22 Unexpected Things That Relax People Who Live With Anxiety (1)

22 Unexpected Things That Relax People Who Live With Anxiety

When struggling with a mental illness like anxiety, sometimes traditional methods of relaxation simply don’t work in the way we want them to. You may be familiar with the times I’m talking about. You know, those times when exercise and mindfulness apps just don’t seem to cut it?

We know how difficult it can be to relax when anxiety is making you anything but calm. Sometimes, it feels like you’ve exhausted every relaxation technique in your coping arsenal, but still can’t find any relief. To give you some fresh ideas, we asked members of our mental health community to share the unexpected things that relax them when struggling with anxiety.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. “Driving helps me relax. I like the way I have to concentrate on the road, so I don’t retreat into my head.” — Jenny B.

2. “Listening to audio books and podcasts. [They] help me focus on a story and a voice and [they] relax my brain.” — Savannah K.

3. “Heavy metal music! [When] I close my eyes and listen, suddenly everything around me is moving as fast as the music, and faster than my thoughts. It helps me drown it all out.” — Tim F.

4. “I have a stuffed animal from my childhood that I carry around my house with me and pet when I feel anxious. It gives me something to do with my hands while my brain is racing.” — Erin S.

5.Imagining myself surrounded by a white, reflective, protective light. I give it the intention to not let in any negativity energy, only positivity, love and light.” — Jen D.

6. “I cook to clear my mind. Some of my best creations in the kitchen stem from a busy mind… Being in the kitchen brings me back to center and brings me peace.” — Amanda L.

7. “Video games are my go-to, but when I can’t focus on those, cross stitch has become a very helpful hobby.” — Chazz S.

8. “I sing to myself, especially when in public places, like the grocery store. People find it odd, because they think it would increase my anxiety. Music has always been something soothing to me, and singing to myself helps keep [my] heart rate down, and gives me something to focus on in anxiety-inducing situations.” — Rebekah B.

9.During a panic attack, I count the change in my pocket. The noise of the coins and counting grounds me.” — Kimberly D.

10. “Puzzles help me a lot because [they] give me something to focus on, something to work towards and a sense of completion afterwards.” — Keeli B.

11. “Cleaning. Mess and chaos make me more anxious, but once I start cleaning and getting a lot done, I feel very relaxed and like a big weight is off my shoulders.” — Jessica A.

12. “Drinking something very cold or very hot. The surprising temperature of the drink makes me be mindful of it and takes me out of the worry of the moment. It’s a little trick a therapist taught me once.” — Christina S.

13. “For me, it’s doing shoulder stands. I guess it’s just the feel of seeing everything in a different perspective that relaxes me.” — Cain W.

14. “Playing ‘The Sims.’ In a world where I have complete control, I can relax. For a few hours, I can be at peace and breathe. Because even though my life is spinning out of control, at least I can control something.” — Sara O.

15. “Going to work. I tend to have a bit of anxiety right before going, but once I’m there, it all fades away.” — Heather K.

16. “I watch Korean dramas when I want to relax. I totally get absorbed into them, and it gives me that break away from overanalyzing and gives me time to get back to a calmer state of mind.” — Molly C.

17. Having my eyebrows waxed! I love the gentle music [at] the beautician’s, [and] the fact that they don’t know who I am, apart from [being] the lady that goes in every three weeks to have her eyebrows waxed. I just lie there and relax for 10 minutes.” — Louise C.

18. “Holding a frozen orange. It’s very grounding and makes me focus on the ball of coldness in my hands. My heart rate goes down, and my thoughts slow down enough for me to reach out to my support team if I feel I need them.” — Sarah C.

19. “Counting in a random sequence. Like, 16, 4, 8, 22, etc. It makes your brain work harder to concentrate, which I find helpful to occupy my mind. This also helps calm racing thoughts when you can’t get to sleep at night.” — Grant J.

