As we all well know, having anxiety sucks.
The tension, the racing mind, and many other symptoms, which may be unique to each individual sufferer. They annoy us throughout our days.
For me it has been mostly a churning stomach, and feeling like it was in knots. For others it may be mostly hot and cold sweats, excessive facial flushing, or shakes. The list goes on.
With my churning stomach I would try to ignore it. Being aware of it, if even for a second, wasn´t something I would even contemplate So I just tensed against it, and went about my day. Basically I was putting up with it.
But did it go away? Nope! It just persisted and got worse at times. Trying to ignore it wasn´t working, but I didn´t know any other way of dealing with it.
No one willingly wants to experience these things. They are unpleasant. So why would they want to? So the natural tendency is to try and ignore them, to push them away. To try and pretend that the anxiety doesn´t exist. If you tell yourself everything is fine, maybe, hopefully, everything will be fine. But unfortunately, it doesn´t work like that, the anxiety and all it´s unpleasant symptoms pop it´s ugly head up again, and maybe worse then before.
This is very disheartening to experience. The more we try and hide from how we feel, the worse it becomes. Unfortunately we just can´t ignore it. It exists. And the more we try and tell ourselves it doesn´t exist the more apparent it is that it does exist.
Dr Claire Weekes called this ¨running away¨ from your anxiety. And the first step in her method was to teach sufferers that you must, although understandably shakily to begin with, start letting yourself be aware of your anxiety.
It is like a child watching a scary movie. They cover their faces from the frightening scenes, trying to block it out. But I want you to start peeping through your fingers and looking at anxiety, your symptoms, and how you feel.
And as you do so I want you to start pushing yourself, in an accepting way, to face it more. Take deep breaths, exhale slowly, and gently and slowly allow yourself to acknowledge the fact that you have these symptoms. Try to let go of any struggle within yourself. And let yourself be aware of your anxiety.
You can do so right now. Take a deep breath and describe how you feel to yourself. If you have palpitations say to yourself, ¨my heart is beating fast, I can very lightly hear it.¨ And so on. By facing like this you begin to demystify the anxiety. You see that it is due to a tired nervous system and mental and emotional fatigue.
Yes, it may be a little nerve-wracking to face. I don´t blame you! You may have been apprehensive of these symptoms and feelings for months, or years. You have built up in your mind that they are a scary monster. You have convinced yourself that they are horrible, nasty symptoms, that you simply do not want to experience.
But I ask you to try at the least. Like the child, make a gap in your fingers and look at the movie. Then as you practise doing so, I want you to take your hands away and fully face how you feel.
Don´t try to fight against how you feel. Don´t get agitated in a vain attempt to improve your symptoms. Face them and experience them. Let them happen.
When you face the anxiety, the symptoms, how you feel, then you unmask it. You see that it is not a scary monster but a sheep in wolf´s clothing. It is just an illusion, a bluff, keeping you imprisoned. Facing your anxiety and accepting it will liberate you!
For myself personally I remember trying not to feel the anxiety, trying to block my mind to it. But once I started to face it nothing bad happened. And by doing so I was not adding the stress of trying to ignore it anymore, which together with the accepting allowed me to calm down.
As you face the symptoms, you become more aware of them. You bring them to the forefront of your mind, and are no longer trying to block them out. And so this can make the symptoms temporarily worse. But this is just because you are more aware of it. By continuing to face they die down. So have patience.
Facing can also be applied to facing anxiety causing situations. These can be unique to each person, but a common one is presentations, or speaking at work meetings. You may try to avoid such situations, but you need to face them in order to prove to yourself that you can deal with them.
This is daunting I know. I have been there. But once you start learning how to deal with yourself the tension will melt away. And developing your confidence at the same time by keeping your diary of when you had the symptoms but came through past difficult situations will make you feel stronger inside.
This doesn´t mean that you should intentionally look for as many difficult situations as possible to put yourself into. But to not avoid them!
Accepting, Floating and Letting Time Pass
By facing your anxiety, you then allow yourself to follow the next of Dr Weekes’ steps. Namely accepting, or not fighting, floating and letting time pass. But if you do not face how you feel then how can you begin to accept it! So you must face it!
So face up to the fact that you have these unpleasant symptoms. And then stop fighting against them. Take deep breaths, and slowly and gently exhale. Let your arms, shoulders and tummy muscles sag on the exhale.
Letting go of your tight hold on yourself will help reduce the physical tension. However, there will also be tension from your thoughts. So the next thing to do is to stop the mental agitation. So put your mind into neutral, and stop adding to your anxiety. Weekes used floating as an effective way to do this.
Try to let a floating feeling come over you. Both physically and mentally. This combats the tension and allows you to calm down even more.
You can use visualizations to do this. You could imagine yourself on an inflatable swimming pool raft, gently floating in the pool. Or floating on a cloud. Or simply think of a cloud and how it floats. Different people find different types of visualizations more effective, so play around and find one that works for you.
Letting Time Pass
Your anxiety is a physiological process. You can´t just snap yourself out of it. You must give it time. So this is the next step. Keep practising the steps; facing, not fighting, floating and allow Mother Nature to restore your mind and body back to it´s natural balance.
Recovery comes from within yourself, by facing your anxiety and learning to accept it. This is why medication isn´t the ideal strategy for overcoming anxiety. Sure, it helps if you´re in a very difficult moment, but medication without actually facing your anxiety won´t give you lasting results.
The reason for this is that you are not developing confidence in yourself to show you that you can cope with your anxiety and depression without the use of aids such as medication. As Dr Weekes said, ¨Recovery must come from within.¨
You must face your anxiety, prove to yourself that you can manage it by yourself. Because you can! You are stronger than you think. And by practing this method you enable yourself to see this.
Keep practising, keep recording your moments of success, and you will keep moving forward.