Keep in mind that this post pertains to self-reliance in general life situations, not mental health crisis or situations where true professional help is warranted or desired. There is nothing weak about looking for support when your health and well-being are at stake.
I’m not even going to try to come up with a clever intro for this post.
I am just going to come out and say it. If you are living with anxiety issues, you have GOT to put a strong focus on building self-reliance. Without true faith in yourself and your ability to handle any situation that comes your way, you will never be able to reach your full anxiety recovery potential.
I’m not going to get into the story of how weak and dependant on others I was when my anxiety disorder first erupted. If you have read much of this blog, you know the story. (And if you haven’t read much of this blog, I will just say that I was a helpless mess and leave it at that.) For this post let’s focus on you. Look inside yourself….take a real look inside yourself and ask these questions about yourself, to yourself.
Can I handle anything, no matter how stressful or awful it is?
An automatic yes should come popping immediately into your head upon being asked this question. Of course, without actually going through EVERY stressful situation there is, there is no way to know the real answer – but that is irrelevant. You have got to convince yourself that it doesn’t matter what it is…you will be okay. You have to believe that your world could shatter around you, and you will get through it somehow, some way. Once you believe that, nothing holds power over you.
If the person/people who I look to for support were suddenly gone from my life, would my world fall apart?
Did a “no” come to your mind?
If not, that is a problem.
While it is nice to have support people to give us the help we need when the going gets tough, we cannot rely on that help too much. We are handicapping ourselves when rely on other people’s physical or emotional support to the point that we literally don’t know how we would handle life without them.
When a crisis happens, who do I rely on the most to get me through it?
If you have an anxiety disorder, the odds of you answering “me” aren’t the greatest. But that is what you need to strive for. Again, it’s always great to have help from friends and family when you really need it, but you have to start seeing your number one “handler” as YOU. You have to be the “fixer” in your life and start looking at others as people who help you help yourself.
How often do I think or say the phrases “I can’t handle this.” “I can’t do it.” “I need somebody to help me.” ?
Eliminate these phrases from your spoken vocabulary as well as your thought vocabulary. They are toxic lies and they will never do you one bit of good.
It is 100% easier to think these toxic thoughts than to put the mental effort into speaking and thinking with strength and self-confidence. But confident, strong thinking is like a muscle that can be built and developed. It is very difficult to use it at first, but it gets easier and easier the more you do it. See this post for some tips.
Of all the people in the world, who loves me the most?
It is my hope for you that you immediately thought “I do.” If that wasn’t the case, then this is something to address and put your attention into. Self love is a hard one for a lot of people, for a lot of complicated reasons. Of course, I won’t be able to give you an immediate way to flip that switch but I will try to give you a few seeds of thought.
It is not wrong to love yourself. It is not wrong to think you are amazing and wonderful. The relationship you have with yourself is the longest, closest, most intimate relationship you will ever have, except the one that you may have with your God. Yet for many of us, it is the most neglected, most unhealthy, and least thought about of all our relationships. It might even be emotionally abusive. The world is full of people who tell themselves they are “nothing” and not worthy of love, every day of their lives.
It is true that a lot of people have family and friends that they love and cherish, but ultimately the journey though life is a solitary one, lived entirely from your own perspective with your own thoughts and feelings. In the big scheme of things, again with the exception of your God or higher power, you are ultimately all you have. Why would you not value that relationship and treat it with respect?
Self reliance cannot grow unless you love yourself and value yourself enough to cultivate it. It has to come from you wanting to be your own person, wanting to make the most out of your time here on Earth, wanting to be the best person you can be, and wanting to be your own protector and defender.
True self-reliance cannot happen unless you have a healthy, positive relationship with yourself, which includes appreciating your strengths, trusting in your judgement and having faith in yourself.
Be your own best friend, never speak badly of yourself and always have your own back. Always. By all means seek professional guidance if this is an area of your life in which you struggle. You deserve to feel loved by you.
Do I handle most of my day-to-day tasks on my own….errand running, phone calls, bill paying, etc., or do I rely others to do those things for me?
