“Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future; it comes from wanting to control it” – unknown
I started this entry off with that particular quote because it resonates with me on so many levels. I will be the first one to tell you that we have zero control over what happens in our life. We can do the things we want to do, plan the things we want to plan and work towards the thing we want to work towards, but when it’s all said and done, if something is going to occur in your life, you can’t stop it.
I hope you can understand that what I am talking about are the things that we really can’t control like mother nature, illnesses, death, heartache, and so on. I am sure some would argue that we can manage all those things in some ways, but most would agree that some things happen and there isn’t anything we can do about it.
I woke up last night at 2 am. I was panicked, confused, and worried sick. If you ask me what I was worried about, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. Of course, I justified my feelings by creating a whole bunch of undesirable circumstances in my head that could potentially happen in the next 24hrs. I justified those thoughts because I have experienced worst-case scenarios on more than one occasion, so why wouldn’t that be the case now?
The night before Nick died, I had the worst anxiety. I had no idea it was anxiety at the time, but I now know that it was. I will never understand why my body reacted that way even before anything had happened, am I psychic or just a highly intuned human? I don’t know? The reality is it happened, and that is an experience that I now carry with me, and it’s not always easy.
You see, when I feel anxious now, it is so difficult for me to tell myself that nothing bad is going to happen. How can I tell myself that when it has happened and it happened while at the same time experiencing that anxiety.
If you are someone who suffers from anxiety, you know just how bad it is. It’s not always as simple as telling yourself your thoughts are irrational, but there are a few things that have helped me.
Keep in mind, I am not a doctor and can not prescribe you with any professional techniques. I can only share what has worked for me.
Breathe – The moment I realize I am experiencing anxiety or like last night having a full-blown anxiety attack, I tell myself to breathe. It seems simple, but if you’ve experienced anxiety, you know that sometimes you will literally forget to breathe, or your breathing will be extremely shallow.
If I don’t take time to be aware of my breathing, my anxiety will last a lot longer. Deep intentional breaths are so important and might be the only thing you need to do to feel better. Everyone is different but breathing is pretty universal.
Welcome the anxiety without judgement – I immediately try to recognize that I am anxious and welcome it without judgment. I realize not everyone can do this, and not everyone can recognize what’s happening right away, but one thing I have always felt grateful for is my insight. I attribute this to constant learning, reading all the time about all of the things, and exposing myself to some brilliant people.
Anytime I have ever experienced anything undesirable, I have taken the time to learn as much about it as I possibly can, and this is one of those areas.
If you can first gain awareness of the anxiety, it will help you to focus on what you need to do next to alleviate it.
I tell myself it’s okay – Once I’ve become aware of my anxiety, I tell myself, “it’s okay.” This may seem silly, but there is a lot of shame, embarrassment and panic that can accompany anxiety, and I have experienced all of those things. I remind myself that there are reasons I experience this anxiety, and it’s not my fault. I remind myself what my therapist always used to say and that was, “be gentle on yourself.”
I question my thoughts. – This is important. If you suffer from anxiety, you know damn well how “crazy” some of your thoughts can be. I say the word crazy with pure love and no judgement because I get it, and I have had my share of those crazy thoughts.
Luckily my partner is open to hearing about some of them and allows me to work through them without judgment. Just because you are thinking about something that could possibly happen, does not mean it’s rational. I had to learn this because I would always tell myself this, “but last time it did happen”.
Do something – This can be as simple as going for a walk around your kitchen or counting items in the room that are the same color.
This morning when I got up, I was still feeling anxious, so when I dropped my son off at day home, I went for a drive. As much as I wanted to ruminate and analyze what I was worried about, I knew I couldn’t, and I had to step away for a bit.
Acceptance and Focus – One of the things that has helped me significantly is accepting that I don’t get to have control, and all I can do right now is focus on what is occurring right now.
I do this often and not only when the anxiety is present, as it eventually became a belief that I carry and not just something I was trying to tell myself in the moment.
Affirmations are great but if you never believe them they can be more damaging than good.
This is a hard one, but it helps. Because of my history, I am able to rationalize my “irrational” thoughts because the worst-case scenario has happened, and it was when I was feeling anxious.
I had to learn to tell myself that yes, it might happen, and no amount of anxiety or worry can prevent it from happening.
I had to learn to accept that my life will play out in a way that it’s meant to play out, and as much as I try to control it, I will never have that ability.
I am not the almighty controller of this Universe, and I never will be.
Many times I am guilty of what Brené Brown calls foreboding joy, and even though I completely understand why I am doing it, I also know why I have to take a moment to remember what I am losing if I continue.
There have been so many times in my life where things were perfect, and I was so happy only to have it crushed by circumstance. It would be so easy to get stuck in that history and believe that my future will be the same.
It might, but it might not.
I have to think that so that I can enjoy my life in the NOW. I have to believe that so I can focus on what I CAN control and not get fixated on what I CAN’T.
I have to remind myself that even if worst case scenario does occur; I WILL be okay and so will you.
It’s hard to say where my anxiety comes from exactly, but accumulated stress is said to be a contributor, and lord knows I have had my share over the years. One thing is for sure, though, it has been a learning curve and something that isn’t always easy to deal with.
Some of the ways I have learned to deal with my anxiety work for me and they work for other people as well, but if you try some of these and you get nowhere, please know that there is no shame in medication, just promise me you see someone you trust and don’t just blindly start medicating.
I have asked Scott on more than one occasion if he thinks I should go on anti-anxiety medication, and I have asked him because I have seriously contemplated it myself. The reason I haven’t yet is because the majority of the time, I function perfectly fine, and my strategies to cope work for me right now.
If you are struggling to function and that significantly impacts your life, it’s okay to seek help, and you are not alone.
For me, February is a tough month, and I have no doubt that it is contributing to my sleepless nights and panic. We all have our triggers, and once you are able to recognize them, I strongly encourage seeking out someone you trust who will be with you in those moments when you are triggered or anxious – without judgment.
Meg Roberts is an experienced life coach in Calgary offering grief support and life coaching. As a Grief Recovery Method specialist and as someone who has overcome her share of grief, Meg is an empathetic coach with a unique perspective on love and life. Book a Free Consultation with Meg to get started on the road to healing and recovery.