How do you recover from anxiety?
There is a question I get asked very often, and that is ‘How do I recover from anxiety and is it possible?’ The answer is a definite yes. I have lost count of the number of people who have gone on to recover from anxiety. All it takes is a little patience and a real understanding of the anxiety cycle, not only of what creates these anxious feelings, but also what keeps you in the loop.
I was one of those people who went through anxiety attacks for so long that I thought I would just have to live with it. I had tried so many different treatments, techniques and therapists that got me nowhere, that I lost all hope of regaining my former self.
I was tired of the whole self-help market that promised so much, yet delivered so little. I no longer wanted another prescription that made me feel emotionally numb. I didn’t want any more techniques or rituals on how to manage my anxiety; I just wanted proper answers on how to recover.
Eventually, I stopped throwing money at all these so-called cures and chose to educate myself as much as possible on the subject. I also started to ask my own questions and figured so much out for myself. I decided to make a real commitment to finding answers and wouldn’t give in until I found the truth behind this condition and the correct way out; I refused to become another statistic.
The most important thing I learnt and what stopped me continually throwing money at it, was that there is no miracle cure, no saying, pill, or particular technique that can magically make it all go away. It is the trying to make it go away that is the primary cause of your suffering. It is this utterly pointless and counterproductive struggle with how you feel that keeps you stuck in a cycle of anxiety and in most cases increases it.
To recover, we need to realise that anxiety is not something that just appeared out of nowhere. It is something that we have created, in most cases, through stress, worry, overthinking, overworking or not having enough downtime. It is our mind and body’s way of telling us that we have been overdoing things and that a new lifestyle, attitude and perspective is needed.
What is the best way out of anxiety?
Firstly, you have to take heed of the warning that the initial anxiety presented to you and make changes in your life. If you still spend most of your time worrying, stressing and overthinking, then all you will do is stay in a loop of recreating your anxiety and so no progress is made.
The trouble is so many people end up actually worrying and stressing about the anxiety itself and how it is affecting their life and so it becomes their new thing to worry, stress and overthink about. If worry and stress brought on the initial anxiety, then it makes no sense that worrying and stressing about your anxious state is going to cure you of it.
Trust me you cannot worry, fight or think your way out of how you are feeling, the harder you try, the deeper you sink. Recovery will never come this way as your mind and body want to do less, not more, they have been through enough.
A lot of people also turn to treatments like reiki, massages and hypnosis in an attempt to cure their anxiety and although they may make you feel more relaxed in the moment and can be beneficial, most find the effects soon wear off when they go back to their normal routine.
This is because recovery is not about managing symptoms for the rest of your life, it is about getting to the root of the problem of why you feel the way you do and working on that and in doing so, there are no symptoms left to manage.
The real cure for anxiety comes from within
The key to overcoming anxiety is to no longer create it and then release what you have previously created, only in this way can you be free of it.
Firstly, anxiety is energy that is mainly created in the body through stress and worry. Now the odd concern or worrisome thought is fine, as when the worry or concern is over then the energy is released as it has no fuel to build-up and so we go back to a place of calm.
The only way people reach a state of constant anxiety is when they stress or worry over a prolonged period of time and so this energy is continually created and not released, or there is more created than has a chance to be released.
Due to this, the anxious energy is then stored within the body, and so you feel this anxious energy continuously. The constant stress and worry also takes its toll on your nervous system, intensifying your feelings of anxiousness.
To allow the release of this anxious energy that you find so uncomfortable, then you need to allow its presence within you; it really is that simple. But rather than do this, what pretty much everyone does is devote their life to not feeling this energy, they are always looking for ways to suppress or avoid it.
They may attempt to distract themselves from it, take tablets, fight with it, try different techniques to suppress it, avoid places that may trigger it, spend money on miracle cures, over-exercise or drink, until they finally realise that none of these practices work. They don’t work because they are not allowing a release to happen, they are all built around suppression and so this anxious energy ends up staying within.
Pretty much everything they do, all the books they read and all the therapists, techniques, retreats and doctors visits boil down to the sufferer wanting something or someone to make it go away.
So many people promoting services or products promise to be able to do this, and yet no one seems to be able to deliver. The reason being is that it is they themselves who hold the key to being free of anxiety and not someone or something outside of them.
Face and feel your anxious feelings
A huge part of recovery comes through allowing your anxious feelings to be present, which also means starting to do the things you have been avoiding. People only begin to avoid certain places and situations because they are scared of triggering certain emotions.
In reality, it has nothing to do with the place or situation as there is nothing to genuinely fear there; they fear feelings, not places. Most anxiety sufferers don’t recognise this fact and so mistakenly blame the situation they are in and think the answer to their problem is to avoid the places that trigger their anxiety.
The trouble with avoiding these triggers is that, not only is the anxious energy never released but also through their actions of avoidance, they start training their mind that these places are dangerous and so the fear response in the mind is continually turned up. Through a process of avoidance, you are teaching your mind to become fearful of normal everyday tasks.
So to break the cycle of anxiety, you need to no longer avoid your triggers.
