This is for everyone who struggles with anxiety. For everyone who lives with it all day, every day. Everyone who has a brain that is constantly trying to prepare them for danger and always making them feel anxious and panicked.
It’s like our brains are trying to help us by telling us we are in danger or that something bad could happen; that by overanalyzing every little thing, looking for the smallest sign that someone is upset with us, or about to reject us, we will be protected. Some of us have brains that never rest and are never quiet but a lot of it comes from a ‘protection’ place where our brains think they are trying to help us survive.
My brain learned to do this at a very young age due to the trauma I experienced, but even people who have never experienced trauma can be filled with anxiety all the time, as well. Sometimes it’s something that the right medication can help and other times we have to find other ways to teach our brains that we are safe and that they don't have to fill us with anxiety in order to protect us. I take medication for mine, but I haven’t gotten much relief, and I have to work very hard to stop myself from constantly getting into an anxious spiral.
Something my therapist taught me that helps is reframing my thoughts. I write down the irrational thought I’m having (ex: ‘I’m a failure’ or ‘Everything is hopeless’). Next to that I write down all the evidence that goes against that thought (ex: I’m not a failure because I have accomplished x, y, z. Everything is not hopeless because I have a therapist who believes in me, I have a dog who loves me, I’m smart, and I can make it through hard things). And then I write down the reframed thoughts: I am not a failure. There is hope. I do this with all the anxious thoughts I have. Sometimes it takes a while, but it’s always worth it.
Another thing that helps is naming the truths around me. I’m in a difficult situation right now and it’s easy to spiral about it and feel hopeless, but naming what’s true always helps me. Examples of my truths are: I am brave. I can handle hard things. I’ve made it through difficult things in the past and I’ll make it through this. I’m not alone. My life matters. I won’t always feel like this. Things can get better. Repeating these things when I’m really anxious helps me feel more connected to what’s true.
If it’s hard for you to challenge the thoughts directly because they are too overwhelming, there are other things you can do to try to shift your brain. Something that helps me is taking an ice bath. It’s so distracting and it soothes my body and it only takes a few minutes. A cold shower works, too! Listening to music is also very helpful. When I’m really anxious I like to put on upbeat music and dance. It seems silly sometimes, but it always helps. And active movement and getting outside can shift your mood, too. Sitting in nature, going a walk, etc.
I definitely recommend finding a therapist who can help you with these things! Even just a few sessions can help increase your coping tools. And of course, the WhiteFlag App is so helpful. There are people on there who will be able to help you cope and give you other ideas of what to do that you might not have thought of or tried yet. I used the app just the other night and it was so helpful. I want you to know that you’re not alone in this. Anxiety affects so many people worldwide. You’re definitely not the only one going through this and there are others who understand how you feel.
Get support. Give support. Download the app today.