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The 3-Word Mantra That's Been a Game Changer for Managing Anxiety

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I have been managing anxiety and depression (among other things) for many years and like most others, I’m tired. I’m tired of always taking a mental temperature check, constantly checking in with my illness to see how I’m feeling. I’m tired of making my world smaller and smaller as a way of avoidance so I don’t have to deal with life. Each day I shut more doors, close more people off and made my universe shrink.

I have a habit of trying to make every day exactly the same so I don’t have to experience anything new that could peak my anxiety. This way I don’t have to deal with any new challenges to dip my mood into a deeper depression. Or on days I feel somewhat normal, I don’t want anything to pop up and surprise me, ruining my day.

Over the past few months, I have started a new method of managing my mental illness.

I am now living by the mantra of “do it anyway.

What I mean by this is, when someone asks me to do something, or there is a little change in life, or I have an event coming up that I would rather avoid, instead of coming up with an excuse why I can’t do it and escaping it, I am saying f*** it, I “do it anyway,” regardless of what bad things I think may happen.

This has been extremely tough for me, this new world I am creating. This new “do it anyway” mentality. But I am enjoying the results of opening my world back up. The feeling I get after doing something I would have otherwise opted out of has been invigorating, sometimes euphoric.

Why it’s tough.

Anxiety and depression are incredibly tough afflictions to deal with. These illnesses can tear a person down to their core and unfortunately can end lives prematurely. Many people never fully break out of their disease and there really is no “cure-all” for either one. All we can do is try to manage these illnesses and make the best out of life.

Both of these conditions make you want to run away, hide, shutdown, close the blinds and sleep forever. For most people, doing nothing and avoiding everything will only make the anxiety and depression cycle even worse.

It’s tough, almost impossible somedays, but it was important to at least try to put these feelings aside and “do it anyway.” If it led to a nervous breakdown resulting in a hospital stay, I accepted this fact and moved forward.

Get out of your comfort zone.

Each day I am presented with opportunities to get out of my comfort zone. When you have closed your world off as much as I have, these chances are ever-present and sometimes miniscule. I started as small as sitting in a new place for my lunch break and talking to people. I also started taking a different route to work. I am now trying a new exercise after work. Larger changes for me have come in the form of accepting invitations from friends and family to go to dinner, or to go to an event.

I still have incredible bouts of anxiety and depression before events, or while making a change. But the relief I feel afterward when an event or change went well and the world didn’t come crashing down can only be described as liberating and borderline euphoric.

I freaked out, I didn’t want to go, I didn’t want to change, but I did it anyway, and most times, it was all good.

Stop putting so much weight into what others think.

A large part of my anxiety stems from the amount of weight I place in what others think of me. I feel like everyone is watching me, judging, waiting for me to break down or make a mistake. Lately, I have stopped caring so much about what others think of me. I take these negative thoughts I have that create anxious ruminations and downward spirals and I stop them. I use the thought stopping processes I have learned from my therapist. I take a moment, step back and decide I don’t care what others think.

If people like me, great, if they don’t, great, it doesn’t matter either way. I have taken the gravity that another’s judgment has and minimized it.

I am taking away the power other people hold over me, even if that power is non-existent (and it’s almost always made up in my head).

Start growing and get better.

This new practice of “do it anyway” has led me to a place in life where I can start to grow and improve. My growth started small and has gotten bigger as I have gained confidence and started to feel better. As I said before, it started for me with a different work routine. I have made a point of having a different lunch each day (much different from my daily regimen of a ham sandwich and yogurt). I started sitting with someone different each day in the lunchroom, and GASP!!!, starting a small conversation! Instead of hiding in the corner. I am opening up to others, and now I have multiple new friends I can converse with throughout the day, inside and outside of work.

Now, this has grown into doing things I have only dreamed about before, because now I have decided to “do it anyway.” I have always been creative, with drawing, painting, writing and music. I have wanted to explore this side of me more but never had the courage. I decided to move forward anyway and signed up for a sketchbook watercolor class at a local museum. I would have never done this in a million years before. The experience was daunting at first, the anxiety was so strong I almost didn’t go at all. I went anyway, attending all 12 weekend classes, and learned so much and made many friends.

I now feel way more comfortable making and sharing my art. All because I decided to “do it anyway”.

Creating positive memories.

Instead of closing my world off and living in a virtual groundhog’s day to survive anxiety and depression, I am now creating good memories with new experiences. I can now use these memories to draw upon when my anxiety levels spike. I can think back about how a previous event went, how it didn’t turn out horrible, and how I felt much better after.

I have always envied those that could go to the beach, or on a road trip and post moments on social media or keep hundreds of pictures in their phone to show friends whenever they asked.

I didn’t have any of this in my rerun lifestyle. Now, I am starting to gather some of my own positive moments and living my life.

It gets easier.

The more steps I take to open up and decide to “do it anyway,” the easier it becomes with each passing day. I find myself less tripped up by my anxiety before an event. I no longer have the cold chill run down my spine when I know something must change.

Sure, the anxiety and depression will always be with me, but over the past few months I feel like I am getting a better grip on the controls. I can draw on the positive memories I have created for strength and confidence. Each time I do something new and ignore the anxious ruminations, the better I feel.

I have more power over my illness. I am starting to have dreams and goals again about the future. This is big for me, previously the future was way too overwhelming to think about, I had to live day by day. Now I can look forward to an event in the future without thinking about how to get out of it for two weeks.

I know that I am going to “do it anyway.”

I hope everyone that reads this can take a small part of my new “do it anyway” method and apply it to their life. Too many people with mental illness are closing their world and mind off in order to survive each day. I understand, it’s much easier to do that, I did it for years.

Now is the time to change, “do it anyway” no matter what the result may be, you won’t know if you don’t try.

Getty image via z_wei

Originally published: September 28, 2020
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