I remember being told those things as a young adult when I was struggling with anxiety, it was unhelpful and frustrating. While great ideas, there’s just one problem, when anxiety is in the driver’s seat the nervous system is naturally escalated and the brain is searching for danger.
Would you tell somebody facing a charging bear to ‘just relax and calm down’?
Nope! It doesn’t work when facing a bear and it doesn’t work for people experiencing anxiety.
For somebody with anxiety, the ‘bear’ can be all sorts of things:
- dealing with the unknown
- social situations
- worries about failure or not being good enough
- discomfort with body sensations like fast heartbeat
- and the list goes on!
In my experience, both personally and professionally, learning to manage anxiety effectively and being able to find a sense of calm is absolutely do-able, but it is not a quick fix and calmness is not a fixed state. It takes time and ongoing maintenance. But it certainly does get easier over time!
Your journey will involve experimenting with a variety of tools and looking to many different sources for support as you explore what works for you. But before we look at some tools and supports….