20. “Talking to my potted plants [on] the balcony, while observing every little pattern on different leaves, overturning little bits of moist soil — pretty soothing. Weird, but helps me divert. Sometimes, [I] forget what even got me anxious.” — Ananya S.

21. “For some reason, walking to the gas station for a fountain drink. When I didn’t live close to a gas station, it was walking to the grocery store. It just helps me feel better to take a walk, maybe listen to some music and get a drink. With no caffeine of course.” — Ian R.

22. “Doing my makeup even when I’ve got nowhere to go. It’s like doing art on my face, I can express my feelings and sometimes even end up looking nicer.” — Elaine K.

What would you add?


blonde woman playing with hair in anxious manner

How My Blindness Triggers My Anxiety Disorder

I have been questioning my self-diagnosis of social anxiety and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) for the past three years, and I have yet to do something about it.

Every time I have a panic attack, I tell myself it was just a one-time episode and that it will get better. And I know it will, I just also know I need to get help in order for that to happen.

I was in counseling for signs of depression for a year and a half at my university until I decided I was “better,” and then my anxiety just got worse.

At first, it was just moments in time where I froze when put into situations that made me uncomfortable, followed by uncontrollable crying, and then it worsened into hyperventilation, and that feeling like I was going to pass out, or my heart would explode. It is a debilitating feeling.

I remember one time, in my freshman year of college, the guy I was dating asked me to meet him somewhere on campus. It was a place I had never been before, and everything in my body told me to stay away. I refused to go inside, which only frustrated him. “I’m right inside the door,” he said. But I was shaking. I could not open the door. The situation made me feel unsafe. Even though it was safe, my mind told me otherwise. This sent me into a hyperventilation episode ending in tears, so I hid in the bathroom for a while. I felt terribly embarrassed. I did not understand what was happening. I was ashamed and never told the guy what happened.

College is a time when you find new independence, where everything is new, and for me, I had to learn to adapt to my surroundings all over again as a legally blind person. Well first, I had to come to terms that I did have a disability, and then I realized my disability was the root of my recent anxiety diagnosis. Too many “what ifs” involve the limitations of my abilities and that was hard to explain to others because I knew no one would understand.

“What if I don’t see them?”

“What if I go to the wrong car?”

“What if I look stupid?”

“What if…”

The list goes on, and while it makes me uncomfortable to even be saying these daily thoughts of mine, I feel as though it is the only way to show others that this anxiety I feel is more than just something I “will get over.” There is so much stigma with the word anxiety because everyone gets nervous, and everyone does not want to do things, but when it interferes with your life it is more than just a feeling. It is a real problem.

For me, I automatically assume a new place is unsafe until positive things happen there, which slowly builds my confidence and calms my mind. This is the difference between an anxious person and a non-anxious person; people without anxiety do not worry until something bad happens (usually). Let me also put it this way. A non-disabled person can usually get up and go to the store if he or she wishes. I cannot. I must always be thinking three steps ahead, so I generally always have anxious thoughts in my head about the unknown in any given situation. That is my normal. It’s a problem when those thoughts in my head get too loud and cause me to have a panic attack.

There were many times within the past two years that I had to bail on friends because of a panic attack, and at the time I could not tell anyone — I didn’t know how. I did not mean to look like I did not want to hang out with them. Truth is I wanted to, and I did not know what was happening to my body, but I know now.

There was another time my now-husband and I were going to hang out with some friends — well, he was going to hang out with one, and they were going to give me a ride to another friend’s — and I just could not do it. There were too many variables in the situation, too many “what ifs” to consider, and I just froze. My heart raced, I was shaking and I tried to suppress the panic attack. I sent him off and I stayed home. As soon as he left I remember hyperventilating and crying. Why was I like this? Why couldn’t I just go out and have fun like everyone else? I was afraid of going into a situation and not knowing if I could get out comfortably.

I became emotionally exhausted with these worries. I could not go out with my own friends, yet alone make new friends.

