When you are in the talons of anxiety, it may seem like there is no hope. You may feel like giving up or that nothing you could ever do would ever make life feel normal again.
I know this to be true because that’s how I felt for a long time. I felt like a victim of my circumstances. I didn’t seek out new methods of healing because I “just knew” they wouldn’t work for me.
This victimization and isolation that so often accompanies anxiety can be crippling and can prevent you from the life you desire. You can feel alone.
Like the problem you are facing has never been faced before or that there is nothing you could do to heal yourself.
Well, I have news for you, you are not alone.
Even if you wouldn’t categorize yourself as “anxious,” every person struggles with anxiety and fear throughout their lifetime. Without fear, our species would have died off thousands of years ago. Fear and anxiety are innate. We need them to survive, but when we adopt a meta-anxiety (anxiety about anxiety), our life can start to stagnate, and the fear can seem debilitating.
However, you have the ability to become aware of this meta-anxiety and choose to chart a different path forward. One in which you are not a victim of your thoughts and emotions.
Understanding this truth may bring you a sense of calm, but what do you do with that information? Knowing something and being something are entirely different things. This is why simply reading about healing your anxiety or watching the 18th Tony Robbins video on Youtube won’t bring you long lasting freedom. And after all, if you are an anxious one, freedom is the one thing you desire most.
Freedom to be. Freedom to do the things you want. Freedom to live.
Well to have the freedom to live your life again, you must be willing to put the theory into practice. You must take the inspiration from theory and put it into determined action in your own life.
There are many ways to practice this on a daily, but one of my favorites is a simple journal exercise, which I outline below. It may seem too simple, and you may find yourself doubting its validity.
Realize this as a thought, and just do it anyway. That voice has led you to where you are today; it’s time to start a new life. You have everything within you to heal; you just need to let that come to the surface.
Journaling to Heal Anxiety
The following journaling exercise is something that I took from Charlie Hoehn’s book Play it Away. If you haven’t read the book yet, I highly suggest you buy it now. Charlie, a former employee of Tim Ferriss, gives practical advice for healing anxiety by changing your relationship with it.
1. When you feel anxiety or stress coming up, get out a piece of paper and write down everything you are worried about. 3–5 words per item is fine. For instance, “I’m nervous about having a panic attack.”
2. Next, go back through the list and put a star next to your top source of stress.
3. Reframe it as a “How can I eliminate my ____ ?” question. In the example above, you’d write “How can I eliminate my panic attacks?” Might sound impossible, but bear with me…
4. Come up with 3 potential solutions that you could test for removing that source of stress (e.g. replace coffee with water, eliminate all sources of news, etc.).
5. Pick the simplest solution, then test it for a week. Assess after 7 days to see how you feel after that source of stress has been completely removed.
6. Finally, take the time to go back through your list and write 1 reason you are grateful for each source of anxiety. For example, “I am grateful for my fear of panic attacks because they alert me of something important that I need to pay attention to.”
As I said before, this exercise may seem overly simplistic, and you may be thinking that there is no way it will work for you. And that is okay. That is your anxiety and self-doubt coming in, which is entirely normal.
Don’t let it win. Give the exercise a try. Face your biggest worries head on and implement a strategy that will help you overcome them on a daily basis.
Stop waiting for someone else to heal you. Cease to be a victim. You have the power to heal yourself; you just need to start.