Anxiety will lose its power when you stop trying to feel better

Cure from anxiety will remain elusive if you continually strive to make yourself better.

I'll go for a cycle and that will make me feel better. I'll go swimming, that will make me feel better. I'll try hypnosis, that will make me feel better. Hard exercise did make me feel better for brief periods after burning off all that excessive energy caused by stress and tension from fighting anxiety but did not provide permanent peace of mind and body. It just kept coming back which made me try to control it even more.

This is what I had to change, to stop trying to feel better, to stop trying to suppress those bad feelings, to stop trying to control it. The more I read up on the subject of anxiety, the more I realised that I had to be comfortable about feeling very uncomfortable, going towards the feelings and feeling them willingly instead of shrinking away from them, adding more fear. I had to stop trying to supress the way I felt and stop spending all my time trying to make myself feel better, trying to change the way I felt, trying to avoid or suppress those bad feelings. This was the battle I was still having with myself, a battle I could never win and unbeknown to me at the time, the reason why I wasn't getting any better. If I did the opposite and stopped trying to supress the bad thoughts and feelings and let the storm within rage on without doing anything about it, the battle would end and the storm would eventually pass. I had to stop trying to make all that physical and mental pain go away, I had to stop trying to solve the problem that could not be solved.

The natural default setting for the mind and body is calmness. It does not want to fight all day, to battle with feelings, to keep trying to supress, it just wants to be left alone and stay calm. The name of the game is to stop aiming for peace and just let it come to you.

The more you allow the bad to happen without resistance and allow yourself to feel the way you do without supression, without searching for peace and not being impressed by the scary thoughts and feelings, the stronger and more resiliant you will become. You desensitise yourself in the process. The less you use your mind to solve a problem time and time again, peace of mind returns, along with the ability to think around problems instead of just thinking about the problem itself.

Not doing anything goes against the grain because our instinct is to try and fix the problem in our heads, to hide, avoid or run away when faced with a perceived threat. The reaction is always to find comfort, to fix the problem, looking for that thing to bring comfort but with anxiety, it is the lack of action that brings recovery, not action. I don't mean lying on the bed all day waiting for it to happen. I mean carrying on with your day, accepting that you feel bad and taking the anxiety with you.

During my recovery, I learned to stop fighting the thoughts and feelings and just let them be there and observe them instead on engaging with them, trying to figure it all out. I resisted the temptation to try to think and feel differently which was difficult at first but got easier the more I practised. I learned to recognise an anxious thought ( most of them were anxious thoughts!) and stop the mental battle trying to solve the problem which was only a problem because I had anxiety.

Recovery will follow when you learn to let things go. Giving up any coping mechanisms and techniques and letting the worst come and not doing anything about it.

I stopped striving to be the person I used to be, I stopped wanting to feel different. As long as I was striving to feel better, I was still fighting and not accepting. In time, my mind and body started to relax by itself. Recovery came to me.

If you can learn to accept things as they are for the time being, recovery will follow.

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30 Replies

  • Thank you for these awesome words! So helpful.

  • This is an invaluable self case history and should be read by everybody experiencing anxiety disorder and looking for recovery.

  • Amen to that!!! :)))))

  • Wow that was so good. I needed to read something like this right now. Thank you for those words and your helpful advice. ☺

  • Hi beevee

    Thank you for your post, I too have been. Told this in my counciling sessions. That the more I fight it the more these horrible feelings will come.

    I wake up every morning and pray that today it will all have gone away.

    How do u just let it be? I find it so hard to stop fighting it :-( as I guess it's a natural instinct

    Well done for achieving your goals and beating this horrible thing :-)

  • Hi Lou

    I have no particular faith (but recognise how important it is to many people) except the faith that I would recover if I followed the advice contained in the books written by Dr Claire Weekes. There were many many occasions when I felt I wasn't getting anywhere but I persevered and gradually started making small steps and little clues that I was on to something good. Recovery wasn't linear either. I didn't feel better each and every day. It was very much an up and down affair with huge setbacks thrown in which can derail some people if they don't understand that it is all part of the recovery process and an indication of how far they have travelled on that road to recovery. Acceptance of all the symptoms will eventually bring peace of mind and body.

