I use these lessons on an almost daily basis to manage small flair ups or issues that make me feel like I’m spiraling. Here are ways to help you manage and understand your anxiety or any moment you feel out of sorts.
Not Everything is Black and White
A significant cause of my anxiety was the idea that not everything is black and white. For example, even if I ate healthy all day, one slice of pie would tip the scales, or so I feared, causing a frenzy of unbearable anxiety.
This often occurs for people who have a perfectionist mindset: “Perfectionism creates a steady state of discontent fueled by a stream of negative emotions like fear, frustration, and disappointment, “ says Christine Carter, PhD, Berkeley.edu.
This mindset forced me to deal with a heavy load of pressure. Whenever I found myself in one of these situations, it suddenly felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders. A small bite of pie will not tip the scales on my entire healthy lifestyle. One piece of criticism doesn’t mean that I’m terrible at what I do. Not everything is one way or the other; in most cases, I learned that there’s a lot of wiggle room to work with.
The Problem Is Rarely What You Think It Is
Therapy teaches you to dig deeper into a problem. We have a habit of shielding ourselves from what’s really bothering us. While on the surface it may seem like “work stress,” underneath it all could really be a lack of self-confidence, or a fear that we’re not doing well enough at our job.
If we accept what’s at the surface, we’ll never be able to dig into the real problem, fix them, and move on. In digging deeper I discovered long-buried issues that were causing severe anxiety now. What’s more, it was manifesting it in completely different ways. I would have never guessed that family problems from my teen years were driving my body image struggles now. As it turns out, that was a huge part of it.
Without knowing what these problems were, I could never have taken the right steps toward healing. While it may be scary to dig down into what’s really going on— who knows what you’ll find down there, I certainly didn’t— if you live on the surface your anxiety will continue to be a problem.
My anxiety taught me that digging deeper to find the real problem allows me to affect change, within my environment and myself. In most cases, we don’t even realize what the real problem is until we actively ask ourselves: “What’s really going on here?”
Fear is Good
A lot of people are scared— about work, their health, their love life and more. I actually just read that in a poll of 2,000 people, the biggest fear was of failure, including financial loss, being alone and unemployment. Anxiety is almost always intertwined with some sort of fear; of rejection, social situations, etc.
I wrote about my personal experience while being scared because I recently realized something— fear can either propel us forward or hold us back. If you acknowledge and embrace it, it will propel you forward.
Many people, especially those of us with anxiety, let it tear us apart. We overanalyze every decision, we’re critical of the choices we make, and we let it drag us down. Yet knowing these fears allows you to control them, so you don’t miss out on your dream job or aren’t afraid to ask your future soul mate to dinner.
I found this to be valuable in many areas of life. Fear is good, but it will only lift you up if you let it.
Everything Will Pass—Sooner Than You Think
When I’m having an anxious moment it feels like it will never pass. As I slowly spiral into the start of a panic attack, I can’t think of anything else and it seems like that one “problem” will be the end of me.
Sooner than later, however, I start to breathe and think again. Before I know it, the problem has passed and I’m onto the next thing. In so many ways, this is applicable to life, and the stress that comes with it. Sometimes, when we’re in the thick of it, it can be hard to see the way out. In these moments, remind yourself of struggles you’ve endured before. If you made it through those, you’ll do the same again and the problem will pass—likely much sooner than you think.
By Jessica Thiefels
Jessica has been writing for more than 10 years and is currently a lifestyle blogger, small business owner and personal trainer. She’s been featured on Forbes and has written for Reader’s Digest, AARP, Lifehack and more. Follow her on Twitter @Jlsander07 for lifestyle tips, fitness advice and more.
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