The Ultimate Method to Stop Being Controlled by Anxiety
The internet is full of so many quick fix solutions to really difficult problems.
I wanted to write a piece about how to do some deep work with anxiety. The quick fixes can be helpful, but they don’t really make lasting changes. I want to help you start to really transform anxiety.
This is laid out as an exercise but the point is to change your perspective about anxiety so you can learn how to do the work that will really free you from it.
This exercise is really powerful.
But I will warn you that it will not be comfortable.
Unfortunately there is no way to really make progress with your anxiety without feeling some discomfort.
But you are already feeling uncomfortable if you are anxious, so you really have nothing to lose.
This is my go-to way of working with anxiety and really the best way I have found to transform it over time. It isn’t fun and it definitely isn’t a quick fix, but it does help.
Okay so how do you do it?
- First yield to the anxiety. Let yourself feel it in your body. Stop fighting it and let it be there for a minute.
- Notice if there is anything specific you are afraid might happen. Anxiety is usually about something in the future. It might also be a general sense that something terrible might happen, without knowing what it is.
- Stop doing whatever mental tricks you are doing to avoid feeling the fear. Stop trying to talk yourself out of it. Stop trying to convince yourself that whatever you are afraid of won’t go wrong.
- Release the outcome. Open yourself to the possibility that your worst fear might come true. This doesn’t make it any more likely to come true, but you have to stop holding on so tightly to it not happening.
- Feel the fear and trust that one way or another things will turn out okay (even if they don’t go exactly the way you want). Let yourself sit in the intensity of the fear until you are able to settle and relax.
So why would you want to do this and how will it help?
What usually happens is that your anxiety intensifies. But it intensifies in a certain kind of way, which is what really lets you know you’re getting somewhere. The idea is to shift the anxiety from being everywhere—in your mind, racing around…and in the future, imagining what might happen—to being really focused in the present moment.
I usually start to feel the fear condense into a point in my belly where I can really feel its intensity. The feeling starts to become really focused. My mind clears, and gets a laser-like quality. And if I can really allow that fear to be there with all of its intensity, I start to feel empowered. That fear is almost like fuel. I can use it to create or move toward my goals in life.
This attitude removes you from being attached to a certain outcome. And that gives you freedom. Because when you have to have things turn out a certain way, you are a slave to that.
If it turns out the way you want (which you never really have control over) then you are okay. And if it doesn’t? Well, you are not okay. So life becomes an obsession about making things go your way.
Anxiety is almost always about needing things to be a certain way. It’s about that attachment to the outcome. When you worry about things, you are attached to things not going wrong. When you are socially anxious, you are attached to people liking you or to having friends. When you struggle with OCD you are struggling to keep things in a certain order—terrified that things will go wrong and that you will lose control of the situation. Sometimes you don’t even know what you are afraid of, just that something bad will happen.
This is exhausting.
But when you are willing to yield to life as it is (and you don’t have to like it to yield to it) and let go of the need for things to go a certain way, you become liberated.
You become infinitely free and powerful and magnetic.
So you may be thinking “I don’t want to give up on getting what I want!”
Well, you don’t have to give up on having the things you want (and this technique will probably get you more of what you want).
But you do have to open to the possibility of not getting what you want.
You have to be willing to want what you want, but not be so rigidly attached to getting it that it paralyzes you with anxiety.
Want what you want. Want it deeply. And free yourself from needing it.
Try this and see what happens.
I don’t want to suggest this is easy. It is a simple concept, but it’s not easy. It will take practice and you won’t always be able to do it.
The kicker is that you have to be able to trust life to do this. You have to be able to feel that things will turn out okay and release yourself from the specifics.
What if you aren’t able to trust in this way?
This is where I highly recommend seeing a therapist. If you are someone who has difficulty trusting life, it can be really difficult to develop that trust on your own. Good therapists are trained to help you do the deep healing work that is required to find a sense of basic trust in life.
You can be free from anxiety and as you find that freedom you will be able bring more of yourself into the world. And as someone who has learned to trust life in a deeper way than I ever thought possible, I really want that for you.