The bad news is you probably won’t get rid of your anxiety. The good news is you can cope with it and live a satisfying life. The mental health industry is brimming with self-help books, wellness spas, and countless products that promise to treat your mental health issues: from essential oils to Himalayan salt lamps and organic relaxation tea. While there’s no harm in trying these products (after substantial research, of course), your own expectations could eventually harm your psyche.
Wouldn’t it be convenient if there’s an off-button for our feelings? Imagine if a cold shower can wash away your negative thoughts? Unfortunately, anxiety remains a complex disorder that requires a multimodal treatment approach. If sniffing lavender can heal your anxious mind completely, then you are probably just a little stressed out not a person with a full-blown disorder.
You can’t live a life without anxiety
Not only it is unattainable, but it is also unhealthy, says Janet Singer, an OCD awareness advocate. All our emotions serve a purpose. Anxiety has a cognitive function. It is a psychological and sociological phenomenon. It’s what keeps you hypervigilant while walking on an empty street at night. Though anxiety and fear serve an important function, they also have their downsides, especially in humans―the only creatures with self-reflective consciousness and the ability to distinguish between fantasy and reality. But like a computer, your mind can malfunction.
In computer terms, it’s both a hardware problem (I’m wired badly) and a software problem (I run faulty logic programs that make me think anxious thoughts).
―Scott Stossel, My Age of Anxiety
In a Mental Health Foundation survey, 1 in 5 people admitted feeling anxious ‘a lot of the time’ and ‘nearly all the time.’ The survey also revealed that the most common source of anxiety is ‘finance, money, and debt.’ While anxiety is an important aspect of our humanity, persistent stress can lead to the development of anxiety disorders.
Getting rid of anxiety: the only way out is through
Awareness is the first step to beating anxiety. We can’t kill it, but we can beat it. Until it stops bothering us or loses its power over us. Acknowledge that there is a problem and recognize triggers and patterns. Avoidance seems to be the easy way out, but it won’t get you far. Pretending your negative emotions don’t exist might work for a while until they come back to haunt you in full-battle gear. Daniel Wegner’s early investigation suggested that suppressing thoughts have paradoxical effects. Attempting to put a negative thought out of your mind will most likely make it come back. Our brains’ survival wiring will prioritize these thoughts, keep them intact, and remind your conscious mind that they are available. Basically, it makes you more prone to unwanted intrusive thoughts.
Sean has lived with social anxiety disorder all his life. After getting a diagnosis and taking antidepressants, he has had anxiety-free days but a kind of ‘empty” feeling most days. He described it as feeling neither happy nor sad. Thinking that none of these treatments could work for his condition made him even more anxious.
I vividly remember sitting in my bedroom, upset, anxious as hell and worried about being like that the rest of my life. I thought about my 30’s 40’s and beyond and couldn’t see passed feeling anxious my whole life. After all, if I’d felt like this my whole life, why would the rest of my life be any different?―Sean Clarke, Projectenergise
He finally found some clarity after realizing that anxiety is a part of his life. He channeled these thoughts into sketching, video creation, and helping people with the same problem. His brainchild Projectenergise aims to share his story and inspire other people to find a way to focus their energy in fulfilling their passions.
You have no power over me: disarming anxiety
There are many people like Sean. People who decided to find treatment for their anxious minds and supplement this treatment with useful strategies to reduce their symptoms. The key here is doing something. Anything. Besides sitting idly and waiting for the next antidepressant that won’t make you fat.
However, some doctors argue that you don’t always need to ruminate about defeating your anxiety. They claim that a negative thought could dissipate on its own if you are not too preoccupied in fighting it. Again, we already discussed that anxiety is a complex disease, and what works for some people might not work for you. Sometimes it’s just a matter of experimenting (cautiously) with different methods and techniques to find something that finally works.
Your therapist won’t mind if you buy coloring books or anxiety journals, but do consult him or her before taking supplements, medications, and other pharmaceutical products, as these things can interact with other medications or cause harmful side effects. If you are looking for common approved medications for anxiety and other products that could help reduce your symptoms, we’ll discuss them in the next topics.
Chu, T. (2014) Human Purpose and Transhuman Potential: A Cosmic Vision of Our Future Evolution. San Rafael, CA: Origin Press
Stossel, S. (2015) My age of anxiety: fear, hope, dread, and the search for peace of mind. New York: Vintage Books
Swift, P., Cyhlarova, E., Goldie, I., & O’Sullivan, C. (2014) Living with Anxiety: Understanding the role and impact of anxiety in our lives. Mental Health Foundation
Wegner, D.M., Schneider, D.J., Carter, S. & White, T. (1987). Paradoxical effects of thought suppression. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53, 5–13.
Thornton, P. Anxiety Won’t Kill You. Anxiety and Depression Association of America (https://adaa.org/learn-from-us/from-the-experts/blog-posts/consumer/anxiety-wont-kill-you)
Clarke, S. My Story. (https://projectenergise.com/my-story/)