    I struggled with the concept of acceptance for some time and was probably trying too hard. I learned that it is not about trying to do anything. Trying gets you nowhere because it just adds more tension and stress. The best way I can describe acceptance is to learn to be ok about not feeling ok. It's an attitude thing. Instead of worrying about how you feel, give up caring and make your life bigger than the anxiety. Take it with you, live alongside it. If you feel scared, so what? If you feel lousy, so what? Just carry on regardless. It is a difficult cycle to break but by practising acceptance, you gradually chip away the anxiety and the symptoms lose their ability to impress you and become less bothersome. From being overwhelmingly fearful, the symptoms become more of a nuisance through acceptance but even the nuisance factor will eventually fade away. The strange thing I found about recovery was how I didn't immediately notice even the most fearful symptoms had disappeared. Weeks, even months would pass and I'd suddenly think " I haven't had those feelings of dread when the thought of doing something ordinarily mundane flashed up in my mind." Recovery just crept up on me. I didn't go in search of it because that would have meant that I was chasing it, trying to do something about it and the exact opposite of acceptance.

    If you keep moving forward practising acceptance, you will recover.

  • Thank you beevee, I'm so desperate to feel better.

    And hearing you have had recovery from acceptance gives me hope.

    Thank you for your post and this is a positive to know that I can and will get better :-)

  • Acceptance is far easier and less tiresome than fighting it. Keep the faiith and let recovery come to you in the same way you let recovery come from influenza or any other nasty little viruses without having to do very much.

    Acceptance isn't a technique or some fancy method dreamt up by someone to make money out of someone else's misery. It's about allowing the natural healing process of the human body to fix your mind and body in the same way as it will mend a broken bone. Mother Nature is responsible for recovery. Anxiety is an illness of the nerves that control your emotions. They have become sensitised through constant worry and stress and need time to de-sensitise. You just need to learn not to interfere with this process by continually fighting the symptoms. ❤

  • "Mother nature is responsible for recovery", you are so right!!!!

  • Thank you !

  • When anxiety is accompanied by nausea and an inability to eat, resulting in weight loss and weakness, do you force yourself to eat? The physical symptoms of anxiety are as bad as the mental ones. It's a vicious circle. I am 77 years old and can't just go for a cycle to help my feelings. What do you suggest for people like me?

  • Acceptance is the key to overcoming anxiety and all associated symptoms, no matter what age you are. Instead of cycling, you can do anything else so long as you don't pander to your anxiety.

    During recovery, I went swimming and cycling but did them to improve my fitness, not to get rid of the thoughts and feelings which was the initial reason behind my exercise regime. Do you see the difference? While the exercise may have provided temporary relief and given me glimpses of my old self, I still had to learn how to cope with the symptoms the right way and the only way to do that is to go through the storm accepting everything anxiety throws at you and doing nothing about it. Learn to roll with the punches or bend like the branch of a tree in a storm. There is no other way. Medication just masks the symptoms which are all fear based. If you fear something, nothing is going to help you with that unless you avoid it, or face it the right way by accepting it. I didn't want to avoid it because that meant imposing restrictions on my life which I wasn't prepared to do (this is why people become agoraphobic). In reality I didn't really have the option to avoid because I had really bad anxiety 24/7 and no safe places, apart from sleep for a couple of hours during the night. There was no let up. Never felt stress like it and a living hell which I'm sure you know. I digress.

    There were occasions that I didn't feel like eating but ignored those thoughts and feelings (my bone of contention was my health, relationships and a smattering of work anxiety to mention a few) and ate on the basis that I knew I had to maintain strength and the fact that I understood the tricks anxiety plays on the mind and body. I went against my instinct and had something to eat.

    When the mind and body is in full fight or flight mode, it instinctively does things to prepare you to fight, hide (avoid) or run away from the perceived threat (anxiety can conjure up all sorts of weird and wonderful threats that to a "normal" person without anxiety would seem laughable which shows how good anxiety is at fooling us).

    Food is the last thing the body needs when faced with danger and preparing to make a run for it, and the reason why you lose your appetite or even get the urgent need to empty your bowels so that you carry less weight and run faster! The human mind and body is a masterpiece but our natural defence system is somewhat outdated because we don't often meet sabre tooth tigers in the high street but still kicks in if we fear other things, no matter how trivial.

