Anxiety can be crippling, but we often make it much worse by worrying about it.
Dealing with Anxiety. What do you tell yourself about it, if you're experiencing it? What do you tell yourself about YOU. Many women who have difficult relationships with their mothers struggle with anxiety.
For years, I told myself that I was silly and stupid because I "freak out" around stomach illness (in other people, as well as in myself). I have spent lots of time (and money) trying to fix it/me. I have also spent a lot of time beating myself up and making myself feel guilty because I made having anxiety mean that I am pathetic.
Slowly but surely I started to accept (in the true sense of the word) that I have anxiety. Rather than resisting the physical manifestation (weak knees, pounding heart, shallow breathing, the feeling of being paralyzed) of my anxious thoughts, I started to just allow them to be there, without judgment.
And slowly but surely I have started to feel better. I still have anxiety, but (for the most part) I don't create extra pain for myself by worrying about it or making it mean something bad about me.
Recently I was in a situation that pushed me over the edge: my husband and I were visiting a nursing home over the course of several days, and on the second day we were told that patients were coming down with a stomach virus and that visitors were required to wear face masks. We were going to be having a family event there later on that second day and all I could think about was the fact that, the day before, we'd been "exposed!!"
But here's the cool part. Yes, I was experiencing anxiety. I actually started to hyperventilate. But I decided to take care of myself and treat myself kindly. Although, I did have a momentary lapse in which I felt guilty because I believed I was letting other people down. I left the premises and sat in the car. I made a promise to myself that I wouldn't apologize for it or denigrate myself by saying to the others, "I know I am being silly and stupid because I am this way," but nor did I want to force myself to do something that felt dangerous (even though I knew it was just my mind). Later, I was able to go back in and enjoy myself and the rest of the family.
Anxiety, for some of us, is just part of who we are. Resisting it by believing that it is wrong, bad, something that we either need to be ashamed of or something that we need to fix only creates additional pain.
- There is no shame in taking care of yourself.
- And it's okay to be proud of yourself for small victories.
- This is what it looks like to be resilient.
- This is what it looks like to be empowered.
How do you come to accept your anxiety?
- Make sure you know how anxiety manifests itself physically for you. For me, it's weak knees, pounding heart, shallow breathing, and feeling paralyzed.
- Understand that those physical sensations are the result of thoughts that are running through your head. You might not be able to fully "control" those thoughts, and that's okay, but it's important to acknowledge that you are creating your anxiety.
- Ask yourself what would feel good and right to do when you're feeling anxious.
- Take care of yourself by doing what feels good and right, without apology or defensiveness.
- Don't heap additional pain onto yourself by telling yourself that having anxiety means something bad about you.
Do you struggle with anxiety? How do you handle it?
Karen C.L. Anderson is a writer and master certified coach who — by writing about women who have embraced their pasts without shame or fear — helps other women do the same so they can fully show up in their lives as their amazing and authentic selves. Sign up for her email newsletter for exclusive content and offers.