I remember one day when my husband came home from class and said “you have social anxiety disorder,” I did not believe him. But as I read about it, I saw this was true.

I am great at one-on-one conversations and close friendships, but when it comes to being around groups of my peers, it takes all of my strength to speak out. Social anxiety is the fear of social situations among one’s peers. This is how I am able to teach or to get up and speak in front of younger people, but not in any of my college classes.

My anxiety has two faces: the part that results from my disability, and the part that comes out around other people. I could no longer go out with friends, and that scared me to death because I love people. I had to do something, despite one part of me also feeling anxious about going to the doctor.

When you go to the doctor about a mental health issue, you fill out a questionnaire about how you have felt the past two weeks — questions like feeling anxious, or withdrawn, your ability to sleep and your desire to self-harm. Then the doctor comes in and discusses your answers, your life and tries to come up with a solution.

I did not want to try any heavy medication, but I knew I wanted to try something.

The doctor was very supportive and in agreement about not putting me on an addicting medication, or something I was afraid would totally change who I am. She prescribed me an SSRI. I tried it for one month, but it did not help me if I was about to have a panic attack. I also found it made me yawn excessively. I know, you might think that is funny or odd, but these yawns were my entire body seeking oxygen. It was uncomfortable and did not help me in anxious situations. So I went back.

This time she prescribed me with a beta blocker. A beta blocker is meant to slow your heart rate, and that is exactly what I needed in my situations. It is meant to be taken just before an anxiety-provoking situation. So I tried it for a week, and it was so nice not to feel like my heart was going to burst out of my chest. It was nice to be able to breathe when I felt like speaking up in a group setting.

No, I do not want to be on medication my whole life, but it has helped. Some people can get help with their anxiety through counseling, and some through medication. I chose to try medication after having tried therapy, and it has worked for me and that is what matters.

I should not feel worried about what people will think of me if they find out I take medicine for my anxiety. But I did. Even though society has come a long way in accepting that mental health is as important as physical health, there is still judgment in this world surrounding medication for mental health. But if you take medication for a cold, you should be able to take medicine for mental health.

It is easy for people to say anxiety or depression is “all in your head,” but the truth is that mental symptoms are actually physical, too. When I am having a panic attack it includes an increased heart rate. When someone is having suicidal thoughts, it can be traced back to a chemical imbalance. You can also make yourself physically sick by worrying too much. So why are people still saying mental health is all in your head?

This is my journey through anxiety, and I am happy to say I found my solution, and there is nothing wrong with it.

Editor’s note: Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.

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Unsplash photo via Aricka Lewis

girl in snow

When I Learned Having Anxiety Didn't Automatically Mean I Was 'Unhappy'

One of the hardest things about anxiety, in my experience, is that it isn’t always logical. This makes it hard to explain to others why I’m stressed when everything in my life is going well, and — even worse — it makes it hard to justify my own feelings to myself.

I grew up with extended family who looked down on mental illness. I grew up with friends who weren’t unkind on purpose, but teasing wasn’t what I needed at that time. I’ve always had a good life, and I’ve always had anxiety. The problem was, I knew I had a good life, and this prevented me from accepting that I also had anxiety. Because I too, am guilty of assuming that “having anxiety” automatically means “being unhappy.”

The truth is, anxiety isn’t that simple.

Anxiety has to do with how I interpret events. It has to do with my obsession with predicting the future. And for me, one of the main differences between everyday anxiety and an anxiety disorder is action. Normal anxiety happens to everyone, and it’s easy to recognize, because it only happens when a stressful event approaches. And for the most part, everyday anxiety is limited to obsessive thoughts — thoughts that go away after the stressful event is over. I believe anxiety as a mental illness is harder to notice because the obsessive thoughts are there all the time, and it affects pretty much everything I do in life. But because I’d always lived with these obsessive thoughts, I felt like it was “normal.” I got used to it, so used to it, that up until last year, I didn’t even think I had a mental illness to address.

