Today I want to talk about how to be successful when you have crippling anxiety! Oh the joys of mental health. These are a few tips that help me be my best self even with anxiety (yes it is possible). I hope you find them useful!
1) Don’t romanticize anxiety; take it for what it is.
This is probably the hardest point to fully grasp, but I truly believe it is the most important. I have had anxiety for many years, and what I have witnessed from others who have anxiety is that they treat it as a crippling, torturous ailment that prevents them from living life. As mental health has become more prominent in the online media space, there seems to be a lot of romanticizing of what anxiety is and how it affects people. I do not only mean this in the sense that anxiety is seen as the “trendy” thing to proclaim, or that it is seen as “so tumblr”, I also mean that anxiety is also played out to be very dramatic and grandiose, that you should be treated like a delicate snowflake if you have anxiety.
Personally, I disagree with this rhetoric. Having anxiety is uncomfortable. It is unpleasant. However, it is not something that should be given such power over everyday life. It is not something that should be held on a pedestal and Oo’d and Ah’d at. From personal experience, the more power you give to anxiety, by treating it as a unique and strange phenomena, the more anxiety you will experience day to day. The opposite is also true, when I distanced myself from everything the internet tells me anxiety is, from all the dramatic and “trendiness” of it, and let my anxiety be what it is (a disorder) my anxiety greatly improved because I did not give it that power over me. Of course this is not to say that you should abandon medication and other mechanisms of dealing with anxiety (especially if you have severe anxiety), however, it does help a lot. Once you take away the power, you will no longer be in the way of your own success and can push through things you usually dismissed because you are scared of getting anxiety doing them. This point may seem a bit harsh and insensitive to some, but I do hope you understand the gist of what I am saying, even if my delivery is not spot on.
2) Take baby steps-but keep walking.
Equally as important as the first point is to not surrender to anxiety- KEEP GOING! I think it is safe to say that anyone who has had anxiety has wanted to give up trying to ‘fix it’ at one point or another. It is a tricky thing to handle and it is easy to get frustrated, especially when you feel like you’re the only one going through it. It’s okay to fall sometimes, as long as you pick yourself back up. Depending on the type of anxiety you have, there will be certain things you avoid doing, places you avoid going, etc because they may trigger your anxiety. As much as you don’t want to hear it, these things that you are afraid of doing are big keys in alleviating your anxiety.
So, in order to help yourself, I think it is important to take baby steps toward tackling these bigger things you are afraid of. For instance, if you get anxiety going to the bank and have had a panic attack there before, your anxiety would tell you to avoid going to banks at all costs. To deal with this fear, I suggest taking baby steps towards it ,ex: taking a road back home that has a bank on it, instead of your usual route. You could start doing this maybe just twice a week. Then after that, you could try tagging along with a friend who needs to do something at the bank, etc. These baby steps may seem silly and over the top, but trust me, they really work. You have to push yourself a little bit each time to see some progress. Don’t pay attention to how long it takes, this isn’t a race. Take your time, don’t leap, but do take small baby steps towards your goals. This is a major factor in being successful when you have anxiety; pushing yourself outside your comfort zone, in incremental small ways.
3) Don’t compare yourself to others.
This is probably a given, but comparison really is a terrible thing to do to your psyche if you have anxiety. If you are in any transitional period in your life (just out of high school,college,etc) , it is human nature to want to compare and contrast your life to your peers and rank yourself in comparison. This can SOMETIMES be helpful to a specific few people, however, for those with anxiety, it can cause more stress and worry than good. It can hinder success and cause you to want to give up whatever it is you’re doing because of fear of failure or ‘not being good enough‘. My advice to you is to try your hardest to focus on yourself and your mental health, and doing what you can in your own time to move forward and success in a way that won’t take you back 10 steps, because you are competing with something/someone else.
4)Understand yourself, and what kind of success you want for your life.
Not everyone in the world dreams of being an extroverted, sociable billionaire. Not everyone dreams of being a stay at home wife and mother of four. Whatever YOUR definition of success is, you should make it very clear to yourself. Beyond that, you should make it APPLICABLE to yourself. What I mean by this is that not only should you identify what ‘ideal’level of success you would like, but you also need to understand yourself as a person (anxiety included) and how you can mold that success to fit that person. If you have severe social anxiety , are introverted and enjoy spending time online, then mold a ‘success ideal’ that fits that parameter. This is not to say that you should not try to deal with your social anxiety and try to be more extroverted, rather this is a more sustainable approach to success curated for you. Having anxiety can sometimes feel like the door of success is slammed shut in your face because you won’t have THAT type of success. I find it’s best to create your own type of success, you and Sally can both reach point A if you take completely separate roads from each other. Your journey is not meant to be the same as other people, there is no set formula for success, so understand yourself, accept yourself, and mold your own version of success.
I hope these tips show you that having anxiety is a hurdle in life, but it shouldn’t stop you from living it to the fullest.
Please feel free to share any other tips you have in the comments below!