Stress is a natural part of life. It’s a natural reaction and it even helps motivate us. However, when you have an anxiety disorder, stress turns into overwhelming, debilitating, irrational fear. As someone with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, I’ve realized how anxiety has the potential to invade every area of my life. And I’m continually trying to learn how to prevent this.
The areas of my life that my anxiety can affect are endless unless I keep fighting. Every negative experience I’ve had with men in my life (romantic or otherwise) is amplified to a painful level that creates irrational fears in my current, healthy relationship. Fearful thoughts and feelings have impacted my ability to fly on planes and function during lighting storms. Reasonable concern about a cockroach infestation turned into paranoia (I wish I was kidding.) Fear of inadequacy fuels my perfectionism and shame. Fear of God’s disappointment often causes me to be distant from him.
The more I realize how many areas of my life are impacted by fear, the more motivation I gain to fight against it. I realize that I’d rather live life as fully as I can rather than being held back by fear. It was never my choice or my fault to have an anxiety disorder, but I have a choice of how I respond to it. Here are a few important concepts I’ve learned that I try to hold on to and are helping me day by day.
1) Take it one step at a time.
This is all about accepting and celebrating steps of progress, and not expecting yourself to fix everything all at once. If all you can do today is take a small step forward – whether it involves facing a phobia, reaching out and beginning to trust someone, or continuing to function after an anxiety attack – that’s great. Don’t shame yourself for the size of the step, but instead choose to take the step. If you expect perfection, most likely you will exhaust yourself or give up. Instead, focus on what you are able to do. How can you push yourself forward today? What step can you take to move out of your comfort zone and towards greater freedom?
2) Be open with the people in your life.
This one is potentially the most difficult. It’s hard to be vulnerable. It’s risky. But the only way we can be relieved of the shame we may feel about anxiety is to allow the opportunity for acceptance. If someone in your life cares about you and wants to help, let them. Believe them when they tell you that you’re not a burden. That can be the hardest thing in the world to believe, but it’s true. Allow people to keep speaking truth into your life until you become brave enough to believe it. The truth is, none of us can do life alone. If you have anxiety, your needs may feel more pressing and tangible than you would like, but we all have needs. Being vulnerable is the only way to foster genuine connections.
3) Don’t let yourself stop fighting. You are strong enough for this.
While you should be gracious with yourself and never push yourself too far for where you’re at, make sure you keep pushing yourself. Keep inching outside of your comfort zone, in whatever ways your anxiety impacts you. Keep being open with your friends and family. Part of continuing to fight may include exploring different types of help you haven’t tried yet. Consider and look at options for therapy, medication, natural remedies, breathing exercises, etc. Keep putting in the work to heal and take care of yourself, and you will benefit from those efforts. Don’t give up just because it seems like your efforts may not be working, and don’t be afraid to try something new for your healing process.
Keep fighting, forgiving yourself, and being open with your loved ones. If you know someone with anxiety, keep seeking to be understanding, patient, and helpful. We can’t do this on our own.
In His love,