During my junior year of high school, I started to think maybe I had anxiety. I noticed every time a social situation presented itself, it was like a hundred alarms would start going off in my head. I noticed my heart rate would increase at the mere mention of school. I noticed that sometimes, I would struggle to breathe and have this intense feeling that I was about to die. I noticed I was becoming hyper-focused on things that, logically, I knew didn’t matter. And while I was focusing on those things, I missed things that actually did matter. I noticed each day felt like a run-on sentence, that time was going by way too fast. I noticed I was never present in the moment I was in, that my mind was always jumping ahead to moments I may or may not experience in the future. And on my worst days, I noticed that while my mind was racing and obsessing over every bad thing that could possibly happen, I felt physically hollow —as if my thoughts were moving too fast and had left my body behind. I noticed all of these things were happening more and more frequently, and I wanted to get help because it was a very tiring cycle to live in.

Many people told me the voices in my head weren’t real, that it was “all in my head.” But sometimes, they were real. They were the voices of the ones I loved and trusted the most, and their teasing, ignorant remarks became the truths I internalized and repeated back to myself every time I thought about speaking up. These were the voices of people I looked up to, who told me I had a good life, that having anxiety would make me ungrateful, that there is shame in mental illness, that I’d be “crazy” to have anxiety, and that asking for help would make me weak.

Speaking up about my mental illness and seeking help was one of the best things I’ve ever done. The person I was a year ago wasn’t a bad person, nor was she an unhappy person. But my gosh, she had no idea what she was missing.

My anxiety will never be “cured,” but it was never about finding a cure, it was about learning to live with my anxiety. It was learning to challenge my anxiety, because my anxiety doesn’t do well when it’s called out by name. It was about learning when to listen to my anxiety and when to say “no” to anxious thoughts. It was learning not to be scared of the people who would respond with “You’re crazy,” and instead focusing on the fact that by saying “I have anxiety,” I can give someone else the opportunity to say, without fear of judgment: “I do, too.”

And maybe that person needs the opportunity just as much as I once did.

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Unsplash photo via Haley Phelps.

woman wrapped up in blanket on sofa

What a Panic Attack 'Comedown' Feels Like

It’s 8 p.m. and I’m just coming down from a panic attack. My body has finally stopped shaking enough for me to get downstairs.

Sometimes, my panic episodes only last for a short while; other times, they can go on for hours, panic attack after panic attack. Tonight’s “moment” was 45 minutes.

While 45 minutes might not sound like a huge amount of time, it is when your whole body is violently shaking, you feel like the food you just ate may make a reappearance any minute, you’re burning up and freezing cold all at the same time, your heart is thumping, your chest feels like its bearing the weight of baby elephant and all the while your brain is talking at you at a million miles an hour. That’s just some of the symptoms I experience during these times.

What is just as unpleasant is the panic attack “comedown.” The aftermath. The moment of time when the panic has gone, but you are still recovering.

 Firstly, I am utterly exhausted. Not just tired and could use a nap, but completely wiped out.

You remember having to go swimming in your pajamas as a kid? And how heavy you felt getting out the pool in your soggy gear? That’s how I feel now. My limbs feel heavy.

My back and stomach are burning from being so tense for so long. My whole body hurts and aches. I have a lump in my throat I just can’t shift. My stomach feels like I’ve drunk too many liquids and then jumped up and down.

I’m cold, and I’m still not quite “with it.” My brain feels tired from all the constant chatter it’s been filling my head with. I can’t even begin to describe to you what happens to my thoughts when I’m in a moment of panic. It’s like having seven people try and tell you a different story at the same time. Only with lots of questions. Over and over again. Constantly.

Afterward, it’s like my brain needs some time to rest. It becomes hard to focus on things. It’s a miracle I’ve managed to write this much. I’ve looked at the clock three times, and I still don’t know what time it is.

