Sarah woke up on New Year's Day to the sun beaming in her window. She laid in bed a bit reading, taking advantage of her day off from work. No one else was home. It was perfectly relaxing.
As she rolled over to grab her tablet, she relished that her biggest decision in that moment was which book to read.
It was a rare gift.
Maybe this will be my year. With the divorce behind me, now things can go back to the way they were. No more looking back. No more feeling tense all of the time. No more panic attacks while I'm driving, or at work, or whenever we do drop-offs with the kids. It's time to be myself again. FINALLY.
Just as the next page of her book lit up on the screen, Sarah heard a ding on her phone.
Thinking everyone she knew was still sleeping, Sarah ignored it. The only thing that held her attention now was the book.
Four pages later, the front door banged up and six feet eagerly scuffled in the house.
What were they doing home already? They weren't supposed to come home until after lunch from their dad's house. So much for the peaceful morning. Why didn't he tell me? Oh. That must have been what the text was about. CRAP. Not again. I thought this was over. Hello, nausea. I haven't missed you. No. Not the quivers. Why do my hands shake when I get this upset? And of course, now I'm going to hyperventilate. Why won't these panic attacks JUST FREAKING GO AWAY?
Can you relate?
You may not be divorced. You may not be the mother of three children. You may not even like to read. But have you ever had anxiety?
- Rapid, shallow breathing
- Sweaty palms
- Feeling tense throughout your body
- Racing thoughts that just spin faster and faster
- Nausea and a pit in your stomach
- Inability to concentrate
- Feeling like you may be about to die
- Anger suddenly seeping in
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Pacing without being aware
- Dread consuming you
No fun, right?
It's not like you enjoy feeling like that. If you could change it, you would. You've tried everything you know to try. But even when you think you've kicked anxiety's butt, it can seem to sneak up behind you.
You know it's not normal to live like this, and you may even think that you're the weird one who feels like this.
Why Does Anxiety Keep Happening to You?
No matter how many times you've tried to lower your anxiety in the past, it's easy to feel like it will never go away. And truthfully, anxiety will never go away. It's a normal part of life. Getting butterflies in your stomach before you get on a roller coaster, walk across the graduation stage, walk down the aisl to be married, sign on your own apartment lease, or start a new job- all of those are wonderful milestones.
Even so, they still come with anxiety.
Anxiety is a part of life.
You may not even notice the good anxiety. You're too busy anticipating the thrill!
The bad anxiety is a whole different story though.
Negative anxiety goes into overdrive when your desires come into conflict with reality.
For example, you hate public speaking. But your boss told you that you had to give one at the next meeting. Immediately, your hands start to sweat and you want to just run out of the room. What you want (not to do any public speaking) is in conflict with what is right in front of you (being told that you have to speak in front of a group).
In Sarah's case, she had a few conflicts:
- Not being to enjoy her peaceful morning to herself because the kids came home early
- Having to interact with her ex when she needed to unwind before she saw him
- Ignoring a text, something she never does
- Celebrating not feeling anxious anymore, only for her to feel anxious
How Do You Get Rid of Anxiety?
If you're hoping to make this the year that you finally say goodbye to anxiety, here are five tips that will help you set more effective goals so you can finally be successful.
- Don't plan to get rid of everything that gives you anxiety (or getting rid of your anxiety altogether). Not only is it impossible, but it can make you more anxious trying to figure out where to even begin with such a monumental task. Instead, get rid of such big expectations of yourself. Plan to get rid of the way you view anxiety.
- Skip the things that you've carried over from year to year. If in the past, you've vowed to stop feeling nervous every time you get around your mother-in-law, and every year she still makes your stomach churn, then stop making that a goal. It just makes you feel like your anxiety is sticking around and never getting any better. Shift focus on new things to try doing that may help, instead of on omitting the all of the situations that make you anxious. You actually have some control over that. (Anxiety is all about power and control.)
- Make sure there's some fun built into your plan. Remember that anxiety has a good side. All of life's wonderful moments have anxiety built in, from going on vacation, to finally getting a book you've been waiting to read, to the few milliseconds before a kiss. Anxiety doesn't always cripple you. Plan some activities that you look forward to, so you can experience the good kind of anxiety. This will help you to view it differently, and to feel like you have more control over anxiety.
- Be specific. Setting a broad goal like, “I'm not going to be anxious anymore” is a big overtaking. Where do you start? How do you know what to do? No wonder it feels like things are staying stuck. Pulling in from #2, make specific things to try doing when you start to feel anxious. Things like: taking a walk, doing deep breathing, getting a hug from someone, or focusing on what your five senses are taking in at that exact moment can all help pull you into the current moment and away from whatever fears are pulling you forward into the future.
- Mark time off to work on those goals. Practice doing deep belly breathing when you aren't stressed. Pulling out that trick for the first time when you're in the midst of a panic attack can make things more stressful. Set aside blocks to engage in the things that help to anxiety. Often, the same things that help during the moment can help to prevent anxiety from happening.