Thursday, August 15, 2013

What will they think of me?

I used to have a difficult time going places because I was afraid I would not be able to handle the situation.  I was afraid of having a panic attack in public.  My anxiety got so bad that, eventually, I could not go anywhere alone.
Even the grocery store was a major problem.  And what was I afraid of?  I was afraid that I would freak out, run out of the store crying, and leave all my groceries in the middle of an aisle.  What if someone I knew was there?  What if people saw me crying?  What would they think of me?

On the “Attacking Anxiety and Depression” tapes I have been listening to, the speakers talk a lot about panic attacks.

Over and over they reminded me that “a panic attack will not hurt me”.  In the moment, however, an anxiety attack feels like the end of the world.  Panic is one of the worst feelings I have ever experienced in my whole life.  But, something for you and I to remember is, no matter how bad it feels, a panic attack will not hurt you.  No one has ever died of a panic attack.  And neither will you and neither will I.  You will not die, or have a heart attack or stroke.  It is just anxiety.

What is the absolute worst thing that can happen to you when you are having a panic attack?

For me, the worst possible thing was making a fool of myself.  I was so afraid of what people thought of me.  I had to keep up a certain appearance.  I wanted people to think I had it all together.

Would my family and friends look down on me and treat me different if they knew I struggled with anxiety?

Here is reality; no one is paying that much attention to you.

I thought that everyone was so focused on me, watching my every move, and talking about me behind my back.

But the truth is – everyone is too concerned with what is going on in their own lives to focus on yours.  Seriously, no one is looking that deep into your soul that they can see what you are grappling inside.

To help you get in touch with reality; think about how you look at other people.  Are you really spending that much time dwelling on someone else’s life?  I doubt it.  You’ll forget about them as soon as you leave the room or something else catches your attention.  I know I don’t look at other people in the way I am afraid – I’m too concern with my own life!

Even if someone would notice you…so you are the center of their attention for mere minutes, no big deal.  They are not going to judge you as harshly as you think.  Let’s say they do judge you (for the sake of thoroughness); who cares what they think anyway?  If someone judges you or says mean things about you, then they are not worth your time.  If someone treats you disrespectfully, they have bigger issues within themselves.  Their comments say more about them, then it does about you.

It was an enlightening moment for me when I realized that no one cares.  This realization (and lots of practice) helped me to better cope with my anxiety.

Practice is important because you can’t wait until your anxiety goes away.  Many times, I told myself, “I will go to store when my anxiety goes away” or “I will go out with my friends when my anxiety finally goes away”.  But in all honesty, your anxiety will never go away unless you put yourself in those situations that give you anxiety.

You can’t wait until you are perfect to start living.

Practice by putting yourself into the situations that give you anxiety.  But do this slowly and in a controlled environment.  Set yourself up for success.  On a day you generally feel good (don’t plan too far ahead otherwise you’ll get anxious about it), decide to do something that causes you anxiety.  For me, it was going to the store.  Maybe for you it is difficult to drive, go out with friends, stay at a hotel, get your hair cut, or anything.   Whatever it may be, choose to be proactive and make yourself do it.  Make sure you are in control and have an “out” in case things go badly.  The more you practice the easier the situations will become.

Remember: if it is worth it, then push yourself through those difficult emotions.  Facing your fears, at first, might cause you more anxiety.  But don’t despair, this is a natural response, and it will get better.

And also remember: you will never be free from anxiety or stressful situation.  How you deal with the stress is what makes the difference between a healthy, peaceful life or an anxious, miserable life.

After you practice confronting your anxiety head on, then, give yourself praise for your accomplishments.

The more you do something and the more you survive it, the more confidence you will gain.

To conclude, I leave you with some of the best advice I found for dealing with anxiety.  I call them the Seven Steps to Calm:

1. Slow down – stop what you are doing or slow way down
2. Recognize – realize that you are experiencing anxiety
3. Permission – tell yourself that you are allowed to be feeling the way you are feeling
4. Breathe – take intentional breaths for a period of time
5. Positive Talk – “I’m OK.  I can do this.  I am strong.  I am in control.”
6. Just Anxiety – anxiety will NOT hurt you
7. Smile – find something to laugh at about the situation

Thanks for reading.  Have a nourishing day!

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