But as I sit here, curled up in a blanket with a hot water bottle, I can feel both my body and my mind relaxing.

I’m OK. It’s over. Just rest.

It’s going to be OK.

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Thinkstock photo via Giulio Fornasar

A dog sitting

Why Managing Anxiety Is Just Like Training a Dog

For all who know me, you know I have a 2-year-old German Shepherd who I love with all my heart. His name is Ronin, and I literally couldn’t imagine my life without him. He’s fun, hyper, smart and an absolutely cuddle bug. Sure, he’s sometimes a little pushy with his love, but I’d rather take a paw to the face occasionally than have no dog at all.

When my husband and I first got Ronin, we knew instantly getting him properly trained was important. With a dog like him, not learning how to control him could spell disaster. It’s something we couldn’t afford to risk. We were first time homeowners, and the idea of our house being destroyed by our new dog was a little unsettling.

We spent probably four months in training with him, starting with puppy basics and ending with a graduation certificate from the 103 level class. We spent approximately four months in weekly, one hour sessions, and we saw so much progress in Ronin. The downside was, once we stopped going to training, we stopped working with Ronin outside of the class. Once we stopped working with him, we quickly realized that without us spending time each day training, progress slowed and it took quite a few tries before the skills resurfaced for him. Now, for the most part, he’s a well-behaved dog. There are certain things that set him off, but we have a pretty good handle on how to make him listen, even when he doesn’t want to.

So why did I bother telling you all this? Well, because if you think about it, managing anxiety is a lot like training an unruly dog.

How, you ask? Let’s talk:

Real progress is made outside of the therapy setting. As I’ve already mentioned, my husband and I spent a lot of time, money and energy training our dog. We went to once a week sessions for four months, working to make our dog as well-behaved as possible, but were told from the get go that working with our dog as much as possible outside the classroom would reap us the greatest benefits. If we ever skipped a week of training outside the classroom because we got busy, we immediately saw how Ronin’s progress fell backwards. It should come as no surprise that the same goes for therapy.

If you only work on yourself in therapy, progress can still be made, but it will likely be slow and cumbersome. You may even feel like nothing is being done, and you may give up because you think your struggles aren’t fixable. But the reality is progress in therapy is much more effective outside the session than it is inside the safety of the therapist’s office. Taking time each day to practice what you’re learning, to test your boundaries and to expand your horizons is crucial in making progress with your anxiety.

I can’t tell you how many times we would start training with Ronin and what usually took us five minutes took us 15 because he just wouldn’t listen, but we kept trying. When he finally got it right, not only did we feel amazing that we persevered, but the next day doing that same task with him was easier. It works the same way for your anxiety. It won’t always be easy, and there may be days where it’s harder to implement what you’re learning, but always take the time to work on you. The more you practice what you’re learning, the easier it gets to make a change, and that change has to come from outside the therapy setting.

When you feel yourself getting anxious, redirect and refocus the mind. One of the first tactics we learned in dog training was how to redirect and refocus a distracted dog. This correction had to be made at the very first sign of a spiral, which was sometimes a difficult thing to spot. Do it too soon, the dog learns that the good behavior is bad; do it too late, and the damage of the negative behavior is already done. The correction is usually done by literally redirecting the dogs attention by turning them around while on a leash and walking the other way. Learning how to pick up on your dog’s tendencies and initiate a firm redirection is crucial in making progress.

One of my favorite phrases when it comes to battling the irrationalities of my own mind is, “Distraction, distraction, distraction!” If you can pick up on the anxiety spiral as it begins to happen, you can redirect and refocus your mind on a more productive thought and activity. This is a task that is hard at first, but as you become more mindful and aware of your body, you’ll start to learn your own signs. As you pick up on this, you can start implementing your own firm redirection, allowing you to stop anxieties before they start, and maintaining a sense of inner peace.

