I used to think that if I was perfectly put together, if I had said and done all the right things that day, and if my personal relationships were good, my life would be in order and things were going to be alright. When I wasn’t perfectly put together, or I questioned something I did or said, or I felt as though a friend or loved one was upset with me, my anxiety would rise and I would worry constantly about what others thought about me and what I needed to do to feel better. The obvious answer was to get those people to tell me they like me, that I didn’t do or say anything wrong, that it’s ok to be me. That was the answer to relieving my anxiety. That was the way to feel better.
I lived in this thought process for years, believing if I can just control how people see me and how they think about me, I can control my anxiety. Then, through my own work, I asked myself “What would my life be like if I focused on controlling my anxiety to be able to feel happy and safe, rather than trying to control everything and everyone around me?” What I found was my self-esteem improved, my happiness improved, the expectations of myself decreased, and my personal relationships were much healthier.
Anxiety is all about control. Too often we try to control the things around us to control our anxiety. What we really need to be able to do is learn the coping skills that work for us individually to be able to handle what life gives us. If we are able to do this, our need, driven by fear, to control the external will decrease.
The focus of external control is different for each person with anxiety. For example, you may focus on controlling your work environment because you feel out of control in your home life. Or you may feel if you are able to keep your home in pristine condition, everything else is manageable. Wherever your need for control lies, your feelings are normal for someone with anxiety.
What you may not know is the brain of someone with anxiety processes differently from someone without anxiety. It affects the decision-making process. For someone without anxiety, they will be able to naturally process a situation without the “what ifs, I shoulds, I can’t, I must, or you’re not smart enough, or you’re a failure” automatic thoughts. Learning how to process these thoughts, as someone without anxiety does naturally, will help you gain control over your anxiety.
You may seem defeated or scared or believe this is just the way it’s supposed to be. You are not alone. All of your thoughts and physical feelings, such as nausea, shaking, heart racing, and overall panic are normal.
Find Peace and Control
Through therapy, you will learn what your major triggers are, how to challenge your automatic thoughts, and what coping skills work for you to reduce your anxiety. Most importantly, you will learn how to manage your anxiety so it doesn’t control you.