95. How To Stop Your Anxiety Symptoms
It's what everyone wants to know!
You may be asking yourself if I have lost my mind. Anyone who has read my books, listened to The Anxious Truth podcast or followed me on social media for even a short time knows that I never give symptom advice. So maybe this is a little bit of click bait … or maybe it’s not. Let’s find out.
Everyone starts the recovery journey by wanting to explain their anxiety symptoms and find ways to make them go away.
“How do I handle a racing heart?”
“Does anyone know what’s good for dizziness?”
“Why do I feel like I can’t breathe? How can I stop that feeling?”
The list is WAY longer than this, but you get the idea.
Now, pull up a chair, and I will tell you how we overcome anxiety symptoms. Here’s the magic bullet you’ve been hoping for all this time. I’ve just been hiding it from you until now. Ready?
We overcome anxiety symptoms by not trying to overcome them.
OK, I’m being a bit silly, but that is really what it comes down to. Let me flesh that out a little. Here’s the sequence of events that we are after when it comes to making our symptoms go away:
1. First we learn to see them differently. I know you want to insist that your symptoms are horrible and unbearable and you must run from them because they FEEEEEEL so scary. But step one in making them go away is to recognize that this insistence is not helping at all. It’s hurting. Your anxiety symptoms are natural physiological responses to fear. No more. No less. They are not harmful or damaging. They are to be expected when you are frightened. If you’re not OK with the statement, work on it until you are OK with it.
2. Then we learn that we have to treat them differently (by not treating them at all). All the time you spend trying to find specific instructions how to manage or deal with symptoms is making things worse. You do not have to do that. You must start to treat your symptoms in a new way, which is essentially not treating them at all.
3. Then we learn that we don't have to fear them. When you accept that we must view symptoms in a new way, then you practice treating them in a new way by NOT treating them, you provide your brain with valuable experiences (not words) that it can use to learn that even when you don’t try to save yourself, the scary thing never hurts you. Those experiences teach your brain - over time - that it does not have to sound the alarm when you feel things in your body. You learn that you do not have to fear your symptoms.
Here’s the part you’re waiting for…
4. Then they go away. This is the last step, but its not a step you take. Its just a happy by-product of taking the first three steps described above. I can’t stress this enough. You can not actively make your symptoms stop. You can only actively relate to them in way that teaches you the lessons that are needed to enable them to stop. So if you want to jump right to “make it go away”, stop, think, and return to step 1.
That’s it. That’s my top-secret extra special supercharged tip for making your anxiety symptoms go away. Now go start doing this. And before you respond with “easier said than done”, let me tell you preemptively that you are correct. Now go do it anyway, because I know you can. And be patient with yourself while you do it because it is hard and it will take time and effort.
“If you can’t describe what you’re doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.” - Edwards Demming
Every Friday I’ll share one of my favorite quotes. They’ll often have direct application in recovery, but sometimes they’re just generally funny, inspiring, or thought-provoking. I hope you enjoy them.