For example, many people with anxiety have a tendency to panic Google for answers to their irrational concerns. If you find yourself having the urge to turn to Google, set up a plan to find a different activity, like reading, coloring or going for a walk. This immediate redirection at the first sign of an unhealthy coping mechanism keeps you from furthering a spiral, and allows you to start climbing back up the ladder instead of falling down it.

Don’t give your anxiety the chance to pull at your metaphorical leash; immediately stop that and move on to something else. The more you let the anxiety spiral, the harder it gets to pull it back.

You may have to teach yourself something more than once. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to relearn a simple coping skill in therapy, all because it seemed “different” from the last time I used it. The usual excuse was, “Well, I’ve used it for this situation, but this new one seems so different!” The reality is that it’s actually not different, it’s all a trick of the mind.

Strangely enough, this phenomena also happens in dogs. No really, it does.

When we started training our dog, we were told to train Ronin in as many places as possible, because the training would not translate from location to location. If you only train a dog in one place, they sometimes struggle with knowing what you want when they’re in a different place. For example, if most of your training takes place in your living room, the dog will likely struggle with those commands when you’re in the kitchen or at the park. Taking time to train a dog where ever you want them to listen is crucial, but is a technique that I think is commonly overlooked by dog owners. It doesn’t take long to reteach the dog in new situations because they already possess the knowledge to do it, but a small refresher course is usually needed.

When it comes to your own mind, it’s virtually an identical process. Once you’ve conquered one anxiety battle using coping techniques you’ve learned, you can apply those techniques in every aspect of your mental health. Sure, there may be small differences in certain situations, but the tools you use to manage your anxiety are still the same, no matter how different it feels. Always remember to be patient with yourself, and remember you know how to handle this. It’ll just take some gentle coaxing to refresh the memory.

To manage your anxiety, you have to be in control and be firm about it. In every household with a dog, there has to be an alpha. Typically in training, they explain that you need to be the alpha, because allowing your dog to control you creates a plethora of problems. They get very unruly when they think they run the show, and learning how to be in control of the dog is sometimes a tough experience. It sometimes means getting tough, tougher than you might think, to prove that you are in fact dominant.

Anxiety is just your dog that has a false sense of control. You have never told your mind it’s not the alpha, and because of that it’s running your life in the same way an unruly dog would.

Learning how to control your anxiety takes time, because many people with anxiety have a pretty strong external locus of control (meaning they feel that the luck, superstition and external factors play a role in their success and happiness). Through therapy, you begin to arm yourself with the tools to become the alpha of your own mind, and you quickly learn that you actually do have the power to dominate your anxiety. This newly found control is called the internal locus of control.

You have to learn your limits and set up healthy boundaries. 
Proper exposure is a huge part of recovery for anxiety, but if there’s anything I’ve learned in my time in therapy it’s that sometimes boundaries have to be set to maintain a level of sanity. So how does this apply to training a dog?

Well, let’s say you have a skittish dog who doesn’t do well in crowds. You may slowly start off trying to expose that dog to crowds by inviting a group of friends to your house, or going to a well trafficked but not heavily populated park. While the exposure helps your dog, prolonged stays in a crowded area might still stress them out. They may no longer cower in fear every time you walk into a crowd, but it’s obvious that if you’re in a crowd for over an hour they start to freeze up. Over time, you learn how much your dog can take, and you limit their exposure to avoid undoing the progress you have made to make them comfortable.

This concept is the same for anxiety or any mental illness, and it’s actually a very important part of self-care. If you learn what triggers you, and how much of that trigger you can take, you can set up boundaries that allow you to still enjoy the activities you want without creating massive setbacks in recovery. Even at a level where those triggers rarely effect you, there is still a sweet spot. Spend just enough time to enjoy life, but not so much time that it starts to overwhelm you.

