Do the thing that terrifies you

Anxiety is my arch-nemesis. Every time I think I’ve finally wrangled it under control, I’ll have a difficult string of days in which all of my progress seems to have slipped backward. All the way backward, to where I started. Anxiety is not something that’ll go away -- over night, over years, whatever. It’ll take time to manage it, but even then, it’ll be just that: managing itIt can be hard to stay positive when you know you’re fighting an uphill battle, but I’m the stubborn sort. I don’t like failing, and I don’t like letting outside influences boss me around. Or inside influences, I guess, like my anxiety. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with saying Yes more often. It's really difficult, but it's working.

Here’s the thing with anxiety… The more you say No, the more anxiety is winning. When you create lists of all the things that could go wrong in your mind and then refuse to do something, you are then validating that list of negativity. Trust me, I’ve been there, staring at 3AM ceilings and circling the drain of panic. You know how you fix that? DO THE THING ANYWAY. I know it’s scary. Seriously, I do. When I was 17, I was so anxious that I’d have panic attacks when going on short walks, a block from my home. Not a good sign. But the more I did things that made me anxious -- the more I waded into those deep waters of possible-panic-scenarios -- the easier they became. After a while, that is. Things didn’t change over night. Nothing ever changes over night, so be patient with yourself. You're trying.

Nowadays, even when I’m knee deep in anxiety, I try to say Yes to more. I do things -- things I want to do -- and I survive them. I more than survive them on some days. It gets better, then it gets worse, then it gets better again. Sometimes I don’t experience any anxiety, and I try to ride that thrilling feeling for as long as possible! Other times, it’s harder, and I have to keep lying to myself about not being nervous, about feeling fine and having fun (“it’s all goooooOoOOOOoood” is my mantra) until, eventually, those nerves dissipate.

Say Yes to things. Reclaim your life and don’t let anxiety win, ever. If you suffer from anxiety (or really any sort of mental illness), know that recovery is not a perfectly up-trending trajectory -- there will be good days, there will be bad days, there will be worse days, and there will be amazing days. Keep progressing and fighting for yourself. Also know it’s totally okay to cry for no reason sometimes. It can help, but look out for those post-hysteria headaches.

Find coping mechanisms that work for you during times of stress. When I have a plan to circumvent the worst of it, I feel more in control of my life. And since all of my anxiety stems from fear of losing control…yeah, it helps. For me, cold water (drinking it, running my hands under it) helps. So does listening to good music (on pre-made playlists), and -- when it’s really rough -- using sea bands on my wrists (seriously they do wonder if you feel sick to your stomach, which anxiety tends to cause because SURE WHY NOT) helps settle me down.

What's one thing you’d love to do that anxiety’s been holding you back from? Go do the thing!

This post was originally published on erica.patchwork-press.com.

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