I’ve suffered with anxiety my entire life. To those also well acquainted with this familiar foe, you’ll know the enormity of its effects and the incapacitating nature of its hold. But this year I made a decision. I’m breaking up with anxiety. And no, anxiety, it’s not me. It’s you. Why? Because, frankly, you’re ruining my life and these are the reasons why…
1. Anxiety is possessive.
Anxiety wants all of your time. It taints every thought, every waking minute, with negativity and fear. Don’t let it consume you. Don’t let it tell you to stay inside or that you can’t think about the trip you want to take. You should be sharing yourself with the world. Your mind, body and soul should be free to wander wherever you want to go. The more you break away from anxiety, the further you’ll find yourself going with each adventure outward. A trip down to the shop on the corner could grow to a trip across a country. But the choice is yours. Your time is precious, so give it to those who truly treasure you and to the things that makes you happy.
2. Anxiety makes you body conscious.
And no, I don’t just mean it makes you feel too fat/too skinny/too tall/too small (which, of course, it can). It can make you aware of the space you take up. Anxiety tells you people are looking at you for all the wrong reasons. Being self-conscious can make it difficult to be around people, no matter where you are. Remember, you have a right to be here; you have a right to take up space. So what if somebody is looking at you anyway? Your body is your temple, your means of expression and a tool to help others. Our bodies can give hugs, dance around rooms, or silently offer company to those who need it. Enjoy your body, no matter what you can do with it, and all the happiness it can bring you.
3. Anxiety makes you feel like you can’t make your own decisions.
Consequences of your decisions are, of course, unpredictable. That’s the nature of the future and of human experience. However, anxiety will offer every possible negative outcome to even the smallest of your decisions. The inner struggle becomes more extreme, more conflicting and more desperate. You may find yourself stuck and unable to make a change. Enough is enough. Make a decision, small or large. “Yes, I’ll have the steak please!” “Yes, I will go to the party!” “Yes, let’s book that trip!” Life is about taking risks and while that sounds cliché, once you accept this somewhat scary fact, you can open yourself up to the negative outcomes that anxiety will so unkindly offer, and take them as learning experiences rather than reasons to remain static. If you make your decision by going with your gut, it’s never the wrong one. Everything will turn out fine.
4. Anxiety isolates you from your friends and family.
Anxiety can make it difficult to be with those who truly know and love you. It can push you away from the people who know how to make you feel better. What a cruel and manipulative trick… Sometimes we don’t want the people we love and respect to see us suffering. It’s easy to hide away or to lash out in anger. Either way, we need to remember how we would feel about a friend or family member in need. Yes, you are in need. You do need support and no, you’re not a burden. Reach out to those around you. “I need your help.” Nobody can take the weight of the world alone. Hand a little bit to those you value most and you’ll be surprised by how much lighter you feel.
5. Anxiety makes you paranoid.
Anxiety can convince you that your friends are talking about you when you leave the room. It might tell you that “nobody likes you” and that you shouldn’t go to the party of your friend’s friend because no, you haven’t been invited and people will probably think it’s weird and you don’t even know anyone anyway… But, we can’t predict what people feel, or even worse, project our own insecurities onto the actions of others. Get out there. Go to the party without feeling scared of intruding. The negative things you may think people might be saying/feeling about you are often just nasty things you really feel internally. Be nicer to yourself and feed your brain with kinder thoughts; the negative voice should slowly fade away.
6. Anxiety tells you new opportunities are dangerous.
Like most of us, the desire for something new and exciting with burn within you, filling you with thoughts of what your life could be. You may want to change your career path, or to travel the world or meet someone new. Anxiety will tell you that these things are too crowded with potential dangers or poor outcomes. It will fill a bucket of negativity with all of the reasons your ideas can go wrong and pour them over the fire before it has a chance to enlighten you. Pour out the bucket before this happens. Don’t focus on the negative. Write down all of the reasons why you want to do something new; stick them around your room. Tell a friend, tell a parent and spark the change so when you feel the bucket filling, you have others to help you pour the negativity away before it can extinguish your dreams.
7. Anxiety makes you feel like your desires are out of reach.
Anxiety will tell you that the great jobs, the nice apartments or the new boyfriend are things completely out of grabbing distance. Imagine that your brain is your home. Anxiety will hold you hostage; tell you the sounds you hear that come from your desires or needs are intruders, things to hide away from. So it keeps them firmly outside. It’ll lock all the doors and put up the guards. However, people achieve astonishing feats in the face of adversity. Let this be a challenge. Listen to the voice that tells you “You can’t”, look in the mirror and say, “I can”. Once you seize the key from anxiety, unlock your doors, invite in your desires and offer them a place to stay. You might be surprised by how easy they are to welcome in.
8. Anxiety tells you that you aren’t good enough.
Anxiety will take your best bits and hide them away from you. It will make you forget all of the good things you feel about yourself. It will tell you that “You aren’t good enough” or “you aren’t special.” It can steal your self-esteem, snatch away your confidence and keep them until you no longer remember that you even had them in the first place. Like a bully in school, you must stop allowing anxiety to take from you and recover what you’ve lost. This isn’t easy – trust me, I know. Tell yourself that who you are is enough. You may not believe yourself at first, but the voice will become louder and stronger. Say it with conviction. I am good enough.
9. Anxiety can make you feel as if you don’t deserve love.
Love is essential. There’s no two ways about it. It’s the fuel for a happy life and a reason to get out of bed. It can be found anywhere – in a friend, a parent or even from a pet. Anxiety may make you worry that you aren’t somebody worth loving, that your flaws and faults and fears have filled you with too much darkness. Fighting this feeling is a difficult thing to do, but it has the sweetest rewards. Remind yourself of the qualities you know, deep down, you have. “I can give good advice.” “I’d pick my friend up at 3am if she called me.” “I don’t judge those on their appearance.” These are traits worth applauding, so applaud yourself. You’re a good person with a good heart who deserves the love of those around you. Love yourself and it’s amazing how much love you let back in.
10. Anxiety will make you feel like you can’t live without it.
Anxiety has become such a big part of your life that you may feel like its inherent of who you are. Maybe it’s become a reliable reason to not go for the things that scare you. “No, I can’t talk about/do/think about that, it makes me anxious” is a phrase I used too quickly and too often. In a way, anxiety becomes the frenemy you feel is easier to befriend than deal with the consequences of standing up to or breaking free from. Relationships like this are toxic. Do not let yourself think that you deserve to be treated the way you are. You absolutely do not. You can live without anxiety. It isn’t easy and there are times when it will scratch your skin, fester away in your head or try to burrow its way back into your thoughts, but you have more power than you think.
So here’s my advice… Break up with anxiety. Anxiety is a loser, a waste of space and your precious time. I know that this is easier said than done, but do have faith that it can be done. No, the feelings won’t go away overnight, and there isn’t a perfect step-by-step guide of what to do. We’re all different, each with our own challenges to overcome. However, if you know these reasons, accept what dealing with anxiety has taught you and learn from your experience, I believe you can achieve amazing things. Although the struggle free can be painful, slow and challenging, the liberation is worth fighting for. Go for the things you really want. Climb the mountain. Design the dress. Submit the article. Don’t let anxiety hold you back anymore. You deserve to be happy. We all do.