Over the years, I’ve learned so much about mental health, myself, and life through my experiences with anxiety. So today I’m sharing 20 Things My Anxiety Taught Me – in 20 year!
It’s good to be vulnerable. It’s okay to be vulnerable: Vulnerability is a side effect of anxiety, and it’s easy to beat ourselves up over it because we wish we never felt it in the first place. In reality, it’s completely okay to feel vulnerable. I was ashamed of my vulnerability at first, but now I embrace and accept it because I recognize it as a normal part of being human. Don’t be afraid to feel your vulnerability, and when you do, try embracing it and see what happens.
“I think vulnerability is the cornerstone of confidence. Because you have to allow yourself to take the risk to be open, to live as a wholehearted person. When you can do that, you recognize that you’re really just like everybody else, and that gives you the confidence to be yourself, which is all you really need in life, to be more of yourself.” ~ Oprah Winfrey, The Wisdom of Sundays.
The value of perspective: How you view yourself, how you think others view you, how you view the world around you – they all contribute to your mental health. Perspective is so flexible. Looking back through my journals, I notice I used to focus a lot on depression and anxiety (and generally the more negative emotions) during the decline of my mental health. When we focus on these emotions, we fuel these emotions. Focusing on positive emotions, fuels positive emotions. The Law of Attraction is a prime example of this. Training ourselves to have a positive, calm, and happy perspective is invaluable for our mental health, even if you have to fake it at first (you know the saying, fake it till you make it).
The value of patience: Time heals. And sometimes we just need to give ourselves time to grow, mature, and heal. A lot of me getting better is due to maturing, but it’s also what you do within that time that helps contribute to that positive growth. Be patient in your journey. Accept your anxiety won’t get better overnight and it’s okay to have bad days. Just make sure when you do have a bad day not to beat yourself up, that’s when you need the most self-nurturing.
No job is worth sacrificing your mental health: When your health feels threatened, nothing else in the world seems to matter other than getting healthy again. If you’re not functioning properly internally, it makes it much harder for you to function externally (in the world).
Say no when you feel you need to, and do what’s best for you: Everything in life is a choice. If a job is affecting your health, have the courage to make changes or quit. If you’re invited to a party but you’re not a party kinda person, say no thanks. You are not obligated, and do not have to do anything you are not comfortable doing. Remember that. This takes the pressure off you. Life gives you signals if something is not working, and I think it’s important to give recognition to those signals. You shouldn’t push your health to an unhealthy state just for the happiness of others or for a goal. It’s okay to not be a people pleaser, and don’t try to please your inner voice that’s telling you to stop crying and keep doing. We’re human beings, not human doings.
Your thoughts create your world: You are what you think the old saying goes, and it’s a cliché, but an extremely true cliché. You are ultimately responsible for your thoughts, feelings and behaviour. Your thoughts create your feelings, which influences your behaviour. It starts with your thoughts, and training yourself to be mindful of them is a great place to start.
Thoughts are nothing more then bubbles: They come and go, and some of them aren’t even true. Our minds are very powerful, and with that power we’re capable of drawing inaccurate conclusions of who we are, our past experiences, and our potential. With that said, don’t believe everything you think, sometimes it’s just all in your head.
“I have lived a long life and had many troubles, most of which never happened.” ~Mark Twain.
Building a relationship with yourself is the foundation to treating your anxiety: When I experienced my panic attacks years ago, I realized I had no trust in myself, I didn’t understand myself, I didn’t know who I was, and it made it a lot harder for me to go out into the world and feel comfortable in my own skin. By spending time with myself, understanding how I thought, how I felt, and being gentle and compassionate to myself as often as possible, I built a trustful relationship with myself. Now I can do things confidently and feel like I have my own back in times of hardship.
Some environments we’re just not suited for: I used to always beat myself up for having to quit my first job six months in because of my mental health; thinking I was “incapable of working if I couldn’t even work as a cashier.” When in reality, part of it had to do with the environment. It was busy all the time, you had to stand in one spot for hours at a time “or else you’d be fired if you left”, and be face to face with people for hours straight without even a small break to simply think and breathe. I came to learn it had nothing to do with me – the environment simply didn’t accommodate my personality traits and personal needs in order for me to feel comfortable and satisfied. Some people are better in certain environments than others; don’t feel bad if you don’t fit into one. It just means you’re meant for something better.
Your breath is your lifeline: Our breath affects our nervous system, therefore, learning to control it improves the function of the mind and body. When I feel a panic attack coming on, the first thing I’ll jump to is making sure I’m breathing in, then out, controlled and thorough. In the beginning stages of a panic attack, my breathing is very shallow (or next to nothing), so when I remind myself to breathe, it helps keep me grounded and centred.
