10 Harsh Truths About Anxiety
Anxiety is problem. A big problem. And it's getting worse.
What's going on? Why is this happening? How do we stop this?
The answers could fill many textbooks, but let's start with a simple list. If you suffer anxiety, here are some harsh truths:
1. Anxiety isn't your fault
This truth doesn't seem harsh unless you're one of many sufferers who fall into the habit of shame and self-criticism.
The sad truth is that many people's subconscious minds cling to the idea that they deserve the pain. This leads to a feedback loop where they double down on their anxiety by spiraling into negative thoughts about themselves. Something needs to be clear:
You didn't choose your anxiety. It was programmed into you by forces beyond your control.
Don’t point fingers. Don’t cast blame. Just accept that there were countless factors in your life that you did not choose. Your parents. Your DNA. Your family. Your neighborhood. Your culture. Your school. Your government.
These things were set in motion when you were a child. You had no power and no authority. You were just along for the ride.
At some point in the ride, something called anxiety began to manifest. You didn’t consciously choose it. It happened as a result of your environment. Anxiety is just faulty programming.
Accept this, then you can accept truth #2:
2. You are responsible for anxiety.
What?? Doesn't that contradict the first truth?
Responsible doesn’t mean “to blame” (i.e. "Who is responsible for this?!"). It means response-able. You are able to respond.
Sadly, the word responsible has become polluted. People treat the word as something past-tense. It's not. It's as present-tense as a word can be. You can only respond now.
Perhaps a better way to phrase the above truth is this:
Anxiety is your responsibility.
How DO you respond? Do you respond only in the moments when anxiety creeps in, or do you take pro-active means to lessen the odds of anxiety before it starts?
With a response, you're aware and in control. You are accountable and in charge.
With a reaction, you're on autopilot. You're prey to circumstance.
Respond. Do not react. Understand the difference.
3. Anxiety CANNOT be fixed overnight.
We always want a miracle cure with zero side effects. Just pop a quick pill, and boom! -- your anxiety is cured forever.
Sadly, this doesn't exist and it never will.
“A fit body, a calm mind, a house full of love. These things cannot be bought—they must be earned.” -- Naval Ravikant
There are many things in life that can never be bought, and a balanced, blissful being is one of them. Just look at how many rich peoples' personal lives are a complete and utter mess.
The best things in life take conscious time, effort, and continued maintenance. Anxiety reduction is no different.
If you ignore this, you won't recognize your own progress, and you'll fall back into toxic habit loops.
Know that progress takes time.
But there's good news...
4. Anxiety CAN be healed over time.
Anxiety is NOT something you're stuck with forever. Get that idea out of your mind.
Understand that you ABSOLUTELY have the power to loosen the grip of anxiety with the right mindset, discipline, and habit structure.
That doesn't mean it will be easy. But it is possible.
5. Anxiety is largely a result of habit.
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit" -- Aristotle
The word "excellence" can be replaced with "anxiety" or "bliss".
Both are habits.
Anxiety gets programmed into us by unconscious habits, whereas bliss gets programmed into us by conscious habits, which are much more difficult to build and cultivate.
Habits are powerful, but not foolproof. Think of them as a probability curve.
Having a certain set of habits reduces the odds of a panic attack while another set of habits increases the odds.
Solving your anxiety issues will take careful examination of your habits.
Add as many good habits as you can. Cut the toxic habits out of your life, or at the very least, minimize them to the best of your ability.
6. Stress is inevitable. Anxiety is not.
What's the difference?
Stress is the unpleasant feeling of being pushed to a particular limit. But with stress, the pain is directed towards a known outcome. For example:
Your job might be stressful, but the money you earn feeds your family, so you push through the pain. Weightlifting is stressful on the body, but over time it makes you stronger, so you do it.
With anxiety, your energy goes haywire and there's no benefit. Think of it like this:
Stress is fueled by WILL & DIRECTION. Anxiety is unfocused.
Stress is unpleasant, but manageable. You're still in the driver's seat. Anxiety, on the other hand, wrestles the steering wheel away from you and puts you in a state of passive inaction.
Life will be stressful at times. And if left unchecked, the stress can mutate into anxiety.
But don't confuse the two.
7. Physical exercise reduces anxiety.
This may seem obvious, but it needs to be said:
If you're suffering from anxiety, you NEED to exercise. Physical activity has the power to reduce your anxiety to an absurd degree.
Anxiety taxes the energy system. No one would argue this.
Exercise also taxes the energy system, but in a good way. Think of it like this:
If you have 100 liters of energy in the tank, then anxiety has 100 liters of fuel to punish you.
At the end of a workout, maybe you only have 20 liters of energy left in the tank. Now anxiety has less fuel to work with, and the effects will be far less severe.
Exercise is one of the most effective weapons in your arsenal.
8. Reducing anxiety can *sometimes* lead to depression.
This is important. I've never heard this aspect addressed.
I speak from personal experience here.
The physical body can become addicted to chemicals. The mental body can become addicted to thought habits. And the energy body can become addicted to energetic patterns.
When someone experiences anxiety often, their energy body becomes accustomed to "fight or flight" mode. It's a heightened energetic state that can become unconsciously addictive.
When anxiety exits, it sometimes leaves an energy vacuum. If nothing is there to fill the void, one may feel energetically "off" and empty, which can lead to depression.
That's why it's important to have a plan in place. Find activities that you love and that you can invest your time in. Use them to fill the void where anxiety use to be.
Use the space to cultivate bliss.
9. Overcoming anxiety is WAY more difficult for some people than others.
This also might seem obvious, but think of it like this:
Some people eat whatever they want and never gain weight.
Some people take one bite out of a Snickers bar and gain five pounds.
Life isn't fair. There are significant genetic and environmental factors that shape us.
A naturally thin person will never understand an obese person's pull towards overeating. Similarly, a naturally calm person will never understand the experience of someone who suffers anxiety.
Some people can overcome obesity with minimal effort. For others, it will be the most difficult thing they've ever done. The same is true with overcoming anxiety.
Overcoming anxiety might be very difficult for you.
Don't let that stop you from making it happen.
10. You might not be able to overcome anxiety alone.
Most of us benefit from help and guidance.
Personal trainers are normalized in our society -- people are willing to invest money in their physical health. But there's still a big reluctance to invest in emotional health.
Maybe people are ashamed. Or maybe they're just skeptical. After all, with a personal trainer, you can see their physique. You see that, yes, this guy has abs. He probably knows what he's talking about.
Therapists don't have this luxury. You can't see if they practice what they preach. Instead, it's a "vibe".
Emotions are intimate. Much more intimate than the gym. You need someone you can trust.
People know how to lose weight (eat healthier and exercise more), but for some people it doesn't work. They need extra motivation. Or a concrete plan. Or someone to help guide them and encourage them along the way.
The same could be said about overcoming anxiety.
Some people can do it on their own. But for most people, a therapist or an expert in the field can help them navigate the difficult terrain.
Don't be shy, and don't judge yourself if you need help.
It's okay to invest in your well-being. It's okay to hire someone to help.
Your health, balance, and well-being should be your top priority.