Hi my name is Leigha and I have suffered with anxiety my entire life. If you were to look at me and meet me, you would not have a clue that I am crumbling apart before your eyes. The situations that trigger my anxiety the most are social situations like parties, meetings, public speaking, meeting new people and pretty much anything involving another human being (insane I know). Firstly, I feel that it is imperative that I explain in depth how Anxiety used to hinder my life, in order to show you my breaking point which actually became my starting point. Secondly, I want to explain the tools that I started to use daily to cope with anxiety and decrease its intensity almost immediately. I went from being unable to even leave my house most days, to initiating group outings and making a ton of meaningful connections with others! Lastly, I will show you how to cope with anxiety in a way that specifically works for your personal situation. We all have different triggers and different levels of anxiety so it was important for me to make these tools work for everyone! So let’s get started!
At a very young age, I had recognized that I always seemed to be very nervous and apprehensive when it came to dealing with people. My mother tried her best to put me in extra curricular activities to try to break me out of my shell but she quickly realized, this was not your average “she’s just really shy” case. I always wanted to be alone and made it clear that being a part of group outings was not something I enjoyed or even tolerated. As I got in to my pre-teen era, it just kept getting worse. This nervousness grew in to being completely intimidated by EVERYONE. In my eyes, everyone was better than me and that made me accept a title I never truly deserved. I felt worthless. I truly believed I just needed to escape life everyday and hide just to cope with my feelings. My anxiety found comfort in the arms of low self esteem and those two were inseparable. I began to get physically ill with anxiety in high school. It got to the point where it wasn’t just emotional, it was physical and I could not hide or even understand at that age what was wrong with me. My nerves would make my stomach feel nauseous just at the thought of going to school. I missed so many important celebrations in my life all because I started to refuse to participate in it. Imagine not even living your own life? I became depressed and as I got older, it just was snow balling out of control. I was taking paths in life that catered to my anxiety. I realized I kept myself hostage, a prisoner of my own mind and I was depriving myself of life itself. I finally realized I have lost myself and that was where I hit an all time low point in my life. Once you hit rock bottom…the only way out…is up.
I could not cope with anxiety for another day, not this way, not with hiding and avoiding life! I finally said enough is enough and I decided to be honest with myself and everyone around me.
I admitted to myself that I have a mental health issue. I realized that I spent a good portion of my life making up excuses to myself and that had to end immediately. I then went on to tell my close family and friends that I suffer daily with extreme Anxiety and that I have a hard time being able to bring myself to social gatherings because of it. I was honest about how horrifying special occasions and celebrations were for me. I felt embarrassed at first but then something amazing happened. My family and friends didn’t think less of me, they actually supported and applauded me for finally sharing myself with them. Even though I felt broken, they saw me as whole. Even though I felt like I wasn’t enough, they said they always wanted more of me. Even though I was intimidated by them, they were so impressed and proud of me. My heart started to clear the dust off and beat again.
Start paying attention to your thoughts! We think on average about 60, 000 thoughts per day. So imagine the impact that having 59,000 of those thoughts being worries. You would be slowly poisoning your mind with useless, illegitimate circumstances that will never happen and you would create stress over nothing. Learn what your thought process is. Once you feel yourself going in a direction that leads you to feeling like you cannot cope with anxiety, a) recognize what thought you are having b) If it is negative stop that thought immediately and change it to positive even if you have to lie to yourself. For example: I am so horrified that I will mess up my speech in class on Monday. Change it to: I will do so well when performing my speech in class on Monday c) Do not let yourself create scenarios, it is POINTLESS. Life is going to play out in it’s own creative way that you could never anticipate or plan for, so please do not waste your precious time. Recognize that YOU OWN YOUR THOUGHTS. Your first thought is instinct but your second thought is the thought that you can grab a hold of and control it’s direction. Once you start being aware of your thoughts, you will be able to re-program your thought process and diminish these negative, anxious thoughts completely. Be accountable for what you put in your head!
Baby steps! Let yourself do something once a week that the old you was hesitant to do and avoided. Go on a coffee date with a few people you feel you could relate to or connect with. Go to that work Christmas party and be excited for it. Let yourself imagine the fun time that you will have and make it a point to spark up a conversation with a co-worker that you haven’t gotten to know that well yet. Give yourself permission to be yourself with others. You are good enough as you are. You will connect with like minded people If you get out there and show people who you candidly, really are! People appreciate me so much more now that I have allowed myself to simply be myself! I am not trying to be more than what I am, less than what I am…I am easily and naturally me and if we don’t vibe, I can’t stress over that because there are 7 billion people on Earth! Come on!
In conclusion, I have come extremely far with coping with Anxiety. I went from avoiding life in general, to being a social butterfly who goes out on a whim when asked. I now enjoy the things that used to scare me because they would challenge me. I recognized that challenging myself equaled to growing out of my old habits and in to my new strengthened mind. I became the gate keeper to my thoughts and I do not let any negativity slide in. Life is so very precious and you deserve peace. Give yourself permission to have peace and let your mind ease. Your life is worth living, you are worth loving and you have a purpose! Be kind to yourself from this day forward and give Anxiety it’s formal eviction notice tonight! Decide to work on you and make it a daily ritual to see your strengths and not your worries. Choose happiness always and lastly know that you are so worthy of this life.