Anxiety disorder is the most common mental illness in the US. It affects roughly 18% of adults and 25% of children between 13 and 18 years old in the United States every year.
Despite it being such a common condition (as common as the flu), it still retains a stigma of weakness. This can make it difficult to admit there even is an issue or dare to reach out for help.
When I first started struggling with anxiety in my mid-20s it took me about a year to realize what was even happening. Finding the right kind of support that fit my individual needs after that, also took a while.
I’m in my early 30s now and I’ve overcome my anxiety. Even though it took me about 5 years, every little step on that journey was a huge deal and the quality of my life improved dramatically.
In this article, I want to share the 3 main strategies I used to overcome my anxiety.
1. I Used Medication As A Temporary Support
Once I came to realize that I had a problem, I sought professional help. The first thing they prescribed to treat the anxiety was antidepressants.
Overall I think antidepressants are quite helpful, particularly in the early, more intense stages of fighting with anxiety. They gave me the feeling that there is help out there and that I don’t have to deal with it all on my own.
The medication that was an absolute game changer and a big help for me was prescription tranquilizers such as Xanax.
Prescription tranquilizers are used for short term management of anxiety disorders. In other words, If you are experiencing an anxiety attack, taking one tablet can stop it and relax you within less than an hour.
People are often afraid of taking prescription tranquilizers because they can be very addictive. That’s why doctors are less likely to prescribe it at first, but if your anxiety is getting out of hand, be sure to inform yourself about your options. Medication can support you in your recovery.
At the time knowing that there was something I could take to stop an anxiety attack was a really big deal. It gave me a huge sense of safety and helped regain more control over my mind and body.
Medication is a great help when treating an anxiety disorder, however, it isn’t enough. To truly overcome it, you need to do more.
2. I Limited The Sources Of My Anxiety
Causes for anxiety as well as types and severity of anxiety disorders vary from person to person. Some of the external factors that cause anxiety according to webMD include stress at work, stress from school, marital problems, financial difficulties, a death of a loved one, medical illness, drug use, etc.
Identifying the external factors that might be contributing to your anxiety can help you limit their influence over your life and consequently limit your anxiety.
So if your job is causing you anxiety, best look for a new one. Putting career over one’s mental health can end really badly. It’s enough to look at celebrities like Amy Winehouse or Avicii, who were pushed to perform, even though they both didn’t want to anymore.
The same goes for school issues.
In my architecture studies I’ve had a few verbally abusive professors. They’d scream at students, tear up their work and make girls cry.
They were old and well established at my university, so there was little that could be done about their behaviour.
At some point, I made a decision to skip every second class of one of these professors. Even though it didn’t fully eliminate the verbal abuse, just having to deal with it only half of it, already made a huge difference.
Often it’s going to be impossible to completely eliminate the source of anxiety in your life, but limiting it just a little bit can be a big relief.
In my opinion, a really big external source of anxiety are family issues. Sometimes the people emotionally closest to us can be the ones that do the most damage.
Unfortunately, this was the case for me. My family was the biggest source of my anxiety. Limiting contact with them was absolutely necessary for my recovery.
Small, one-off changes, can be a huge help in this regard.
For example, me deciding to spend Xmas with Gabriel alone, instead of participating in the large family gathering, had a huge positive impact on my mental health.
Saying “No.” and setting boundaries with family can be challenging, but it’s important that you take steps to protect and take care of yourself.
3. I Found A Safe Space To Talk About My Issues
Talking about your anxiety is absolutely necessary to process and overcome it.
It is easy to get lost and overwhelmed with your own thoughts and feelings. There are times when your brain can feel like an endless maze of memories and emotions. It can be really hard to make sense of it.
Conversations force us to formulate the thoughts in our heads and as we do that, we become clearer on what the actual issue at hand is.
In my experience, it is mostly enough to have someone just listen to me, for me to gain clarity on the situation and figure out a solution.
Moreover, having an outsider listen to your problems, can help you look at the issue from their point of view.
Gaining an outsider’s perspective can really clarify your situation.
It’s easy to blame yourself for someone else’s toxic behaviours in your own head.
Telling someone about an abusive incident can really help to see the injustice and put the responsibility where it belongs.
For example, when one of my professors first screamed at me and tore up my architectural model, I felt that it was my fault because my design wasn’t good enough.
However, after talking about it to some of my classmates, I realised that he did it to everyone. No matter how much work you had put into the assignments, he would always find reasons to shout and destroy people’s work.
This made me realize his reaction had nothing to do with me. That professor was just an abusive person, letting out his anger at every single student in his class.
Overcoming anxiety is a long and complicated process. However, every little step on the way to recovery can really change things for the better.
Although pervasive, mental health issues are still stigmatized in our society. This can make it hard for you to ask for help.
That’s why it’s important to remember that you’re not alone with it.
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What are your ways of dealing with anxiety?
Let me know in the comments below.
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