Give Yourself Permission to Feel Anxious
Giving yourself permission to feel anxious – it doesn’t seem very logical for reducing anxiety, does it? That’s because it is isn’t. But then again, anxiety isn’t logical, either.
“Why Do I Feel So Anxious?”
Anxiety often starts out with specific worrisome thoughts (“Did I pull off a B on that O Chem final?” . . . “What on Earth do I get my [sister, mom, best friend, grandpa, cousin, roomie, cat] for Christmas?” . . . “Wait — do I even have enough money for Christmas presents this year?”). Feeling anxious in response to stressful times in life is natural, especially during the holiday season.
Sometimes the overwhelming thoughts spiral, and we end up feeling anxious and on-edge all the time. Waking up feeling anxious, feeling like you can hardly keep it together throughout the day, going to bed feeling anxious . . . before you know it, anxiety has reached its peak, and you’re once again left feeling drained, exhausted, and desperate for some relief.
“I Don’t Want to Feel This Way!”
If you’re like most people, you try to do everything you can think of to not feel anxious anymore. Maybe you journal, deep breathe, go to a yoga class, grab happy hour with a friend . . . and it’s awesome when these things help. Having distractions and coping skills can go a long way to reduce anxiety. But what if after trying a bunch of things to find relief from anxiety, you still feel anxious? First of all, it’s okay to still be struggling – anxiety is tricky like that. And second, sometimes we feel more anxious after we keep trying to run away from anxiety.
Why? Because now we’re beating ourselves up over the fact that we’re feeling anxious. We end up feeling badly about ourselves for not being able to take our mind off of things. Consequently, an extra layer of anxiety is added – feeling anxious about the fact that we feel anxious. It seems silly, but when you think about it, this is a very real, very annoying aspect of anxiety (and if you struggle with anxiety, you know *exactly* what I’m talking about).
The thing is, it’s okay to feel anxious. Sure, it’s not a fun place to be, and that “waiting-for-the-other-shoe-to-drop” feeling absolutely sucks. But what if instead of trying to run away from the anxiety, you tried something a little different? Imagine what it would be like if you stopped fighting the anxiety and simply allowed it to be there.
Finding Freedom From Anxiety
Giving yourself permission to notice the anxiety and feel it anyway doesn’t mean that you’re losing to anxiety or giving up on trying to manage anxiety. It simply means that today, you are choosing not to focus on feeling anxious. You choose to simply just notice it, acknowledge it, and live your life anyway. Although it may seem counterintuitive, practicing this gentle awareness and acceptance of anxiety can increase feelings of positivity and productivity. Once you stop focusing your energy on fighting anxiety, you free up your energy for other things in life.
This takes patience and practice. It doesn’t happen instantly, and anxiety will always put up a fight. That’s just the nature of anxiety. It wants your constant energy and attention – it doesn’t want you to go on living your life, because then, it loses.
Acknowledging the anxiety, accepting it, and making a conscious decision to not fight it is a practice that likely needs repeating throughout the day. If you get frustrated, if the anxiety still keeps rearing its ugly head, if you’re finding the whole “freedom from anxiety” thing really hard, that’s okay. Wherever you’re at, give yourself permission to be there.
If you’re interested in receiving some extra support to help manage anxiety, learn more about how to find a therapist. You can read more about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in St. Paul, MN, or feel free to schedule a free 20-minute phone consultation with me so we can connect and see if we would be a good fit.