While comparing anxiety to training dog might seem a bit ridiculous, I feel like it’s one comparison many of us can relate to. Training a dog is something that takes time, patience and persistence. It can be extremely frustrating and tiresome, while other times it’s super rewarding watching your dog learn a brand new trick. It ebbs and flows, and there are just some days your dog won’t have it, while other days it seems like they are super receptive.

Your anxiety is just like that. You’ll hit peaks and valleys, you’ll have days where everything you’ve learned sticks like glue, and other days where it seems like you haven’t learned anything at all. Some days you’ll get a new coping skill that seems to do wonders for you, while other days your tried and true methods don’t seem to be breaking the wall.

Your anxiety and an untrained dog have a lot in common, and while one may be far cuter than the other, the same principles you need to train a dog are used to manage your anxiety.

Simply put: if you can train a dog, you can train your mind.

This article was originally published on #Fearless.

You can follow Chelsie’s journey by visiting her website, #Fearless, or following her on social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

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Thinkstock photo via petsopets

storm and lightning over fields

How Anxiety Feels to Those Experiencing It

It’s like being stuck on a fairground ride and not being able to get off. The panic rises slowly from the bottom of my stomach, up towards my head. It’s thick and sticky – like syrup – and as it rises, so does my level of panic. My heart begins to beat faster and my thoughts become quicker, flicking across my head like ticker tape: images, words, people, memories, sounds, all roll into one massive fast-paced carousel. But this carousel isn’t fun or exciting like the ones you see at the fair. The horses aren’t beautiful and golden, moving up and down with ease. The music isn’t beautiful and there are no twinkly lights or the sound of laughter. This carousel turns quickly, everything outside it a blur, the feeling of nausea from moving up and down and round and round so fast you can’t process what’s happening.

It’s like being in the middle of a hurricane. Within the eye of the storm, everything is quiet, silent. It looks like safety, but you know it isn’t. You can see the destruction approaching, twirling so fast you can’t tell which way it’s going. You don’t know what’s familiar and what isn’t, what’s safe and what’s dangerous, but you’re pretty sure everything is dangerous; at least, that’s what your brain is telling you.

It’s like sinking in quicksand; you’re stuck and you know it’s only going to get worse from here on in, and there’s nothing you can do about it. You’re trapped. As the panic rises higher and higher, engulfing your entire body within its midst, you feel like you can’t breathe. You’re drowning, but you know if you shout for help no one will hear you, because you’re paralyzed by this invisible force only you can see.

You’re pretty sure it’s not real, but there’s another part of you that thinks: “But what if it is?”

It’s like being inside a prison cell, the bars just close enough to keep you entombed inside, and seeing everything you want on the other side — a calm blue sky, a bright warm sun and a gentle breeze. Your family and friends sat around laughing and enjoying themselves – but you’re not there. On your side of the bars, a storm is brewing; it’s just not quite here yet. Thunder booms and lightning crackles a little way off, getting closer and closer with every thunderclap. You know it’s coming closer because the gaps between the flashes are getting quicker; you repetitively count the seconds between to distract yourself, but you can scarcely count to three before the black sky is lit up again. Strong winds beat you from side to side and huge raindrops pummel your body over and over. There is no relief, you can see no shelter, and you know this is only the beginning. You berate yourself for feeling this way, but you also know deep down that it’s not your fault. There is nothing to hold onto except the bars separating you from the calm, your fingers raw and red from cold as you grip the hard metal as tight as you can.

Because despite the pain and the panic, you know you must hold on. Storms don’t last forever and these feelings will pass. You have a 100 percent success rate at making it through these times, and that means a high probability you can do it again and that you’ll be OK.

Although you know these things, there’s a part of your brain that still thinks, “But what if?” A thousand other negative things try to force their way into your head.

Instead, ask yourself: “But what if my anxiety is wrong? What if tomorrow is brighter?”

I know tomorrow will be brighter, and I hope you know it too.

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Unsplash photo via Eugene Triguba

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