After years of suffering, I am going to give you my secret to success. It took years of research and therapy before I beat anxiety. Now I live without panic attacks or the nasty irrational fears. Some fears pop up, here and there, but they are manageable because I know how to deal with it.
I don’t know your specific situation so I can only offer what has worked for me. First off, when I was in therapy I learned a very important rule, if you are currently in a place of high anxiety or are dealing with those irrational fears, I would advise you to not talk to other people who have anxiety about your specific irrational fears. This is because fears can spread from person to person. Say your friend, who also suffers, starts telling you all the stuff she’s dead scared of and the situation sounds terrifying and plausible so then both of you start to feed into it.
When you are in a vulnerable state, you really have to go out of your way to take care of yourself. I would advise you not to discuss your irrational fears with those who don’t understand it. You should save it for the therapist because I shared it with someone and it changed the way that they looked at me; they also told other people about it. It made the situation so much worse because now I had a new thing to worry about that I couldn’t control.
Regarding those irrational fears, it helped to know that these worries were based on, my fear of loss of control. I was not going to act on any of it, nor would lose control of my actions. Anxiety is not a disorder were the sufferer is out of there mind; we are not having pychosis. The problem comes from being too involved with each thought, far too much analyzing and not enough letting go.
I think those that suffer have their own path to wellness. I did lots of reading on anxiety from medical textbooks, online forums, group counselling. I noticed that some tips on coping came up many times, regardless which source, this is usually the best advice so pay attention to these reoccurring strategies.
One books that helped the most was called From Panic to Power by Linda Bassett. I am not trying to promote her book. I searched high and low before I found it and this book spoke to me. It helped because I tried the things that she suggested, I didn’t just read it. You don’t have to read this specific book; however, I would suggest trying the self-help section to find a book that works for you. Read some of it in the store, before you buy it. Don’t just grab whatever you see.
Now I am going to give you my secrets:
When I suffered with some really nasty irrational fears, I would write down all the ways that it was not possible, happening or going to happen. I made a very detailed list that I would refer to sometimes. I had to remind myself that irrational fears are based on the fear of loss of control and that it was never going to happen.
I would stop my crazed thinking by letting them go because it’s just a thought, one of many, that come and go throughout the day. When I didn’t feed into it, it usually went away. If it lingered a little, I made sure not to get all uptight and start getting mad at myself. I just let it go and continued on with what I was doing. It was helpful to get busy when I could feel my thoughts starting to spin.
At one point, I was afraid to leave the house. My particular fear was almost everywhere in public so there was a good chance of running into it. In order to prove my fear was irrational, it was super important to face it and I chose environments that I felt comfortable in.
I would remind myself that there wasn’t a tiger in the room so stop worrying. I wasn’t in immediate danger.
Oneof the most important rules was to push myself to go out when I felt like isolating. Nobody was coming to save me, I had to save myself.
When I could feel a panic attack coming on, I had to remind myself that there was no immediate danger. I had to ground myself in being in the moment– right here, right now. I couldn’t be thinking about the past because I can’t change what happened. I wouldn’t allow myself to be in the future because it brought me nothing but worry. Also, when thinking about the future, I had to remind myself that I couldn’t control it with worry. I had to get immersed in the moment and get involved mentally with whatever was going on.
Finding distractions was super helpful. I would get right into what I was doing, even if it was just cleaning. I didn’t look at it like it was a chore. Instead, this was something I did to get away from my circular thoughts. When I got busy, my mind would eventually follow. After being busy during the day, I would sleep better at night.
I did lots of fun creative things that occupied my time, like beadwork. I never was hard on myself when I would start thinking about my situation. I had to remind myself that my problems were temporary. They would go away. Life never stays the same.
When I went out and ran into people, I would pretend like everything is okay because people can’t see the chaos inside. I would play the part, acting like everything was status quo.
I was lucky to have one person that I was able to confide in. This helped make the journey less lonely. I had to remind myself that I wasn’t the only person who was suffering with this disorder. Lots of people have it; I wasn’t broken. My wires were crossed somewhere in my brain or the chemicals needed adjustment.
It was important for me to see a therapist. I didn’t immediately click with the first one so I had to keep trying until I found the right fit. Perseverance to find the right person paid off because there’s a difference in the quality of the help I received.
I had to really push myself to eat and sleep regularly and I added new things to the list, to ensure I didn’t sit around thinking. This took everything out of me but I forced myself to do it. I knew instinctively that I had to be very gentle with myself when I was at my sickest. This meant that I didn’t put myself into situations that I couldn’t handle.
I made sure to get my responsibilities taken care of but avoided things that could be upsetting or hard to handle (i.e. new or possibly awkward social situations, dates or gatherings with lots of people). I went places that I was familiar with and surrounded myself with positive people, who wanted what was best for me.
I had to get on medication for my anxiety. This wasn’t so easy because I had to keep trying different brands of anxiety/depression pills, until I found the right one. It was a long and crappy process; however, once I found it, I remember thinking of how much it changed my life. My med’s were a God send.
I did a lot of praying at this time and tried to reconnect spiritually. I read lots of different spiritual stuff because I found many ancient truths that are still applicable today. I had to maintain hope that I would get well.
The one thing I can say looking back is that it has been years since I have had an episode where I felt really out of control. I can now manage my thoughts and worries. It took a lot of work.
At the time, I never believed that I was going to get better. I remember thinking this is it, i am screwed. Luckily, it’s true that life never stays the same. I had to do the work because no one else could do it for me. The suggestions didn’t make sense at first but they do now. You can manage this disorder. It doesn’t go away but you can make it easier. Remember that there are others, who have felt the same way that you do. You are not alone.