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Don’t make things harder for yourself then they need to be: Human minds are very good at blowing things out of proportion and exaggerating the extremity of situations. Avoid making things out to be worse than they actually are, because in turn, it can literally make things out to be worse than they are (funny how that works, huh?). Ask yourself: are things really as bad as I’m making them out to be? And if they are, there are a number of ways to calm the mind to make it less hard on yourself. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself. You’re human, you weren’t meant to be perfect, or be a machine. When I worked at first cashier job, I made a goal for myself to work there until January 1st 2015, then quit. I pushed myself until my mental health forced me to quit, which was on January 17th 2015. Afterwards, instead of patting myself on the back for achieving my goal, I was beating myself up because my anxiety had got so bad I had to quit. Life’s only as hard as you make it.
Don’t spend so much time searching about your anxiety: Don’t self-diagnose yourself with online quizzes and online information. Just don’t. This isn’t healthy, you’re not a professional psychologist, and there’s no way for a questionnaire to understand your genetics, personality, environment, and past. When you identify yourself as someone with a specific disorder or phobia, you read about the symptoms online and it’s easy for your brain to be persuaded into thinking it has all these symptoms. Essentially, it’s a toxic breeding ground for worsening your mental health. Get away from the computer, avoid obsessing with what you think you have, focus on nurturing yourself and healing, and if you really think you need help, please get help from a professional.
Surrender to what’s out of your control (let go): Don’t force life. Let the burdens on your mind go, and go with the flow. They do no good other than being a weight in your mind. When I worked my casier job, I’d restrict surrendering because I didn’t want anyone to know about my anxiety or see my vulnerability. The night before I quit my job, I was at work, and I could feel the tears in the back of my eyes. I didn’t want to cry. But when my supervisor came to talk to me I burst into tears, and she responded in a way I didn’t expect – with sympathy and understanding. Letting your emotions go and accepting them for what they are takes additional pressure off you, and 99.9% of the time, people are understanding because they’re human too. The more you try to control something, the more it controls you. Free yourself and let things take their natural course.
We are capable of much more than we think: Going into wisdom tooth surgery (and my first surgery ever) two years ago, I thought I wouldn’t make it through without something bad happening. But as soon as I woke up, I had never felt so much relief and confidence in my life. We all have moments of feeling inferior, scared, and vulnerable. Moments we think we can’t make it through. But we are honestly capable of so much more than we believe, and having trust in the universe can really be a virtue when it comes to it.
Optimism and gratitude will change your life: One thing that always astounds me about going back through my journals and reading about my mental health journey is, my attitude stayed optimistic throughout the whole experience. I always had this belief and faith that I would get better, and I think it’s important to have faith and hope during hardship like this because the brain is plastic. I understand some illnesses are chronic, but you really can make the most out of it if you work hard and take care of yourself. You can get better or at least improve your mental health to astounding degrees.
Respond with compassion: When our anxiety acts up we tend to beat ourselves up for it, which actually just fuels it in the long term. By learning to respond to our anxiety with compassion, we’re no longer giving our anxiety the power to control us. It’s like dumping gasoline on a fire – when you dump aggression onto anxiety, that’s just more negativity on top of more negativity. By pouring some compassion onto your anxiety, your balancing the negative emotion out with the positive, and in return doesn’t keep that fire fueled, it’s actually putting it out (like water on a fire). The biggest challenges to our mental health and emotional wellbeing happen when we are struggling. Learning to respond with compassion rather than self-criticism is key to taking good care of yourself emotionally.
It’s normal and perfectly okay to have bad days: Peaks and valleys are what our lives are made up of. Some days are worse than others, but that doesn’t mean all days are bad. It’s normal for anxiety to act up one day and not exist the next. I call this the Dice Effect. Metaphorically, the dice are your anxiety, and every morning when you wake up, you roll the dice not knowing what you’ll get. Much like anxiety. One day your anxiety can be non-existent, the next it can be debilitating. Learning to accept this pattern is easier than fighting against it.
We’re never really alone: When I experienced my worst bout of anxiety in 2015, the following year I spent a lot of time by myself, and I learned loneliness is only ever in our heads. Loneliness is just a feeling, not a reality.
There is good in everything: Recognize your strengths and abilities instead of your weaknesses. Compliment yourself instead of insulting. When you make a mistake recognize it as a form of personal growth, not a downfall. If you didn’t go through a certain negative experience, you wouldn’t have learned what you know, made new friends, be who you are today, etc. You decide how you want to feel about something. You decide how you look at things. You don’t have to look at the negative side of things every time. There is good in everything if you look hard enough.
Without my weakness’s, I wouldn’t have any strengths: Without my anxiety, I wouldn’t have worked as hard as I have to learn, grow, and become who I am today. My anxiety pushed me to workout to keep my body and mind healthy, my anxiety pushed me to eat a healthy diet for optimum mental health, my anxiety fostered my love of meditation, yoga, emotional wellbeing, and spirituality, as well as push me to educate myself in these areas. My anxiety pushed me to write day and night as a form of release, which amplified my love writing. My anxiety pushed me to love myself, build a relationship with myself, and believe in myself. Anxiety has taught me, without it, I would not be who I am today. I wouldn’t know who I am or know what I know. And for that, I am grateful for it.