Most of us who experience anxiety and panic on a regular basis want to get rid of it, cure ourselves of it, or, at least, deny it and pretend it is not there. We imagine a life where we never feel anxious and it seems perfect and problem-free. If only we could find the perfect drug or supplement, the best technique or therapist, then we would be “fixed.” Then we would be content. I get that feeling and spent a good part of the past 15 years practically killing myself to accomplish this goal.
What we need to realize is by thinking this way, we often set ourselves up for failure. I would like to offer a different approach, a different way of thinking: What if we accept and embrace our anxiety and panic and decide to thrive anxiously?
We could decide to thrive with our anxiety and panic, not despite of.
Stick with me here. I realize this seems ridiculous- who would choose to partner with their anxiety? Yet I see this as one of the greatest acts of self-care and self-love that one can make. Recently, while meditating, I was struck with the idea that anxiety and panic, at some level, may be a part of my experience for the rest of my life and I may have been looking at this “disorder” all these years from the wrong perspective. I was overwhelmed with the idea that my panic attacks and general anxiety have been my teacher and, at times, my guide. How many times have I felt anxiety or panic come on for no reason and then later realized that the situation I was in was not healthy for me?
Here is what I know from my experience: our bodies are continually sending us signals as to what we need in the moment, if only we can allow ourselves to listen. If we tune in to our bodies, we will often find that they are more in tune with our surroundings, our situations and our needs than our minds are. If you are like me, you have had to learn this the difficult way, through years of unnecessary struggle.
If you are having panic attacks every time you spend time with a certain person, listen to it. Maybe that relationship is not in your (or their) best interest. If you feel intense anxiety going to work each day, maybe your body is giving you permission to find new work. Maybe not, but take the time to listen. Journal. Meditate. Sit in silence with your thoughts and feelings. Self-inquiry can be difficult, but can prevent a lot of heartache down the road.
I invite you to give this perspective a try. It may not be for you, but what do you have to lose? So, what is your anxiety teaching you today?
Photo credit: Carsten Howitz, Howitz Photography