Dealing with anxiety rather than running from it

Since a long term relationship that I came out of I have been slowly finding my way and my place in life.  I’m sure a lot of you reading this will know the heartache that accompanies parting ways from a boy- or girlfriend.  There is a sense of abandonment – a feeling of drifting in the black abyss of space, much how Elton John describes in his famous song ‘Rocket Man’

“I miss the earth so much I miss my wife
It’s lonely out in space
On such a timeless flight”

The therapist I saw during this time concurred saying “It’s like you’ve lost your anchor in life and you’re out there floating.”

So, without the benefit of the resilience I have today, in the initial life after relationship period I began to take solace in the company of others.  What I began to realise across this period is that I’d never learnt to be comfortable with me.  I went straight from living with my parents to living with my girlfriend (who later became my fiancée) so when we parted ways I struggled to live by myself, or more aptly, with myself.

I’d been experiencing anxiety/OCD for many years before this time, but I had kind of normalised it to myself – Ignorance is bliss as the saying goes.  This ‘parting of ways’ shone a well needed light on my anxiety, and as I had no immediate person to seek solace in – My Anxiety was caught in the headlights of my new found solitude, and stunned with panic, it took great pleasure in letting me know this!

So, for the first time in my life, I fully accepted that I had anxiety, and initially all I wanted to do was deal with it.  “Dealing with it” became a learning and understanding of it, which lead to my passion of learning more about us as a human race, and how we can live more peacefully as a world.

They say (and I’ve still never found out who ’they’ are 😉 ) that,

“Our greatest lessons come from our biggest challenges in life.”

and with this experience in mind, I’ve very definitely found this to be true.

In my 20’s – indulging the lifestyle that came with being in a touring band – I think it’s fair of me to say that at times I ran from my anxiety with alcohol.  Then following the end of my relationship, I ran from it by seeking consolation in the company of others.  I remember I would plan as much as possible to keep myself occupied; always dropping in to see family and friends, making sure my weekends were fully booked up, weeks and sometimes even months in advance.  This coping mechanism went on for maybe a year or so, possibly even closer to two years.

Although throughout this time I was learning to deal with my anxiety more and more, I was still relying on the company of others to a certain extent.  The experience that clinched this for me was that of travelling.  Just to clarify, it wasn’t just travelling – there were plenty of other aspects involved in my learning to deal with anxiety – but travelling was definitely a defining moment in my journey.

What made travelling such a stand out factor for me was the fact that I travelled alone.  I was booked on tours in a few of the countries that I went to, but essentially I was travelling alone.  Just me and my anxiety… When it decided to rear its head!

So the lesson I learnt here was, to quote Susan Jeffers,

“Feel the fear and do it anyway”

Which does actually work, as challenging as this can be sometimes!

So, being without my usual network of friends and family in which I would normally seek solace, I learnt the final lesson in being comfortable with myself – I did exactly what Mrs. Jeffers had advised.  I felt the fear of loneliness and did it anyway!

How this works is, the more you feel the fear and do it anyway, the more you get used to something, and soon enough that something becomes comfortable to you.  Stepping outside of your comfort zone bit by bit with any fear you have will slowly but surely cure you of your fear.

Now, I never realised this until after I came back.  I didn’t get a sudden “light-bulb moment”, I just noticed a change in myself and my behaviours on my return.  I felt a sense of ‘I’ve travelled round the world by myself, so I can achieve anything I want to!’.  What this whole journey has taught me, and this is a journey that I’m still on, as I will always continue to learn about myself, is how to be more comfortable with me and my anxiety.  I still experience anxiety now but I now know what it is, what my triggers are, and how I can best overcome it, both in the moment and in the long term.

Everyone’s triggers are different. Everyone will use different running techniques. And when the time comes for a person to firstly accept their anxiety/stress – and then learn how to better manage and overcome it – their ways to do this will also be different.

How do you deal with your anxiety? Breathing techniques, getting outside, meditation, music?  Leave your comments below!

Do you want to start bringing your anxiety under control by learning more about yourself, and also how you can achieve what you want from your time in education and life beyond this?  If so, contact me now!

Tim

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