When I first realized I had anxiety, I learned I could not fight against it.
I thought that fighting against unpleasant emotions was only natural.
Generally speaking, we don’t want to feel negative emotions, so we push them down. We deny that they’re happening. We try to move on, and if we can’t—if we wind up showing that unpleasant emotion in any way—then we feel guilty for it. We feel like we need to apologize.
The problem with that, when it comes to anxiety, is that it only makes anxiety worse. When a person with anxiety starts to feel stressed and tries to push that stress down, it doesn’t go away. It stays there, in the forefront of your mind, demanding to be heard, and getting worse. And the next thing you know, you are stressing yourself out because you know you are getting stressed. It progresses. It might even progress into a panic attack for which you feel shame and guilt. It exhausts you, it puts a damper on your whole day, and it makes everything in life much harder to do.
The best way to deal with anxiety is to admit that you are anxious, and allow yourself to be anxious. Take the time to slow down. Talk to yourself about what you’re feeling. Figure everything out.
When we have anxiety, we have two options: push it down, making life difficult, or allow it to happen, so that we can do anything we want. We simply have to do it at a pace slower than people without anxiety.
Why am I saying this right now? Well, I think everyone—even people who don’t deal with anxiety—can apply this to their daily lives.
Let me give an example. The other day, I was feeling extremely frustrated. It had nothing to do with my anxiety. It was an average, everyday, unpleasant emotion. It made me upset. It made me snap back at people all the time. It made me a b*tch to live with. And all the while, I was trying to tell myself to bury it down. I was trying to stop being so annoying to people.
Why are you saying that? Just shut up and stop feeling this already!
It wasn’t until I actually sat myself down and said, “You’re frustrated for now, and that’s okay. Do whatever you need to do so that you can let it go” that I actually began to feel better. I gave myself permission to feel what I needed to feel, and that made it easier for me to stop dwelling on the negative.
It’s this idea that I want to focus on: giving yourself permission to feel how you feel.
I think that we, as a society, have a strict notion of how we should all feel.
In order to be stable role models, we need to feel strong, capable, in control, commanding, intelligent, and always in the right.
In order to be good yogis, we need to feel peaceful, happy, accepting, optimistic, and inspirational.
In order to be good adults, we need to feel as though we know what we are doing.
But the thing is, before we are any of these, we are human beings. And human beings experience the full gambit of emotions—pleasant or unpleasant, at any given time. We dangle this idea of perfect happiness. Society is telling us that this is the goal, this is the way to emotional maturity. But perfect happiness doesn’t exist and trying to demand of ourselves that we feel this way ignores all the other ways that we feel.
Emotional maturity is not feeling happy and stable and pleasant all the time. Emotional maturity is accepting that you will feel any number of ways, and allowing yourself to feel that, and not wallowing in it, not pitying yourself for it. Let the storm come and pass, and remember that both will happen. There is no point avoiding it. There is no reason to believe that it will last forever. And there is nothing wrong with it.
When you reject unpleasant emotions, they do not go away. Anger and sadness may not be as incessant or obvious as the symptoms of anxiety are, but they react in the same way. When you try to push them down, they don’t actually go anywhere. They just stay with you, in the background, affecting everything you do and see and hear. They grow and they spread, and before you know it, the problem is even bigger than it initially was.
If you fight your emotions, then they will fight you right back.
So breathe. Have faith that this will pass, and it will. For now, think about your situation, work it out, and do whatever you need to do to move beyond this.
Author: Ciara Hall
Editor: Angel Lebailly
Copy & Social editor: Catherine Monkman