The only way through anxiety is through the anxiety. You literally have to go through it: feel it, experience it, abhor it, resent it, accept it and then move through it.
You have to go through the feelings. I believe anxiety is our minds way of telling our bodies something is wrong. We haven’t been listening or paying attention to the signs the Universe has been showing us so our minds go, “OK, here’s a big wake-up call-are you ready to answer?” What emerges is anxiety.
When anxiety hits, it’s our natural reaction to go inwards and become reclusive. Life feels scary; there’s the feeling of impending doom underlying everything. We want to stay home, burrow, hibernate.
Our minds begin to spin stories that aren’t true but in throes of anxiety, those stories feel real so we believe them. We cherry pick through memories and experiences and beliefs to back up those stories further. We feed these stories until they become a truth. But they’re false truths seeming real.
Because anxiety distorts reality so much, the only way to get through anxiety is to end the story. I love Brene Brown’s approach: “the story I’m telling myself is…” We must verbalize the fears that come with anxiety to less their blow. For instance, I didn’t want to go to the city on Saturday. My daughter had two back-to-back birthday parties and my heart was racing about going. I felt like something bad was going to happen. Here’s a few of the stories I was telling myself:
“we’re going to get in a car accident.”
“I’ll be ignored at the party and feel left out.”
“We’re going to hit a deer on the way home.”
“Something bad could happen at the party and if I’m not there, then what? DOOM.”
“She’s mad at me.”
“He doesn’t like me.”
“Callum will be a nightmare.”
Etc., etc., ETC.
It went on and on. My husband, the wise asshole he can be, told me I HAD to go. I had to see for myself that these stories weren’t real. No one was mad at me. No one didn’t not like me. No deer jumped out at me.
I had to break the loop that my brain had set on repeat.
So while I drove into the city (a 25 minute drive) I had to consciously be aware of my breath to calm my nervous system and I followed that with some EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques-specifically Tapping-learn more here) to tell myself a new story.
My anxiety fought back. It wanted to continue the story it had told me. I was easily distracted from trying to work through it. My heart started racing. Then it’d subside then it’d start again. It was serious effort to get my head in a place where I could drop off my daughter at her first party and be okay leaving her.
After I left, I went to one of my favourite restaurants, ate a good, hot meal and read a book. I walked around the bookstore after that. I forced myself to stay present. I forced myself to enjoy the moment. And I did. Where before I wanted to stay home and wallow, I was now enjoying my rarely had time alone. I did the work to push through despite how much resistance I was facing.
If you had a broken arm, you wouldn’t just sit there and do nothing. You’d know that by not seeing a doctor, you could heal improperly and you could be in pain for the rest of your life and probably lose some aspect of your mobility.
Anxiety is the same. You can’t just sit there and do nothing. You’d never learn from the wake-up call the Universe is trying to send you. You’d never explore your deeper self to understand what your mind is trying to tell you. You’d end up with a broken body and spirit and mind. You have to face it head on and breathe through it.
My anxiety gave me a wake up call. Mine was to quit marijuana. I used to smoke and had given it up years ago because it was triggering really bad anxiety in me. I thought six years of abstinence would change that. It didn’t.
I started smoking again to help sleep at night and calm my nerves in the wake of a baby who never slept and had bad reflux. Add in the stress of the transition of becoming a mother to two and I was a mess! Mothering two is hard work; harder than I ever imagined. So occasionally I would smoke. But I’ve come to see now that my mental health can’t handle the THC in pot. So it’s back off it and back to the doctor instead to explore my options. I have an appointment with a psychologist to explore my deeper self and psyche. I’m exercising every day because I know my body needs that for optimal health. I’m intermittent fasting and cutting inflammatory foods.
I’m still going through the anxiety in bouts but it’s lessening by day and I’m seeing the falsity in the stories the anxiety has told me.
I’m sure once I finish going through it, I’ll have grown through it. I can’t wait to see who Kelsey will be on the other side.
If you’re struggling with your mental health, please reach out. In Saskatoon, you can call 306.655.8877.
For a list of other outreach resources in Saskatoon, Canada, click here.
United we rise, conquer and prevail,