    My advice is always the same. Do the opposite to what your anxiety is telling you to do, or not do. This means eating when you don't feel like it. I don't necessarily mean having a full 3 course meal but at least make the effort to eat something. By doing this, you are telling your brain that there isn't any threat because you are busy "grazing" on food so it doesn't try to protect you and make you feel anxious. Due to sensitisation of your nerves, those feeling will still come for a while but if you continue to do the opposite, the feelings will gradually subside until they no longer matter and you will break the anxiety cycle. Your physical strength will also return if you eat sensibly.

  • You obviously know what you're talking about. Thank you for your detailed reply. I didn't think through the fact that we are really just evolved animals. Your "grazing" remark brought that home to me. It made me smile. Fear is also at the root of my depression. Loneliness and grief play a big part too. I am at the age when family and friends are lost through death. The feeling of isolation and having no-one to turn to is so powerful that it has taken over my personality and changed me into a sad old woman. I cannot bring myself to believe in an afterlife. If I could, I think I would be cured. I've read countless books in my search for Truth only to find that religion of any kind is not for me. I simply don't believe any of it. Sometimes I wish I did. I'm told that I think too much but that's just me. There are no answers to the questions that plague me.

  • This makes me wish I lived around the corner from you and I would pop in and have a cuppa with you. Social isolation is adding to your depression. Are there any groups you could join? Even Facebook has been proven to alleviate lonliness. Can you volunteer anywhere? Many of the op shops (charity shops) i visit are staffed by volunteers who are mostly aged in their 70's. The focus will then shift off yourself and that is the key to escaping the anxiety trap we set for ourselves. Can you be adopted by a family to be their granny? There was a program run by my kids' school where they had lonely grandparents and senior citizens come in to the classroom to read to the kids - win win! As for eating, try soft foods like bananas, yoghurt, chia seed pudding, custard, scrambled egg, avocado - nutritious but not too challenging to chew and swallow. Thoughts from Australia 😘😘

  • You're certainly not next door as I live in Scotland. I have made a prisoner of myself since I got my little dog. She goes everywhere with me. I can't bring myself to leave her at home. She even follows me from room to room. This prevents me from doing many things such as going out for lunch, going on holiday, joining groups etc. I just know she would be distressed if I left her.She has never been left in her 8 years with me. I can't do it. I do have people to visit me but the beneficial effects of that soon wear off. I suppose I just have difficulty facing my reality. Thank you and I wish you could pop in.

  • That's the thing with anxiety. It poses questions that doesn't have answers so don't waste time searching. I'm not even sure that there is an afterlife either but it doesn't bother me. What will be, will be!

    Without anxiety, I think many of those questions buzzing around in side your head wouldn't be there and the trick is to not give them any respect and simply observe them without getting involved. They will eventually disappear.

    It would be great if there was some form of "walk and talk" sessions that also includes pets that you could get involved with. Most of our fears are not based on reality and just a case of feeling the fear and doing it anyway. It's just a feeling or a thought and you have a choice as to how to react to them.

    It doesn't matter if you think too much, allow yourself to think and feel anything. It only feels uncomfortable if you add fear into the mix but that will go if you continue to face those fears with acceptance.

    Best wishes

  • For me I believe in God. I have found that like the previous person stated, just let go. For me I let go and let God handle it. I do not focus on religion but on God and my relationship with Him. He is in control and I am just here doing His work. So it really does help to let those feelings go. There are times they are overwhelming and I too get isolated and not want to go out but then I think about it, and I just pray about it and let God take it and just go on about my day and I dont try to ignore the feelings, but I just continue about my business through all the feelings and anxiety and then afterwards I realize they subsided. You just have to find what works for you. I know this is 3 months old (I was having one of those bad days and came across this forum) but I just get a little reassurance that I am not the only one that keeps feeling this way lol it always helps me. I hope you are feeling better.

  • My CBT counsellor told me to, "make friends with your symptoms and not to fear them". It is the way forward! Thank you,it's easy to forget.

  • Sounds like your counsellor knows what they are talking about. 👏👏👍👍

  • I agree with that statement. I fight the fear and accept the symptoms. I have learned once I accepted the symptoms, I fought off the fear. In time, fear itself will pass and diminish if you allow it to.

