necessarily “turn off” the anxious feelings, but they don’t bother me quite as much when I understand that they are JUST feelings.
When you are Anxious, remember, this too, shall pass
This too, shall pass. It’s the most cliché saying ever. Well, maybe not the most cliché, but it’s defenitly up there, no? The thing that I have found that I can’t ignore though, is that THIS IS TRUE! No matter how bad the panic attack, or anxiety in the moment, it does pass.
It doesn’t feel like it will pass… sometimes during a panic attack you even feel like you might die (not being dramatic here…it actually feels like that and it’s ok to admit it!) But you won’t die. It will pass. You can think this during a panic attack, but I find it even more beneficial for the “dull ache” anxiety. (Maybe because it’s easier to think with “dull ache” anxiety than it is to think while you’re having a panic attack!)
I had an interesting experience recently. I was working on my laptop in the same room as my husband was watching the (newish) Sandra Bullock movie Gravity. (Woman trapped alone in space, likely to die in space, very tense sort of movie.) I wasn’t that invested in the movie, since I was working, and the movie wasn’t “scary” (it wasn’t the sort of thing that I would normally consider “feeding the fears”, which was why I stayed in the room).
I sort of watch it out of the corner of my eye, and when it was over, I couldn’t shake my anxious-for-no-reason feelings. I had literally “caught” the anxiety from the woman in the movie. Maybe because she was “trapped” in space – I’ve mentioned before, in this series, my anxiety to do with being “trapped” – or maybe because I am just particularly sensitive to anxious situations. But either way, there I was, all anxious and unhappy and it was time for bed.
In the past, I would have let my anxious feelings spiral into anxious thoughts and worked myself into a pile of panic. But this time, I chose to stay up for a little while, make a cup of tea and watch a funny show (one of my favorite ways to kill anxiety) with all the lights on. I told myself that “this too, shall pass”. And then I waited until it did.
When you are Anxious, remember that there is hope
There is HOPE! I used to feel like I would be trapped (see, there’s that word again for me) in my head with my anxiety forever. Maybe anxiety will always be a part of my life, but I’m not trapped with it the way I used to be. (Even as I write this, there is a little nagging thought that my anxiety could come raging back full force… but I am choosing not to dwell there.) I have found real, solid solutions. I DON’T live in constant crippling anxiety anymore, and I think you should have hope too!
But there is one tricky thing about this. You are responsible for you. You have to decide to make the changes in your life that can help to heal your anxiety. YOU have to look for the answers and do the work. YOU have to want to get better and then try to get better.
I used to think it was harsh and judgmental when people would get exasperated at me for not wanting to get help. (And this is still a huge “politically correct” cultural issue we have. YES, anxiety (and other mental illness) are real illness, and YES that makes it a grey area for how to deal with the people who have them… meaning maybe we shouldn’t judge them for “not getting help” or “giving up” but I don’t know about that anymore. I’m not afraid to take unpopular stances on popular topics and usually I won’t write about those things, because I also don’t think it’s necessary to upset the world at large. But this one is close to my heart and I feel like it needs to be said. So I’ll say it.
You are bigger than your anxiety (or depression), you alone are capable of making changes. No one else can make it go away, except you. Make changes, not excuses. Or you can choose to live in your anxiety. And don’t be surprised when people get tired of listening to you, tired of reaching out to you, tired of your anxiety. Don’t be surprised when the more you withdraw, the darker it gets in your world.
I know that it’s hard. (If there is ANYTHING I know, it’s that it’s hard.) But I also know that there is hope.
I have created an “Anxiety Series” tab on my resources page, where you can locate any of the resources I mentioned in this series. I want to invite you again to contact me if you have any questions about anything I’ve said! I’ve really enjoyed reading the emails I’ve received, and I wish you a wonderful recovery from anxiety!
Read Part 1 of The Ultimate Guide to Living (Well) With Anxiety
Read Part 2 – Understanding Anxiety Disorders
Read Part 3 – Understanding Panic Attacks
Read Part 4 – Anxiety and Diet
Read Part 5 – Natural Supplements for Anxiety
Read Part 6 – What can Exercise do for Anxiety?
Read Part 7 – Do Not Feed the Fears
Read Part 8 – Talking About Anxiety
Read Part 9 – For the Christian with Anxiety
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