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  • Writer's pictureDavid McLaughlin

You can't fight your way out of anxiety

Updated: Sep 2, 2020

It’s common to hear people use these words and phrases when describing their life with anxiety.

  • I won’t let it get the better of me.

  • I’ll just keep on fighting.

  • I won’t give in.

  • I just need to keep pushing through it.

  • I’m going to beat my anxiety.

  • I refuse to let anxiety win.

  • I just need to take back control.

This kind of approach is great for lots of things in life - but unfortunately not for anxiety.

Anxiety is a tricky illness and fighting with it and resisting it actually makes it worse.

Why is that?

Fighting with our anxiety symptoms – and trying to push them way and get rid of them – tells our brain that we don’t like them. It tells our brain that there’s soothing to fear – something that we don’t want –and so our brain responds by preparing our body to deal with the threat.

The brain prepares us for the threat by flooding our body with the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline – and it’s these stress hormones that cause our anxiety symptoms. So the more we fight against our anxiety – the more anxiety we get.

I call it the anxiety loop because we get stuck in a cycle of worry, stress and fear.

The more we resist and fight, the more anxious we become, then the more we resist and fight. And on and on it goes.

The way out of the cycle is to do the opposite of what comes naturally. We need to give up the fight.

The more we accept our symptoms – and let them be there – the more we interrupt the cycle because we stop telling our brain that there’s something to fear. Eventually, if we start incorporating acceptance into all of our symptoms every day – the cycle breaks and we start to recover from our anxiety illness.

Acceptance isn’t easy. I know this from personal experience. Anxiety took me to the emergency ward and made my life unbearable for years – so I know how awful it is and how hard it is to resist the temptation to fight against it.

But little by little, by trying to remove the fear from each of your individual symptoms, you break the cycle and start to get your life back.

The easiest way is to start one symptom at a time. Whether it be insomnia, shaking hands, dizziness, a racing mind, a racing heart, blurred vision, muscle aches, muscle twitching (I had all of these) – pick one and make a decision to stop hating it and to stop trying to get rid of it.

You don’t have to like the symptom – but you can allow it to be there and just work around it.

That might seem impossible if you’ve been struggling for a long time. But little by little, one symptom at a time, you can re-educate your brain till it learns that you no longer need protecting day and night - and break the anxiety cycle for good.

Feel free to contact me here if you have questions or need some advice on anxiety recovery.

Cheers David

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