Welcome to the A4M anxiety management series.
In the following weeks, I will be posting my special techniques and tips on how to manage anxiety symptoms, stay away from panic attacks, and keep your mental health in shape.
Today I will focus on anxiety prevention. Even if you suffer from an anxiety disorder or panic disorder, it does not mean that its physical or mental symptoms have to dramatically affect your daily life. There are many ways how to reduce stress, confront your fears, and stay mentally stable.
One of them is the technique I called the “Make yourself uncomfortable” challenge. It has worked great for me and I would like to encourage you to try it. It improves my self-esteem, helps me to replace negative thoughts and manage stress.
Let’s get into it.
We all love the comfort
I love to sleep long. I love long weekend mornings in bed and lazy evenings on the couch. I love to watch movies and read books. I love to spend time with family. I love to eat well. And I always eat. If it is not lunch or breakfast, it is something small in between, something sweet, salty, some small yogurt or fruit.
I also love to watch out of the window to freezing cold winter while staying inside of a well-heated room. Even more, I love a hot shower or hot bath. I love when somebody takes care of me and I really love when things are going according to plan.
Not to forget, I love people who agree with me, who tell me I am right. It caresses my ego. I feel important.
I was told I should do what I love to do and I did. Did it make me a better and stronger person so I could face my fears better or did it actually make my anxiety symptoms worse?
Well, let’s see.
What about things we hate?
Then there are things I hate.
Like waking up early. Or cleaning my flat, doing my laundry, and washing dishes. I am not really into exercise as well. Once in a while, it is OK but regular exercise is really not for me. I also hate being cold. It makes me feel uncomfortable.
I am a man so the thing I hate the most is being hungry. Don’t even talk to me when I am hungry as I will hardly control myself.
Also, I don’t like when people want something from me, mostly when I am at work. Like I have nothing else to do than answer their stupid emails. And please don’t tell me ever what to do. Like you know it better. No, you don’t.
Life is uncomfortable
Yes, all these things really make me uncomfortable.
But guess what. Life is uncomfortable. And it can be worse than that. It can be unjust, cruel, and painful. And when life suddenly emerges difficult, you should better be ready. If not, a panic attack may develop at any second.
Seeking nothing else than comfort is a dangerous path. Your body gets weak and slow. Your mind gets weak and slow. Why should it bother anyway? Seeking nothing else than comfort makes you live in the box. You are missing all the opportunities that life offers you just because you don’t cross these comfort lines.
People say that when we find out what we are good at, we should focus on that, we should focus on our strengths. That is not what I believe.
Focusing on only one thing we are good at makes us inconsistent and mentally unstable. When some unexpected life situation occurs, it will expose our weaknesses and put us in trouble. This is especially true for anxious people.
Focus on your weaknesses
That is why I think we should actually look much more into our weaknesses. Things we avoid and make us uncomfortable. And we should try to sort them out. It will make us mentally stronger and ready, nothing will really surprise us and we will be able to handle any situation.
If we feel scared of airplanes, we have to find a way to face our fear and fly. If we feel anxious about public speaking, we should be looking for opportunities to slowly work on it. Anxious feelings are normal, but allowing the mental illness to take over is a huge mistake.
I believe that there is no better way to prepare ourselves for life than to consciously look for discomfort on regular basis.
I am not saying not to treat ourselves well. But by putting our body and brain voluntarily under pressure, and challenging ourselves daily (for example going for a run), we are able to train our minds and build the mental strength we need. And when life will require us to be strong, we will feel ready to show up and stand strong.
What mental health professional says
Let me paraphrase an idea from 12 rules for life, the great book written by famous clinical psychologist Dr. Jordan Peterson. Dr. Peterson has long experience with separation anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and other anxiety disorders or mental illnesses.
You don’t treat patients suffering from anxiety disorder by showing them how to get rid of their fear. You rather make them more courageous so they are able to confront it.
Make yourself uncomfortable
That is why I have decided to start a challenge called “Make yourself uncomfortable”.
Every day I am consciously putting myself in at least one situation that I would normally avoid. Yesterday I decided I would skip dinner. I was a bit hungry so what. Achieving my goal made me feel proud of myself and proudness beats anxiety.
Today I had a cold shower in the morning and then I pushed myself to talk in front of a bigger group at work. It felt really uncomfortable but the feeling after? You know what I mean.
I am also a runner. I run 3-4 times a week even if I am lazy. Not because I have to. But because I know what it does for my mentality. I know what quitting the comfort of my couch does for my mental health.
Do you know what’s interesting once you adopt such a mindset? You realize that these “uncomfortable” things are not that much uncomfortable in the end. In most cases, the discomfort is only in your head.
And I decided not to listen to that little child in my head anymore, telling me to step back and be afraid.
So I challenge you to do the same! What are the things that make you uncomfortable?
If you need some inspiration, I encourage you to try this amazing running challenge. You will not regret it.