How to Truly “Control” Anxiety

Trying to control anxiety is basically anxiety

What do we normally do in order to feel better? We normally try to take control. If we are having negative unwanted thoughts and feelings, what is it we normally do? We try to control our mind. We try to stop our thoughts and suppress our feelings because we believe this is the way forward.

If there was one thing that held me back more than anything during my severe anxiety years, other than a lack of understanding, fearing my anxiety and carrying out behaviours which was keeping it alive, it would have to be trying to control it.

If we don’t have the understanding about the counter-intuitive approach, then it’s all too easy to assert some form of control over our thoughts and feelings.

Having this control element can be successful when we are dealing with things in the external world, but even then, it can create unnecessary stress and suffering. It all depends on what we’re trying to control.

Those who try their very hardest to keep things under control, usually have a lot of anxiety slowly bubbling up from underneath the surface,

Whilst we can keep things under control in our lives to a certain extent, the reality is that most things are completely outside of our control. Including our own anxiety. Hang on, that’s not completely true. We can control our anxiety, but in a counter-intuitive sense.

I know saying this might scare you, but if looked at in a certain way, it can bring us true lasting empowerment.

I saw a quote recently that listed things which we can control. It included our thoughts and emotions. I think this is really misleading because how can we control something that happens automatically?

We don’t get to choose which thoughts and feelings arise. All we get to choose is how we respond to them. Our relationship towards them. Maybe this is what it means by control in this context.

Most peoples relationship towards their inner world of thoughts, emotions and sensations is usually chaotic.

Meaning they don’t have a certain structure in how they respond. What do I mean by this? I mean that they haven’t conditioned themselves to respond in a way which doesn’t lead them deeper and deeper into emotional turmoil.

What is the common approach for dealing with unwanted thoughts and emotions? To push them away and distract ourselves. This can work in the short-term, but before long, it often backfires.

We can only do that for so long until we are face to face with our feelings and thoughts again. This doesn’t mean that distracting ourselves is a bad thing. It just means that how we are approaching distraction is what often causes us more suffering.

When we distract in the usual sense, it’s all about getting away from our worries. All this does though is show our brain that we’re running away from something. It doesn’t actually solve anything.

Whilst in anxiety disorders, using distraction can be helpful, only if it’s done in a way that’s not showing our brain we’re avoiding something as that just creates more anxiety.

For me, this was getting into the mindset of thinking it’s okay for the anxiety to be there and then doing stuff because I wanted to, not because I was trying to run away from it all. This never works because this mindset just puts more emphasis on our anxiety.

How people usually deal with their anxiety is by using external agents such as overeating, porn addiction, drugs, alcohol, overworking, retail “therapy”, taking things out on others etc. This is all in the attempt to control their inner world.

But this doesn’t actually solve anything as it’s all about escapism.

“Relax, nothing is under control” – The internet

Give up control to gain control

If you want to actually gain a true sense of control, then you need to let go. Give up trying to control the anxiety. The more we try to control it, the more out of control we feel.

It just gives off the impression that this thing we call anxiety is really powerful and important, so we have to make sure that we have to keep ourselves together and maintain a certain mindset at all times.

You don’t need to do anything of this nature. People think that if they don’t try to keep in control of their anxiety, they will slip even further down the walls of hell.

It’s the fear of losing control that keeps them desperately hanging on. When I think back to the times when I was constantly trying to keep in control, this is when the anxiety would shoot through the roof.

If I was to describe the process using a metaphor, it would be like holding onto a hot rock and not letting go. The longer we hold on, the more pain we feel. When it comes to holding on to our anxiety (trying to keep in control), we actually become more tense and sensitised as a result. We experience more emotional pain by holding on.

I wished I knew this during the time. It would have helped me so much. I must of knew on some level that I needed to let go, but I just couldn’t. I was totally afraid of the unknown. “What if I let go and the anxiety gets worse?”

So, whilst my mind and body were telling me to let go, I was holding on and actually prolonging the condition.

Let my past be a lesson for you now in the present. You honestly don’t need to hold on and maintain a “good” state of mind. As a paradox, this brings on more anxiety. It promotes feeling states of struggle and uneasiness.

Nothing bad will happen by allowing yourself to drop the hot rock. It’s not going exasperate your anxiety. Only good things can come from it.

I hope this post serves you well and can help you along your path to recovery.

Until next time

Lawrence Gregory

Hi I'm Lawrence. I write about what has helped me heal/recover from high anxiety and panic attacks. Everything I share here comes from personal experience and what I've learnt from others. I write with honesty and with readers in mind, so you'll never see me share something I haven't had any experience with myself.

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