If you struggle with anxiety and are want to do something about it. There are things you need to know about the journey that will change the way you see your progress and approach recovery.
I have been through the journey of recovery myself. Not only from intense anxiety, but depression, PTSD and Panic as well. I get it, and in this post I'm going to share with you what you need to know about Anxiety Recovery.
1. The first thing is, that it is not a straight upwards improvement
You're not going to start working on your anxiety and just get better and better by the day. Each day being filled with less and less anxiety, until its gone altogether. That's just not what people experience.
It's normal to have good days and bad days. Days where you notice your anxiety is significantly reduced. And then other days when it comes back up and is a struggle again.
I found it really helpful early on to see a graph that was a sawtooth, sometimes up and sometimes down.
The thing is if you are following the right process for recovery then over all it will improve. So an overall upwards improvement. Just not straight.
It's best not compare your anxiety day by day. This can be discouraging, but by weeks and months. Over time with the right support you will see improvements and anxiety can definitely reduce.
So remember if your journey is a bit bumpy, you're not doing it wrong, that's normal.
2. The second thing that is so important when you are working on your anxiety, is to separate Anxiety from your Identity
It's not uncommon for people with anxiety to see themselves as an anxious person.
Unfortunately, this strong identity attachment to anxiety can lead to really negative thoughts and feelings about yourself when anxiety gets in the way.
Early on in my recovery from depression someone was talking to me and gave me a really helpful image. They suggested when things were bad to say "This is the illness". And I would encourage you to think about your anxiety in this way.
When you have tough night and anxiety is really making life difficult.
"This is the anxiety"
By separating it off from your identity it becomes easier to change.
Anxiety isn't who we are, it's a response we have to situations. It is something we can reduce and change with the right process.
Whereas who you are doesn't need changing. You are good enough, and worthy of love and belonging just as you are right now.
Now this third one is going to be a bit of a hard pill to swallow. And it is vital to proper recovery rather than just numbing which can lead straight into depression.
3. You need to know that the goal isn't getting rid of anxiety
So many people come to our clinic and when we ask them what their goals are they say, "I want to get rid of my anxiety."
Now anxiety is part of our survival wiring, and isn't something you can just remove. And yes we do get asked if there is a part of peoples brains that can be removed so they don't experience anxiety.
Anxiety can really suck, it's understandable to not what to experience it. However, like pain, it has a function. If someone lost their ability to feel pain they would be in a lot of danger. They wouldn't know to remove a hand from a hot stove or That they were stepping on something sharp that could cut them. That was the big issue with leprosy
Like with pain we need the uncomfortable sensation of anxiety to keep ourselves safe in certain situations. However, you don't need anxiety at a level that gets in the way of everyday life. That stops you from enjoying time with friends and doing well at work.
This anxiety can definitely be reduced. Reduced down in terms of the intensity and the amount of time spent anxious.
Not only this, with the right process you can retrain your brain not to respond with anxiety in situations that don't need you to be in fight or flight survival mode.
And one more reason to not get rid of anxiety completely:
Not only is having some anxiety protective, the exact same sensation of anxiety are also the sensations experienced when you are excited. The difference is that excitement comes with a different meaning attached.
If you want your life to have movements of excitement you need to be able to experience these sensations that are part of anxiety.
When we try to numb or avoid any difficult emotion, unfortunately we lose access to positive emotions as well.
You can't pick and choose what you numb.
Your life wouldn't be better if you never felt anxiety, because that would mean you weren't feeling.
That my friend is called depression.
Knowing this last point, that the aim isn't to get rid of anxiety...
4. The next thing you need to know is that you are looking for the right process, not a cure
You are going to experience anxiety in your life. Depending on what is going on, your stress may increase. This often makes anxiety more intense.
Life has these ups and downs. There isn't a pill or a breathing strategy that can just solve all your problems and take anxiety away for good. And it would not be a good thing if there was.
However, when you hit these moments in life where anxiety pops up, what you really need is a process to follow to manage and master that anxiety.
Anxiety still pops up, but you have the confidence that you can get through it and be ok.
When you practice and get good at the right process, anxiety doesn't get in the way like it used to.
Where a bad panic attack used to take me out for a whole day, now when anxiety pops up I can work myself through it in quickly, sometimes even in a matter of minutes.
The anxiety I experience now isn't nearly as intense and each time I work through it I gain resilience.
The struggle at the start is that a good process for managing and mastering anxiety is going to be counterintuitive.
It's the opposite of what your anxiety wants you to do. However, over time, it is going to shift anxiety out of the driving seat and help you regain control of your life.
Lastly I want to finish with something really exciting not many people know about the anxiety journey.
5. Life can be way better than survival, or even management of anxiety
That is, that when you work on your anxiety, when you commit to following a process for managing and mastering it, not only can you get back to functioning and feeling normal again.
Who wouldn't want that?
But you can go beyond that.
I can't believe the things I can now do because of challenging my anxiety. I'm able to share publicly about anxiety and help and encourage other people. Something that I've found hugely rewarding. I'm running a business and helping other business people, on the other side of the world, to improve their businesses.
I'm now able to tackle things normal people would see as too hard or scary.
And that skill has opened up my world to so much more than just a normal life. It's a life I enjoy and one that has real meaning.
So if you are just starting out on your anxiety journey, or have been doing this thing for a while, I want to encourage you to keep moving forward.
Life can be so much better than the restrictions anxiety gives you.
And I'd love for you to jump in the comments on the video below and tell me which tip you found most valuable.