I know the fearful reaction in the mind and the feelings it creates within the body are uncomfortable, but life is actually helping you here, not punishing you. By facing the things, you have previously avoided you allowing yourself to experience this energy and at the same time training your mind to realise that the outside world is perfectly fine and that there is nothing to be fearful of.
This is all recovery is about, teaching your mind that you are perfectly safe, so its fear reaction is turned down and also allowing a release of this anxious energy within. That is where I am now, there is no anxious energy within me to trigger, and my mind, through a process of non-avoidance no longer feels it has to keep me safe and protect me. It now knows I am perfectly fine, and so no fear reaction within the mind is triggered unless the situation truly warrants it.
My Recovery from anxiety was a process of learning
I spent years getting worse because at one time, I had no information or knowledge on the subject and due to this my whole day was filled with fear and concern about how I was feeling.
I would spend all day going around in circles in my mind trying to find answers, as I had no idea what was wrong with me. This was the very reason I got worse and not better. I was adding so much overthinking, worry and stress to a body and mind that was crying out for a break. This was also the reason I felt so disconnected from the world around me is that all my awareness was focussed inwards.
The knowledge I gained helped me to not only understand what was wrong with me but also to understand what was holding me back and keeping me in the cycle of anxiety.
Once I understood why I felt like I did, then the whole battle with myself started to fall away. I finally gave up my daily mission not to feel anxiety and the need to constantly try and control and manipulate my inner state. The end of this battle came as such a relief and freed up so much wasted energy.
With a far better understanding, there was also no more need for the constant searching around in my mind for answers, trying to figure it all out. This gave my overworked mind a much needed break, which in turn helped it to regain its clarity and so I was able to think more clearly and finally feel more connected to my surroundings.
Recovery also came because, for once, I trusted in my mind and body to repair itself, I stopped trying to do it myself. I stopped battling with myself and ceased looking for that outside miracle cure or that magic pill that would make it all go away. I just gave my body, mind and nervous system as much time and space as they needed to recover while I looked after myself the best I could.
Through all my years of helping people, I have yet to meet someone who recovered overnight or through some technique; the truth is, it can’t happen this way.
Anxiety can create more worry and stress
When we feel the symptoms of anxiety/stress, then this is a message to slow down and cut back on the stress and worry. The trouble is we may worry even more, “Why do I feel like this?”, “What is wrong with me”? Or we may start to worry about how this is affecting our lives and those closest to us.
We may spend all our waking moments trying to fight and think our way better, spending days going over and over how we feel and trying to find a way out of this hell, which in turn brings more mental stress and worry to the mix.
This continuous loop is why so many never find a way out, as they are in the classic anxiety cycle. I wish someone had explained this to me when I first asked for help. Instead, I was just shifted from one doctor to the another, from one counsellor to the next, most of who just felt the need to dig up my past or pass on another outdated technique to manage my anxiety.
I was never given any explanation as to what was wrong with me or how I could recover. This lack of real help is something that needs to change, as the first person you go and see when suffering from anxiety is so crucial to what path you take in your recovery.
I recently saw a message on Twitter that was shared 100 times saying ‘You can never recover from anxiety, you can only manage it’ then another saying ‘Anxiety is a chemical imbalance in the brain and so medication is the only answer’. I honestly can’t believe what I read sometimes, and this is why the internet can be a great resource or a great hindrance, depending on the information you come across.
Recovery from anxiety is within everyone
To finish, I would like to tell every one of you that you can recover, if anyone says otherwise, then trust me they have no true understanding of the subject and are just regurgitating what they have read elsewhere. As long as we know what we need to do to heal, then recovery is there for everyone.
You may also have to look at your life and see what changes you can make to cut down on stress and worry. Anxiety is a huge warning to look after yourself better and practice self-care. Previous to when I suffered, I was a miserable, unfit, chronic worrier who spent all their days getting over hangovers.
During my recovery, I went on to run a half marathon in under two hours, lose four stone, found a love of the outdoors, cut down to just the odd social drink and through studying Buddhism was able to find a whole new outlook towards life where worry and stress became a thing of the past.
If it wasn’t for my anxiety then I would have never made these changes, the anxiety was a huge wake-up call for me to change and for this, I am truly grateful as it helped me become a much happier and calmer person.
Finally, don’t be tempted by any claims to cure you overnight. These people are usually just there to take your money fast. Where there is money to be made, there will be people out there to take advantage of it, and unfortunately, these people prey on desperate people’s need for a quick fix. I don’t and won’t charge for anything more than a book and I don’t give people wild claims or false promises.
If this instant cure truly existed then the whole world would know about it, and doctors’ surgeries would be half empty. If it was out there, then trust me you wouldn’t have to keep searching for it.
True recovery comes through, courage, knowledge and patience; these three things will get you to the place you want to be. Your body and mind is waiting and wanting to recover, believe me, it keeps trying to, but through a lack of understanding, we never allow it to do so.
This lack of understanding is why I wrote by best selling book ‘At Last a Life’ to tell my own story of recovery and give people a far better understanding of their condition. Just explaining a particular symptom can take away so much fear and worry and be the first step to recovery.
Click here to read my ultimate guide to how I overcame anxiety
Read other people’s stories about how they overcame anxiety