There are so many people who seem so confident and sure of themselves, making decisions and getting on with their daily challenges, that you wouldn’t even suspect that they are feeling extremely anxious and vulnerable on the inside. For every task, there are countless doubts, insecurities and fears. And that can be exhausting and lonely, dealing with those emotions, without anyone knowing about it.
If that sounds familiar to you, if you feel anxious and struggle with the smallest everyday chores, if you constantly doubt yourself and feel intimidated by others, you are not alone. Many people are in similar situation, getting through the day as one goes through a battle. It feels a struggle, an effort, it’s exhausting, and it takes a lot of your physical, mental and emotional energy.
Anxiety as a symptom of something else
Many people consider anxiety as a ‘terrible monster’, an ‘illness’ or a ‘disease’ that needs to be eliminated at all costs. From my experience - and from the way I work - I consider it as a symptom. It is a sign that something else is not quite going well in you, something deeper, which probably started way before you even noticed it for the first time.
But what’s not right? What is that something else? Well, that’s what needs to be explored, investigated and brought to our awareness. Each person feels anxiety in different and particular ways. It’s certainly not ‘one fits all’ situation and any rushed diagnosis and promises of ‘quick fix’ need to be questioned and avoided.
We are all different and have had very unique experiences in life: childhood, upbringing, relationships, families, successes, failures etc. It would be unfair and impossible to simply label what’s going on for you and offer a ‘remedy’ for it. I don’t believe that will work, or help. However, a deep exploration of how anxiety is for you can be extremely transformative: how it affects your life, how it started, which situations trigger it, what other feelings are associated with it and many other ways of looking at it.
What can I do to feel less anxious?
In the exploration process, you will truly get to know yourself. You’ll become more aware of your feelings and start noticing, separating and naming them. You might even understand that what you had considered ‘anxiety’ before, could have been frustration, or sadness, or tension, as examples. By expanding your awareness, you might start finding more strength and confidence in yourself, as you realise that you are bigger than the anxiety, and that you are more than that.
As you get to know yourself and your feelings, there are practical ways to help you in your everyday life:
1- Don’t fight against it
Many times, as you notice the first signs of anxiety, you might feel even more anxious, and an emotional loop can start: ‘I feel more anxious for being anxious’, and it goes on, sometimes for a long time. So, first thing: pause. Notice what is going on for you, but don’t try to fight against it. Otherwise the loop will start.
Breathing: such a simple and obvious action. Something we all do without thinking. However, not many people realise what a powerful tool it can be. Have you ever noticed that when you feel anxious (or even when you talk about your anxiety), you almost stop breathing? This can be such a simple and transformative experience. From now on, every time you realise that, take a deep breath. Or two, three. You’ll notice a huge change in your body. Something slows down. And your body will help your mind to slow down too. Try it.
3- ‘This is how I feel now. Not what I will feel forever’
Give it some perspective. Stay in the moment: this is what’s happening to you, it’s what you are feeling at that specific time, but NOT who you are. Something triggered it, and the anxiety might go away as fast as it came. If you hold on to it, as if it is the most important thing in your life, it’ll be more difficult to let it go of it.
4- What’s the worst that can happen?
If your anxiety comes with recurrent worrying thoughts, take a step back. Really look at what worries you. Face it. And ask yourself: ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’. By doing so, you might realise that your fears might not be coming from a real and - sometimes - even possible place. Sometimes your imagination becomes so strong and dominant, that you forget to check the reality of your worries. Facing the worries can be scary, but you might end up realising they are not as bad as you had feared.
5- Nobody is perfect
How many times do you hear this? But do you really bring it to your life? Always remember that even the most confident, successful, happy and ‘perfect’ people are fighting their own internal battles. There’s no such a thing as perfection and humans are, by nature, full of different emotions, challenges and difficulties. You are not alone. And you don’t even know how many people are actually very insecure and anxious on the inside.
6- Reach out for help. Talk about it.
The same way you don’t know about other people’s challenges, most people wouldn’t even imagine yours. I experience daily, in my job, the power and benefits of talking about your troubles. It’s a huge relief, to start with. And the consequences can be amazing. You will feel more ‘normal’, more human, more in charge of your decisions and your life. Find someone you can trust, it can be family, friend or a counsellor, therapist. The simple act of sharing your feelings and issues can be transformative. Give it a try.
7- Anxiety doesn’t define you or who you are
Sometimes anxiety can become such a familiar feeling, so present in your life, that the very thought of not having it anymore can be scary. It’s the unknown, the new life that comes with changes. ‘How am I going to live without that feeling? Who am I going to be?’ Well… That will be the next step. A new, exciting and empowering chapter of your life, when all new things are possible.