Most anxiety sufferers are concerned that they’ll never be free from anxiety again.
I need to get rid of anxiety.
Sound familiar? The problem is that this belief is keeping you stuck – and here’s why.
The Vicious Cycle of Anxiety About Anxiety
After a serious anxiety or panic attack, most sufferers begin to fear the anxiety itself.
It's completely understandable - panic attacks are one of the scariest things we can experience.
Once the experience of anxiety becomes stuck, many people start to worry that they'll never get back to their former selves again. They worry that they'll always feel anxious and that this experience has become their new normal.
Even on good days, when the anxiety is less, there’s the worry that it’s going to come back.
What if I feel anxious again? What if I have another panic attack? What if it never completely goes away?
And the self-checking begins. Scanning for the familiar signs of anxiety – a tight chest, heart palpitations, a nervous tummy.It’s really scary to think that you’ll be stuck with this anxiety forever. And the only way of feeling relief would be to know that you’re finally rid of it forever, right?
You Can’t Get Rid of Anxiety
It just isn’t possible.
The truth is that anxiety is a very real, very normal, and very natural human emotion that serves an important purpose. A healthy dose of anxiety is required to get us up and going. It also keeps us safe.
Think back to simpler times, for example. When we might have felt anxious that our life was in danger, which would motivate hunters and gatherers to go out there and get survival food.
Anxiety is the emotion that tells you that you need to pay attention. Under normal circumstances, when things aren't stuck, we begin to feel uneasy and a little anxious. Something feels out of place. The anxiety we feel is the brain telling us that we need to look closely and pay attention.
Anxiety is absolutely necessary.
It would be foolish to believe that we’d be able to live without it. Anxiety has as much a place in our lives as anger, sadness, and excitement. But not when it’s stuck. When it becomes stuck, it becomes debilitating.
How The Belief Keeps You Stuck
The belief that we need to be completely rid of anxiety is often what keeps it stuck.
We need to stop believing that we will only be well, and be able to live fully again, when anxiety is completely gone.
How does it keep you stuck? Firstly, what we resist persists. But when you do manage to have some low anxiety days and things feel a little lighter, then likely one of two things can happen:
- You either create more anxiety by worrying whether this is too good to be true and feeling anxious about possibly getting anxious again.
- You enjoy having a low anxiety moment and celebrate… But when it comes up again (as it inevitably will because you’re human) then you get completely derailed because you fear the worst is happening and freak out that you’re “relapsing”.
Anxiety about anxiety. The anxiety is stuck, you see?
The key to becoming unstuck is to stop believing that you need to be completely rid of your anxiety in order to be well or to live a happy and fulfilling life.
It’s not necessary. And it’s not possible. It’s time to let this belief go.
Guess what? It’s totally possible to live a happy, fun, easy-going life alongside your experiences of anxiety.
Not convinced? You’ve already been able to do this. Think back to a simpler time for yourself – a time where things didn’t feel as stuck as they do now. Where you didn’t feel your anxiety as intensely.
Remember who you were then? Remember what you were doing?
And can you remember that you still had times when you were anxious, even back then?
Anxiety was a normal response. And you didn’t feel stuck.
Surely it cannot be that hard to believe that you could get back to a place where you lived fully despite experiencing anxiety? Or, better yet – is it possible that you could become better friends with your anxiety, have a better relationship with it, and thrive more than you ever did before?
Acceptance is Key
"One is a great deal less anxious if one feels perfectly free to be anxious." – Alan Watts
Countless people have felt stuck in anxiety and have moved through it.
You can certainly thrive and succeed alongside an experience of anxiety.
Did you know that the singer Adele, for example, has reported that she has a panic attack almost every time before a show? And look at the woman! She’s amazing and she’s so successful! But she is not stuck.
Actress Lena Dunham posted this message on her Instagram:
"To those struggling with anxiety, OCD, depression: I know it's mad annoying when people tell you to exercise, and it took me about 16 medicated years to listen. I'm glad I did. It ain't about the ass, it's about the brain."
Leonardo Di Caprio has also lived and succeeded alongside his diagnosis of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (which is an anxiety based disorder).
And these are just a few of the famous and very successful people we know that live and, let’s face it, thrive alongside their experiences of anxiety.
It’s when anxiety becomes stuck that it becomes debilitating and problematic. And it becomes stuck when we resist it, fight it, wish to exorcise it. Doing this, we get into an endless tussle with this human emotion and perpetuate it by layering more of it on top of what we already feel.
Moving into a space of acceptance, and fully realising that anxiety is here to stay, is the key to freeing yourself from stuck anxiety.
As Russ Harris would say: It's all about switching off your Struggle Switch.
Watch the video below to learn more.
A Toolkit to Help You Reduce Anxiety
Research shows that self-help materials are often enough for people to overcome mild to moderate mental health difficulties without professional support.
Our self-guided program includes tools from CBT, DBT, ACT and more, so you can discover what works best for you. Check out The Mental Wellbeing Toolkit today – it's "like 10 therapy sessions in one."
Diante is a clinical psychologist and certified anxiety coach offering online support for women who are fed up with anxiety getting in the way of their relationships, parenting or personal dreams. You can find out more about her at www.theunstuckinitiative.com or follow her on Instagram @the.intentional.psychologist or Facebook: www.facebook.com/intentionalpsychologist