  • Beevee How true this is thanks for the advice.

    If we all take your advice and carry on as if nothing matters then we can beat Anxiety.

    If you are sad you are living in the Past.

    If you are anxious you are living in the Future.

    If you are living in Peace you are living in the Now and that is what is important.

    Daily stretching exercises keep our bodies flexible and supple. I do mine after breakfast or before I get dressed.

    When you feel anxiety take deep breaths and tell yourslef all is well in your life.

    There are a lot of other people worse off than you. You are alive and well as can be.

    Many of us are unable to go for a cycle so the best advice is to exercise at home with a floor exercise pedals which can be bought for about £30 and you can exercise whilst sat down watching tv. This exercises the brain and legs and gives your body oxygen and keeps the blood flowing. Do a crossword or learn a new craft to keep your mind occupied as our life is all about learning and adventure.

    Anyone else please add your positive motives that have help you.

  • I no longer worry about every thought or horrible feeling anxiety brings to me accept them I even use bad language at it telling it to leave me alone today not it the mood for you playing with my feelings. Looking back to 6 months ago on how paranoid I was thought I was going mad I think I have come along way from back then and proud of myself and hopefully I keep it up. I think of my lovely supportive husband and my beautiful girls and my family on how lucky I am to have them in my life so grateful.☺

  • Thank you! I needed this today. Just had an attack in the stairwell of my job. Now I'm sitting here completely exhausted and defeated. I have to try and remember your advice. :)

  • man100583, don't feel defeated. It happens to all of us. Of course you are exhausted. Try deep breathing and just heard yesterday about drinking/sipping a hot cup of water when intense anxiety comes, will help calm down the nervous system. Nothing but hot water at your desk, may help. We are here with you, you are not alone. x

  • Thank you so much!! I will try the hot water for sure. :)

  • Recovery from panic attacks is exactlly the same as recovery for any fear based disorder. Acceptance. Acceptance is made easier if you understand what is happening to you during a panic attack. Although terrifying, it is completely harmless. To my mind panic attack is not the best description and prefer to call it a surge of energy which is all it is. Nothing more.

    You will find peace if you learn to cope with those surges fully and continually pass through it until it no longer matters. It is not about getting used to the feelings which might help those with specific phobias e.g. Fear of flying. For recovery, a sufferer must be shown how to face (not run away or avoid), accept ( not fight or shrink in fear), float past ( be ok about not feeling ok) and letting time pass. Time is the healer.

    All of the above and more can be found in books written by Dr Claire Weekes. If you read and fully understand the content, you will be on the road to recovery. The hard part is applying the knowledge but it is not impossible. If I can recover, anyone can.

  • I love how you point out exercise for health and fitness not to squelch out fear. I'm well on my way to recovery as I had several anxiety free days in a row before today. any active measure you take to get rid of anxiety will eventually stop working. Exercise, beer, meds or whatever will NOT work long term. You gotta accept the symptoms to aliviate anxiety. There is no other way. Again great post.

  • I'm pleased for you all that you are feeling better but I'd like to add that anxiety can be very severe even without panic attacks.The fear of not being able to cope with the circumstances in which you live is overwhelming. That's what I feel every day and I end up crying my eyes out . When I say "crying", I mean sobbing bitterly. I know it's not good to live in the past or fear the future but all my happiness is in the past, at my age the future is of short duration and the present is often unbearable. I am 77 years old and can't cope with that and all it brings with it. Most of the people I loved and depended on have died, I can't exercise or dance the way I used to so I look back and grieve for the people I have lost. I am like a helpless child. I am like a fish caught in a net.I am on antidepressants but they are not working for me now as they used to do. If I could find a cure, believe me, I would grasp it with both hands. I once heard the expression,"Old age is not for cissies". That is so true. I thank you for your kindness and suggestions but none of them work for me. I cannot believe in any god or religion for so many reasons that I can't list here. That source of false comfort just doesn't do it for me. I apologise for the length of this post.

  • A wise tradition defines suffering as " the desire for things to be different than what they really are" and prescribes acceptance as the key to stop suffering.

    Good post. Thanks ✌️

  • This is so true, and makes alot of sense! Thank you for confirming this thought that has crossed my mind before!

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