There is a certain scenario that most of us of living with Generalized Anxiety Disorder can relate to all too well:
ME: I just realized I am having a really good day today! I haven’t felt this good in a long time!
ANXIETY: Oh really? Well, you can kiss that good-bye.
In fact, this scenario is one of the most frequent anxiety related complaints that I have heard over the last 20 years. People get that first taste of freedom from anxiety, but the split second that they do, their anxiety seems to come right back – often in odd or strange ways that make no sense.
It is frustrating. It is exhausting. And sometimes it makes people think “What is the point in trying to recover?”
But remember, as hard as it is to believe, being UNcomfortable due to anxiety symptoms is, in a twisted way, how most of us are at our MOST comfortable.
One reason for this is because human nature dictates that people are attracted to their “normal” – even if their “normal” is chaotic or not good for them. Have you ever been in a very “healthy” relationship after spending years with a partner you fought with all of the time? If so, have you noticed a tendency to pick fights over things that really aren’t that important, or stir up drama? It’s much the same thing with anxiety disorders. People like to re-create what feels “normal” to them and sometimes that can mean that “right”, on a subconscious level, feels “wrong“.
Things feeling “wrong” is a huge factor in anxiety disorders, OCD, and addiction. If our brain latches onto a pattern of thought or behavior, especially one born from intensity, chaos, drama, or involving the reward center of our brain, trying to break that pattern can feel impossible, even if we consciously know the pattern is unhealthy, or even dangerous to us. That sense of it feeling “wrong” to not continue the pattern comes from a place so deep that professional help is often necessary to help us learn how to break that pattern and create one that is healthier. There is no shame in asking for that help. None of us should ever feel that we ought to be strong enough to outsmart or outplay the most primal parts of our being. Let’s let the experts help us out with that.
Another reason for our discomfort with comfort is that those of us with anxiety are hard-wired for survival.
Being in a perpetual state of heightened awareness, over-analysis, and worry, is how we keep our sense of control over our world and stay “safe” from being emotionally or physically harmed. (Or so we subconsciously tell ourselves.)
Happiness, peace, and joy require a certain amount of “trust” and “letting go” – two of our least favorite things – so it’s not uncommon for us to unknowingly sabotage any positive moments we have by “discovering” new anxiety symptoms such as:
- 1. Anxiety over not having anxiety
- 2. Thinking “weird thoughts” that we find it hard to move past
- 3. Obsessing over feelings of “guilt”
- 4. Health phobias such as fear we will get cancer or even that we might “forget” how to breathe normally!
If you look back over the course of your life, even before you were aware you had an anxiety disorder or before your first life altering symptoms erupted, you may recognize early indicators of this propensity to keep yourself in a nice secure state of worry all of the time. Perhaps you have a history of checking the alarm clock repeatedly although you knew you had set it properly. Perhaps you have a history of going over conversations repeatedly in your mind, wondering if you “said something wrong.” Perhaps you have often believed that when things go wrong it must somehow be “your fault”. Those of us with anxiety disorders don’t typically just one day develop our life altering anxiety symptoms straight from scratch. For most of us, our anxiety disorder symptoms are merely the exaggerated, exhausted minded, overly sensitized version of reactions, thoughts and behaviors we have lived with our entire life.
When people say to me “I feel like I am losing my mind with this anxiety!”, I say to them, “No. You aren’t losing your mind. You are discovering your mind. You are now paying attention to what is going in that head of yours and learning the way you think and react to life. It’s a very good wake up call and if you really listen and work on improve your inner dialogue and focus on taking better care of yourself, you can have an amazing life.”
It is important for you to recognize that just because you may find yourself looking for ways to keep yourself in the anxious zone, that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it.
“Practice” feeling peace and “letting go” by using positive affirmations and visualizations. Before you go to sleep at night, close your eyes and imagine living your life carefree, without the weight of the world on your shoulders. Set fifteen minutes aside a day to write out or repeat to yourself “It is okay to let go.” or “I don’t always have to be in control.” If you simply plant these thought seeds and tend to them daily, you will get results!
You can also try setting a timer each day – starting at 60 seconds and gradually increasing your time daily, even if only for a few seconds – when you will absolutely set aside any cares you have and let what will be, be. You will find it’s much easier to allow yourself to let go and feel free when you make a deal with yourself that when that time is up, you can go back to being an obsessive worry-wart again. Our subconscious minds are all about that control, and they are much happier to give it up, when they feel it’s just for “pretend” or “temporary”.
Be patient, persistent, and consistent, and you can absolutely train your mind, and your subconscious mind, to accept good feelings and quit de-railing those well deserved moments when you find you are enjoying life!