Never forget that your brain and your subconscious “see” and “sense” and “hear” in their own way, every single thing you say, think, feel and do. Everything.
So if you are one who, as I used to be, relies on support people in your life to handle your day-to-day affairs, that has to stop. If you are being “taken care of”, in that way, then your brain is thinking:
“I don’t know what is going on with my person but he can’t seem to do a lot of things for himself . There must be something wrong. He must be sick, or feeling threatened, or nervous or scared about something. I better keep the alarms up because he could need back up at any time.”
Your brain isn’t judging you – it is genuinely concerned for you. If you act like something is not right in your life, your brain is going to believe you every single time and it is going to go try to keep you safe. That amazing protection it will give you comes with a load of anxiety symptoms that I’m sure you would rather pass on. And if your brain’s concern for you continues on for an extended period of time, you brain is just going to put you in “Protection Mode” until further notice. It just keeps the alarms up all the time because it decides your life is NEVER safe enough for you to be without them. You are now in an overly sensitized state, reacting to things you probably would never have reacted to before and every day of your life feels like the tornado scene from The Wizard of Oz.
Anxiety disorders – when your anxiety symptoms are at the point where you are feeling symptoms on a regular basis, are your brain in “Protection Mode”.
You get out of Protection Mode by showing your brain that you don’t need to be protected anymore and that you can handle your life just fine on your own, not only because your life isn’t dangerous – but because you are a “handler” and you can handle yourself just fine, thank you very much.
Doing things for yourself as often as you possibly can, and looking inward for comfort instead of/in addition to relying on others during difficult times is one way to convey this message.
Now, if you are agoraphobic or have medical issues that prevent you from going and doing, then I am not at all suggesting that you should make yourself just get up and get out there into the hustle and bustle of the world. Some people have more complicated situations than others. Just do the best you can. Take all the professional help that is available to you, if you feel you need it, and go as slowly as you need to go. You don’t have to become completely self-reliant over night. Baby steps are okay. As long as you are trying and doing your very best, that is all that matters.
At the heart of almost every anxiety disorder, is a brain that wants you to prove that you can handle yourself BY yourself.
Your exhausted brain is like an over-protective mother. It doesn’t WANT to be smothering you with concern. But it doesn’t feel like it has a choice. Your brain thinks you are not handling your life well….(which, if you are in the middle of an anxiety disorder…..is probably true) and that you need its help. Every anxiety symptom you have is actually a little superpower that your brain is giving you to help you flee danger or fight an enemy. Your ability to flee quickly, your hyperawareness, your fast thinking…..all little gifts from your brain to help you help yourself. As soon as your brain realizes that you don’t need those powers anymore, it will, gladly and with much relief, put them away until they are needed again
Teaching yourself to be more self-reliant will give you confidence in yourself and it will strengthen you. Your brain will gain confidence in you as YOU gain confidence in you. The more self-reliant you are, the more your brain will trust you and over time it will gradually take you out of Protection Mode.
I don’t want your self-reliance to be just about your anxiety disorder though.
Ultimately it is about you and your entire life and you being the very best version of yourself that you can be. It’s about knowing that others won’t always be there for you but that is okay because YOU will always be there for you.
The more you practice self-reliance, the easier it becomes to do things for yourself, and the more you WANT to do for yourself. When you handle a difficult time on your own without relying on somebody else to pick up the pieces for you, it makes it easier the next time something difficult happens. Over time you will see that your self-reliance has grown into a natural, automatic response. I never would have believed it twenty years ago, but it is the truth. It is empowering and liberating and so freeing to feel the chains of dependence fall away from you. Empowerment is something that I bet a lot of you with anxiety disorders have never felt before. I certainly hadn’t felt it before I started practicing self-reliance. Let me tell you…..it is an amazing feeling and once you get a taste of it you want more and more.
I always talk about the negative cycle of anxiety. Also remember the positive cycle of self-reliance and positive thinking. Negative breeds negative and positive breeds positive. Always.
For more on this topic, here is an article from Myria.com with some great tips on building emotional self-reliance.
Thanks for reading and have a great day.
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