Even if you don’t have an actual anxiety disorder, chances are you’ve experienced anxiety at some point in your life. There’s a ton of advice out there on how to cope with it, but unfortunately, a lot of it can be misleading or just plain wrong. Following this bad advice can make your anxiety worse, and it’ll only prolong the effects of the way you’re feeling.
Look at these five ways you may be making your own anxiety worse.
1. Avoiding it
How many times have you seen someone you know coming down the aisle at Wal-Mart and you’ve turned and gone the other way? Avoiding others can feel like a full-time job when we’re out and about if you don’t want to talk to them.
Unfortunately, you can’t treat anxiety like that kid from high school you wish you could never see again. Most times, if you’re avoiding your anxiety, you’re doing yourself a disservice.
One of the most important ways of coping with anxiety is learning “emotional tolerance”. When we learn to observe an emotion we face with compassion and not judgement or coming down hard on ourselves, we’re able to react appropriately and feel “in control” of it.
2. Avoiding all situations that cause anxiety
Like depression, anxiety can lie to you. Normally, your body tells you things like, “Something is coming up that I’d better prepare for,” or, “You don’t know what to expect tomorrow.”
Lying happens when your body says, “Avoid social situations so you don’t feel so anxious,” or, “Don’t try anything you can fail at because that’s what’ll keep you happy.”
If you listen to your anxiety, in most cases, you’ll end up missing opportunities, isolating yourself from your friends, and just become more and more afraid of anxiety-provoking situations. Exposing yourself to these situations helps build tolerance.
3. Beating yourself up for feeling bad
How many times have you felt anxious for feeling anxious? How about ashamed? Frustrated? We tell ourselves that we’re not coping properly, or that we’re just weak. Give yourself permission to feel anxious.
Not giving yourse
lf permission to feel anxious won’t make it go away, it’ll just make you feel ashamed.
4. Making it something it’s not
Just as bad as never acknowledging anxiety is over-thinking it and convincing yourself you have an anxiety disorder. It’s easy to self-diagnose yourself, especially when you feel socially awkward or anxious in a situation. That doesn’t mean you have anxiety. It means that you’re different, and that’s okay.
5. Dreading It
Do you ever find yourself feeling anxious just thinking about the next time you’re going to feel anxious? What happens when you get so anxious that you have a panic attack? What happens if people notice? How will you cope? Are you feeling the thoughts coming up inside you yet?
There’s a major problem with this thought process. It keeps you from being able to enjoy the present moment, because you’re focused on something in the future that may never happen.
It’s important to remind yourself that most of life is out of your control. Allow yourself to enjoy the moment.
Remember, anxiety isn’t something you can just make go away. It takes, time, practice and sometimes professional help. And that’s okay. As you encounter anxiety in life, remember it’s okay to not be okay. Give yourself some grace and understanding.