I was at my local bookstore recently and saw plenty of titles about relaxation, which got me thinking about certain websites that promote relaxation when feeling anxious.
Not that I think there is anything wrong with promoting relaxation, I swim, walk and run because I not only enjoy it but also believe that exercise and the outdoors is a great stress buster.
I was your typical searcher when I suffered from anxiety.
I was always searching for ways to find relief, make it go away, sort it out, fix it.
My thought process at the time was always ‘I have to get rid of what feels uncomfortable’ I read many books, searched around the internet and looked through the yellow pages for someone or something who could make this thing that was dominating my life go away.
Learning to stop looking for a way out of anxiety
My whole life was consumed with finding the answer to being free of my anxiety. I have no idea why I carried on this way for so long as it was obviously not working. I think deep down I felt the answer was still out there and so the search would continue until I had nowhere else to go.
It was at this point I started asking some deeper questions like;
‘Why do I always feel worse when I react negatively to my anxious feelings?’, ‘why does trying to find a way out always make me feel more stuck?’.
Well, the answer was because I was trapped in a never-ending cycle.
When I felt an uncomfortable emotion or a rush of anxiety, I would fight like hell to change my current state, instead of allowing myself to experience it and letting myself come out of it naturally.
This reaction is what non-accepting is; it is the opposite of allowing. When I first came across the concept of allowing, I made the mistake of trying to turn it into another technique.
I would say, “Right so to no longer feel these feelings I have to allow them, OK ill try that”, then it would be “Damn, they are still there, this isn’t working”, but I had missed the point entirely and was trying to use the concept of allowing as another way of not feeling these uncomfortable emotions.
Allowing yourself to feel different emotions
I eventually realised that all techniques were utterly pointless and that you can’t be free of emotions you aren’t willing to experience, as this is the very reason they are coming up, to free themselves from your inner space.
By struggling with your feelings or mental state, you are trying to force or manipulate a different state, one that you have no control over. Try manipulating a happy state when you feel down or try to force yourself not to be tired when you have had very little sleep, and you will see my point.
Do you see how we have little to no control over how we are feeling? The only thing we can do is to let go, relax and allow ourselves to feel how we do at any particular moment. This is not about your mind or emotions being calm, this about you being calm behind it all.
We only feel worse when we struggle with or resist our current state. It is the resistance to your emotions that cause the majority of your suffering, not the feelings themselves.
Coping with anxiety
I came across a website last week that said ’10 ways to cope with anxiety’ and then went on to list ways to keep it at bay. I am so against this approach; I only freed myself from anxiety when I allowed every aspect of it to enter my life.
I hid from none of it and no longer tried to keep it at bay or talk my way out of it. To be free of any negative or painful emotion, then we have to be willing to experience them. Trying to deny or suppress them will just keep them within us and the reason no progress is ever made.
Recovery is never about managing or coping, and it certainly wasn’t something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I would rather spend a period of time, allowing myself to feel these emotions and be free than spend the rest of my life trying not to.
To recover from anxiety, you don’t need anything, no ten ways to cope, no mantras, no safety behaviours and no techniques. You just need to be more accepting of anxiety being part of your life for now and be open to experiencing it.
The only thing that changed with me was my attitude; there was no magic tablet or formula. I just stopped fighting with myself and quit trying to escape my current state. I went out and started to live again, taking how I felt with me.
When freedom eventually came to me, then there was nothing left to manage to or find relief from, and that was always where I wanted to be.