I’m hard pressed to think of something more invalidating and disheartening than the thought of anxiety being one with me, one in the same. Anxiety in Disguise, is the next trick, the next lie that we will cover in this series.
Anxiety is not only an “in your face” type of thing; having no problems in trying to head you off at every turn with another demoralizing mindset, but it’s also tricky and can disguise itself. We’ve talked before about how anxiety will try to protect you, making you think that it has your best interests at heart. This is, of course, a lie, there is nothing good that can come from dwelling anxiety and it never, ever, has your best interests at heart. It takes away your self-confidence and lives to serve only itself.
Another way that it tries to disguise itself is to try to make you think that “you are your anxiety” and “your anxiety is you”.
Take notice of the word “try” in this post and throughout this series, because it’s important to understand that anxiety tries to do many things to us, but it doesn’t automatically have to make us feel a certain way. It doesn’t have to drive our thoughts 24/7, even though it makes us think that it should.
- We are not one with anxiety.
- It is not part of our DNA.
- You are not wired to feel anxious all the time.
- It’s not just, “why you are the way that you are”.
If we cannot separate ourselves from anxiety, we give it power by feeding it. Not only does anxiety feed on itself, but when we give it power by dwelling on it, it can go into overdrive.
How do we separate ourselves from anxiety? By taking a step back in the heat of the moment and not letting our emotions take control and define our thoughts. Anxiety loves to live solely in emotional mind simply because that’s where it gets its power.
When you are in the middle of a panic attack or a stressful situation of some kind, what do we tend to do? Dwell on it, right? Letting our emotions run wild with every catastrophizing, demoralizing, and extreme thought that we can possibly come up. We feel stuck, frozen, scared, and sometimes completely paralyzed.
That’s why it’s so important to be able to separate ourselves from the emotions running wild in every direction and break down each situation for what is. Use the rational mind that you have, the one that anxiety doesn’t want you to think that you have, and understand that no matter what anxiety is trying to tell…it’s a lie.
Just like we have to separate ourselves from a stressful or panic situation, we also have to understand that we are separate from our anxiety. Our very being and the emotion of anxiety, are not one in the same.
As survivors of abuse, we often feel like we are defined by our past, thinking that it’s part of who we are and we have no hope of ever getting out of its invalidating grasp. It’s hard enough to work through the trauma that may have defined us for a long time, and then anxiety tries to use that to its advantage as well. Whether you are a survivor or not, anxiety will use everything it can to get hold of you and stick around for as long as possible.
How do we separate ourselves from it then, how do we break free from this lie that “we are our past” or “we are our anxiety”?
Ask yourself these 3 questions, and then follow it up with two affirmations:
- What is Happening? A simple question, yes, but an important one. Actually, take the time to ask yourself what is happening to me right now. By doing this you immediately begin taking some power away from anxiety because you are questioning it and the emotional state that it’s trying to draw you into.
- Why do I feel this way? Now that you know what is happening, ask yourself why you are feeling this way. Is it because you are just tired and didn’t sleep well? Is it because you are about to take a big exam? Perhaps there is some stress at home, or at work. Perhaps it’s a combination of things that have transpired in your life. Whatever it is, understand what the root cause is. This helps you give a reason for what’s happening, not just simply “I’m doomed and anxiety has me again”.
- What skills do I have to help myself? Understand that you have been through a stressful situation before, that you have likely survived worse situations previously, and embrace the fact that you are still here. You have more power than you think, and certainly more power than anxiety wants you to think that you have. If you’ve got skills, the emotion-filled state of a stressful situation can cause you to forget how powerful YOU are.
Write down those skills, put them on post-it notes around your house, on your phone, in your car, at your workstation. Any place where you can refer to them when needed, and reaffirm your amazing resiliency even when you aren’t in crisis.
Lastly, embrace these two important mindsets:
- I AM WORTH IT
- I HAVE HOPE
Those are two things that survivors of abuse have a very difficult time embracing. Whether it was a one-time trauma or years of repeated abuse, feeling like we are worth anything can be extremely difficult. Embracing hope? Well, that’s no walk in the park either. Believe me, I know all too well what it feels like to my friend, as anxiety has tried on countless occasions to crush my hope and my self-worth. It’s a battle, but I can tell you that I am starting to win more of these battles, and you can too!
Even if it feels foreign, and it likely will especially early on in the fight against anxiety and overcoming the past abuse, it’s important to say these things over and over and also to surround yourself with those who will support and validate you and the work you are doing on your own behalf. I AM WORTH IT – I HAVE HOPE.
By empowering ourselves and not being ashamed to reach out for support, we can break that trend, that cycle of anxiety’s role in our lives.
You have the Power. You can do it!