It’s been a while since first discussing my issues with anxiety. This is what started me on my road to happiness, to creating my own Happiness Project. Dealing with my anxiety has been a constant struggle—there are weeks and months when things are good and nothing bothers me. Then, there are those times that it all comes crashing down again. However, now that I have some knowledge in my grasp, I am better able to deal with the anxiety. I try not to let it bring me down—I know what it is and I look at it just that way—“This is only anxiety, nothing more. There is no evidence that anything is wrong.” As a work in progress, I am always looking for new information to add to my collection of tips and advice to dealing with anxiety, whether it’s suggestions for dealing with anxiety when you’re experiencing it or focusing on those things in life that really matter in order to combat the bad feelings.
I have been feeling anxious again for the last couple of weeks, for a specific reason, which makes it better than experiencing it for no reason at all. Still, it’s nothing be worried over really. It’s only my perception of something that may or may not happen. I have been going over all of the tips and advice I have been given by others and from reading various books. It’s not been that bad, but each time I experience these emotions, it concerns me, both because of what it can do to me physically and because I’m just tired of always stressing over unrealistic worries.
Readers, some of you must have sensed my anxious thoughts. Some of you have posted your own ideas of how I can focus on other things in life. And I thank you for it.
First, there’s this post from Time Management Ninja. It is very true that “we worry about too many things; we panic too often; and we let too many things scare us.” In my case, this is definitely true, and what he says about the end result has always been true for me as well: “Many of these things never happen. Or they turn out to be not as bad as we imagined.” So I should heed his advice and “keep [my] bearings in the face of urgent and perceived emergencies.” I am trying. Sometimes trying is all I can do, but it’s better than being so fearful that I can barely move, and trust me when I say that I have been there too.
Second, J over at The Crazy Life of J posted 8 Flights. While not really about anxiety at all, some of what she says can indeed be adapted for my purposes. Her post is more about changing something in your life, starting with a few small steps. When I was younger and asked what I would change about myself, I would always think Be prettier, Be skinnier, Be smarter, Be funnier, be whatever. Now, the thing I’d change is my way of thinking. Because a lot of anxiety isn’t so much derived from what is happening in our lives as how we think about what is happening in our lives. It’s not easy to change the way you think about things, especially if you’re not aware that it’s the main problem to begin with. But by following J’s examples, I can start to change the way I think by making small changes. Just as J discusses, I’ve been focusing on things that I am grateful for. I keep a list of gratitudes in my happiness binder. And when I’m feeling down, feeling like the world is against me, I can look at my list and physically see all the wonderful things in life I get to experience every day. Also like J, I’ve also been getting physical. Throughout my life I’ve done various forms of exercise, but quite sporadically. Lately though, I’ve been running more than I have been and I’ve picked up more yoga classes. While I enjoy doing these activities (among others, like biking, swimming, walking, etc.), physical exercise is essential for dealing with and warding off stress and anxiety. So while I may push off an engagement with a friend for a yoga class, it’s not so much that I’d rather go to yoga as it is very important that I stick with it. While I may groan at getting up at 5:30 a.m. in order to fit that run in, I’m always so glad I did and I feel so good when I’m done.
Speaking of yoga, there is a great article on About.com in regards to how yoga can help with anxiety. I’m going to focus on these tips the next time I’m feeling anxious.
Caribbean Princess also had some ideas that I can relate to. First, she posted 10 Things to Do When You’re Feeling Down. Many of these can be applied to anxiety—I try to participate in some of these when feeling over-anxious. Some of these tips were even mentioned to me by my therapist: Go easy on yourself; Write (I do this every few days, whether it be a blog post or writing in my journal—either is very therapeutic for me); Do stuff; Spend time with people (when I was feeling at my worst, it was the last thing I wanted to do, but the thing I needed to do); Watch a feel good movie (you can read about my favorites here); Listen to great music (I’ve written about music I love here); Read (if you’ve read this blog before, you know I love to read); Share your feelings; Be thankful (as stated above). CP has her own ideas of how these things can help one to feel better, and I fully agree!
Second, CP posted her ideas on living in the moment. This is something I’ve long strived for. It’s not easy for someone who loves to plan—I’m always looking forward to the next big event. But in so doing, I sometimes lose sight of the now. I’m constantly reminding myself to pay attention to and enjoy what’s going on right now. Even if I’m doing something that’s unpleasant, I try to tell myself to be mindful of what I’m feeling and thinking because soon it will be over and I’ll forget how much I detested that activity and therefore won’t be able to fully appreciate when it is finally over. Much of what CP says here pertains to me—I felt like she wrote the post to me and for me because these are all ideas and tips I should be focusing on. I worry about many things, but mostly about my physical health. This is mainly due to my past experiences. Based on my past, you would think I could easily live in the moment—often that’s the one thing that death of a loved one teaches us. But I tend go in the other direction—I can’t wait until a doctor visit is over and so I obsess over it and forget about the time before and after the appointment. Only when it’s over and done with (and nothing new happens), can I move on with my life. It’s ridiculous. At least I know and understand that. Changing it is what I need to focus on. I have learned a lot from CP and will continue to do so. She (along with so many others, including my husband, mother and sister) have so much to teach me when it comes to living in the now and not focusing on things that don’t necessarily matter.
Based on all of this, you can probably guess what I’m fearful of. Denise over at Cupcakes and Cadenzas has a solution for this. She recommends doing one thing every day that scares you. I think this is a great idea. I don’t know that I could do something every day, but every week might work for me. I tend to shy away from certain situations because I’d rather stay away from confrontation of any sort. Whether it’s telling someone I was first in line or that they overcharged me for an item or telling a rude person to bugger off, I don’t do it. I don’t like it, but I would just rather avoid the whole situation. This is not doing me any favors. I get upset at these situations, but by not addressing them, the only one I’m hurting is myself, which only crushes my self-esteem. So why not say something? What’s the worst that can happen, right? And if I get a positive result, isn’t it worth it? It’s just one more way I can make my life better and focus on the positive.
I’m currently reading Power Over Panic by Bronwyn Fox. Published in 2001, some of the data may be outdated, but one thing she mentioned really resonated with me and could be the key to my letting go of anxiety for good: “The need to be in control is one of the main obstacles to recovery. Recovery means the opposite. Recovery means we need to let go of the need to be in control. We don’t realize that our overwhelming need to be in control perpetuates our disorder. Once we can let go of this particular control, we gain control over our panic and anxiety.” I do try and control many things. My life has felt so out of control for the last four years, first with my father’s death and then with the death of three of my grandparents and one moving far away to be with my uncle when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. So many changes, one right after another, all dealing with death and change, well it has changed me and made me try to hold on to everything the way it was, rather than accepting it as it is.
So there you have it. That’s what’s been going on in the blogosphere in regards to warding off anxiety, becoming a better person, and overall just feeling happier. Letting go of anxiety is a constant work in progress for me, and probably will be for a long time to come. The important thing, however, is that I recognize the issue and am dealing with it, even if it does take years. All of these tips and suggestions will be added to my happiness binder under the appropriate tabs. Thank you to all who helped me feel better this week. You truly have made a difference in my outlook.