Anxiety is the body’s natural response to stress. From first date jitters to getting nervous before a big presentation, most of us experience it from time to time. In excess, however, anxiety can inhibit our ability to live a happy and healthy life. Below, find six quotes about anxiety that we can all learn from.
You Are Enough As You Are
One of the lies our anxiety can tell us is that if only we were better in some way, our uncomfortable feelings would magically disappear. A cycle is then created, where we experience even more anxiety about what we judge to be our flaws.
As Brown says in this quote, this type of thinking eventually makes our anxiety unbearable. If we want to start managing anxious feelings in a healthier way, believing that we are enough as we are is a good place to start.
Plenty of the people you envy, who you might consider to be smarter or more competent than you, likely experience anxiety and stress themselves. The truth is that no one is perfect, nor is anyone’s life perfect, and your anxiety is not a result of your perceived shortcomings.
Next time you find yourself in one of these negative thought loops, try to find some self-compassion, and remind yourself that you are doing the best you can.
Action Can Be an Antidote for Anxiety
As we get more anxious about all the things we have to do, sometimes we become overwhelmed and feel frozen. As our to-do list continues to grow and we can’t summon the energy to even touch it, it’s easy to find ourselves diverting all of our energy into worrying.
Picoult’s quote reminds us that, while worrying keeps our mind occupied, inevitably it leaves us exactly where we started. More time passes, more tasks pile up, and our anxiety sticks around.
Taking action, no matter how small, is an effective way to tackle anxiety. If you decide that today you will accomplish just one thing on your list, you can use that momentum to help you finish something else the following day. Making slow, consistent progress and celebrating yourself along the way will help to ease some of your stress.
And remember that taking something off your list or saying no to an obligation can be considered taking action as well. Maybe you’ve had “clean my room” on your list for weeks, but after reflecting on it more, you realize that having a tidy room isn’t all that important to you. Eliminating tasks you don’t especially want or need to do will leave you feeling lighter and free up brain space for the essential stuff.
Practice Being Authentic
Anxiety can manifest as a fear of doing or saying the wrong thing. When we are preoccupied with whether or not people like us, every interaction becomes a minefield, and we stress over how to present the “best” version of ourselves.
This type of anxiety is grounded in the belief that if we let people see our real, messy, imperfect selves, we will not be accepted and loved. It can feel scary to show who we really are, but like the Dalai Lama says, this fear will diminish the more we practice being honest and open.
Being authentic with others may induce more anxiety in the short-term. However, in the long run, you will cultivate more genuine relationships. Without the constant refrain of “Do they like me?” in your head, you will be able to connect with new people from a place that honors your true self.
The fear of being truly seen is real and it can feel big. Let yourself be seen enough times and you will watch the fear start to fade away.
Understand the Spotlight Effect
Our former First Lady is referring to the spotlight effect, which refers to our tendency to overestimate how much other people notice us. This belief that others are always looking at and judging us is central to many people’s social anxiety.
In order to debunk this belief and better understand the spotlight effect, think about all of the people you saw this week — on the street, in the grocery store, in class. Can you remember what all of them look like? Did you spend much time (if any) thinking about them once you parted ways?
We are with ourselves 24/7, so it’s understandable why we can become hyper-conscious of the way we look and act. But when you start thinking that other people are just as aware of these things as you, remember that they are busy thinking about themselves — and that they’ll forget anything embarrassing you did by tomorrow.
Accept Your Anxiety
You might be thinking, “But I want to get rid of my anxiety! Why would I accept it?” The paradox is that resisting your anxiety only makes it multiply.
In moments where our anxiety is heightened, it’s easy to wish it would go away instantly. It’s an uncomfortable feeling and often comes at inopportune moments. However, the moment you start judging yourself for the feeling and getting upset that it won’t go away, you have created a secondary problem: anxiety about your anxiety.
As some of the other quotes highlight, there are strategies you can use to hopefully deal with anxiety less frequently. But when it does arise, try to follow Coelho’s advice and learn to live with it. View it as a sensation that visits you, one that you have experienced before and that always passes.
Learning to live with anxiety can also mean figuring out what coping mechanisms work for you in the moment. Some people like to take deep breaths, counting them as they go. Others employ the grounding technique of finding five things you can see, four things you can hear, three things you can touch, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.
Challenge Avoidant Tendencies
When we feel anxious about something, sometimes it feels easier to avoid it entirely. This might work in the short term. Eventually, though, you’ll likely realize that avoiding things that trigger your anxiety is not always possible, and even when it is, it’s a lot of work. It can also keep you from living a full, joyful life.
This is why, in Gottlieb’s words, we have to go through the tunnel and not around it. Going through the tunnel might mean doing things that are scary for you, until the fear subsides or you learn how to manage it, or both. For some of us it might mean starting online therapy, so you can explore the root causes of your anxiety.
Whatever the tunnel looks like for you, don’t spend your whole life trying to go around it. Feel the fear and discomfort well up inside you and go through it anyways. Though it may be the more challenging path, you will come out the other side stronger, more resilient, and grateful you didn’t let anxiety continue to run the show.