This morning when I began to feel anxious like I always do, I became aware of the things I say to myself as this is happening. Usually I try to talk myself down. I’ll repeat to myself that I am okay, that everything is okay, that I don’t have to feel anxious right now. Sometimes I’ll try to reason with my anxiety, going over in my head all the reasons that I should be happy or why there is no cause for distress. As you might imagine if you’ve read some of my other posts on here, this rarely helps.
However, today for some reason, I thought of a different way I might go about talking to myself when this happens. I recalled hearing about the different ways different people prefer to be comforted when they go to someone else for support. Some people do like to be reasoned with. It is reassuring to be given some answers, options, or direction from someone outside the situation. Some people prefer to be cheered up. Others just want to be heard and acknowledged. I would most likely group myself with the latter.
Oftentimes I will even get frustrated or angry when someone tries to cheer me up or tell me how to solve my problems. It sounds silly, but when someone tries to give me solutions I feel insulted. Do they think I wasn’t smart enough to think of that myself? The problem isn’t that I haven’t figured out what to do, rather simply that nothing works. I know the other person is just trying to help, to somehow fix things. I, myself, am usually one to try to offer advice when someone comes to me for comfort, even though I don’t like that response when I am the one upset.
Today when I was feeling extremely stressed, I stopped my usual habit of telling myself I’m okay, and asked myself: how would I want a loved one to speak to me right now? I certainly wouldn’t feel much better if all they said was that I was fine, everything was fine, and I had no reason to be anxious. I know all of that already. Yet it doesn’t change the fact that I am anxious. Rather than try to convince me I’m okay, or give me advice on how I could lessen my anxiety by practicing breathing exercises, for example, I would just want them to be there for me.
So that is exactly what I did. I was there for myself. My inner voice shifted. It stopped repeating the mantra: You are okay. You are okay. Instead it said: I know that you are feeling anxious right now. It’s alright to feel anxious. I still love you. I am here for you. You are still worthy. You are still loved. Always. I wrapped my arms around myself in a self-hug, as I sometimes do. Cooing to myself softly, swaying gently in my own arms. In the past I’ve also found it helpful to hold my own hand, giving it a squeeze of reassurance. Even just imagining some form of physical comfort is beneficial.
It actually made me feel a lot better. I think it is because it’s harder to negate a feeling (going from anxious to not anxious) than it is to shift your focus, to replace that feeling with a different feeling (focusing on feeling anxious, to focusing on feeling love.) Trying to stop being anxious is like trying not to think about a zebra. Now it’s all you can do.
From now on I am going to try to remember today’s little lesson. Don’t try to reason with your anxiety. Just be there for yourself. Just remind yourself that you are loved. You are enough. You aren’t alone. You will always, always have yourself. And that is an incredible, beautiful, comforting thing.