So you find yourself living with symptoms of anxiety. You are overwhelmed, scared, confused and you just want to feel “normal” again. Where do you start?
First and foremost, start by seeing a professional counselor or therapist if you are able, to discuss your symptoms and receive an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. There are many different types of anxiety disorders and reasons for developing them, and it is important to establish if there is a medical cause or trauma-related issue at play because these can greatly influence your path to recovery. It is also important to have somebody to talk to, vent your feelings to, and seek guidance from.
Second, find your tribe. There are millions of us in this world living with anxiety disorders of some kind, and a lot of us share similar personality traits, backgrounds, and stories. Connect with others who are going through the same anxiety related issues you are, and more importantly, connect with people who have gotten through them and come out the other side. Hear their stories, ask them questions. Find out what attitude shifts they made, and what they let go of and added to their lives in order to get in control again. Look for anxiety related blogs and forums and be brave enough to share a little bit of your anxiety story with friends and family because this can encourage others to come to you and reveal their own struggles.
Third, educate yourself about all things anxiety-related. This helps to take the mystery and fear out of anxiety. It is much harder to fear something that is familiar to you and understood by you. Imagination plays a huge role in how much of a monster you make anxiety out to be, and getting to know anxiety for what it really is, helps to dial down your negative creative juices and make anxiety smaller and more manageable. Exposing yourself to the idea of anxiety desensitizes you to it and makes you less reactive, which means you will start using the logic part of your brain more than the emotional part of your brain, making recovery more achievable. Read every book you can on the subject of anxiety and remember the things that make sense to you and let go of the things that don’t. The important thing is that you are learning a little more every day, and becoming more comfortable with the topic of anxiety. Both of these things are important pieces of the anxiety recovery puzzle.
Fourth, remember that you are still you, whether you have an anxiety disorder or not. Anxiety, even if it falls into the “disorder” category, is a very normal part of being human. It is a normal response to stress. There is nothing abnormal about you, and there is nothing you should be ashamed of or feel embarrassed to talk about. You are not alone and you have what it takes, right there inside of you, to get yourself back in control of your life again.
Fifth, love yourself now more than ever. You are going through a really difficult, challenging time and while therapists and family and friends can help, it is ultimately YOU and your relationship with yourself that has to get you through your recovery. Be patient with yourself. Take care of yourself. And allow yourself to stumble and fall, even if it means you are taking one step forward and three steps back. The important thing is that you believe in yourself and never give up on your journey to a healthier you, no matter what.