‘This Too Shall Pass’ And Other Reminders That Have Helped Me Cope With Stress And Anxiety

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Recently, I’ve gone through many changes — new place, new job, new social circles, and approaching mid-twenties — which means many adjustments to my lifestyle and many shake-ups to my identity. The first month on the new job was tough. I was excited but at the same time, I started questioning every choice I’d made. I didn’t know if the move was the right one. I wasn’t sure what would be next. I felt lost. I came home many days completely drained and stressed. I got incredibly anxious, losing my composure and frame. I constantly sought attention from others because I couldn’t feel okay on my own. I couldn’t be with myself.

I forgot what it was like to be me.

I’d always been good with my alone time and being with myself so this episode really freaked me out. It was intense and kept spiraling. I couldn’t even function properly in my day-to-day life as I was constantly distracted and overwhelmed by anxiety and fatigue. I thought, what if things would never get better? What if I would never be the happy, confident me again? What if my life would just go downhill from here?

Worse, what if this is who I truly am?

And the panic continued.

But of course, I was wrong. It’s not who I am. And I proved that to myself by taking back the power over my life and got firmly on my feet again.

Here are the five things that helped me during my darkest times:

Slow down
One of the reasons why I feel anxious is because I think I have to know everything right now, all at once. I have to make sense of every decision I’ve made and have a clear idea of where to go next towards reaching my dream life, which of course amounts to tremendous pressure.

But at this early stage of life, I must accept that I don’t know shit. I don’t even have to. I don’t have to have all the answers and it’s okay if I never do. Nobody does.

What I should focus on is this moment, or even just the next week, next month or next year, and be patient for life to unfold in its own time. Nothing bad will happen if I just take my time to breathe and move along at my own pace. There’s no need to rush. Life’s not a competition. Life is my own journey which I must make as easy and pleasant as possible for myself.

Focus on self-care
I seriously couldn’t thank going to the gym enough for helping me with my anxiety. It works not only because of all the obviously positive health impacts it has on the body and heart but also because it’s when I’m completely present. I’m not in my mind obsessing over the past or the future but I’m right here, interacting with the physical world around me. Nothing else seems to matter but my well-being. It gives me a sense of significance just by being a living human.

I also find rearranging my living space, shopping for skin care products, or signing up for hobby courses very beneficial. So is being honest with myself about how I feel, why I do what I do and telling myself it’s all okay. All these activities help me put the focus on myself and regain my self-worth because it’s working with what I currently have in a positive way, not what I still lack. It’s building a life I actually want to live, not one to escape from.

Remind myself that it will pass
Whenever anxiety hits me hard, I often fall into a permanence mindset. I’m convinced things will never get better as I see no light in my life. It then leads to an overwhelming fear that I’ll never be happy and a desperate need to feel okay again, which ironically drives me to behave in a way that induces even more anxiety. It’s spiraling!

But this belief is so not true. The anxious feeling is temporary and it will pass. It has passed every single time and I will feel healthy again, if not even stronger. Just because I can’t see any light right now doesn’t mean there’s no light. The light will come in again and I will be thankful for my own preservation. Really, the light is in me.

Do not indulge in distractions
I used to have a very bad habit of finding ways to distract myself from my unpleasant reality, anxiety, and whatnots. I would count on substances, male attention, internet validation, or any form of short-lived high, to find comfort and feel better. But it’s always temporary and I would feel shitty again. I would see clearly why those things and people aren’t on my mind for good times but only when I feel bad.

Hint: They’re not healthy.

Giving in to distractions is easy but weak. It only eats away at my long-term health and actually prolongs the anxious episode while making me much more vulnerable. So I would rather endure the unpleasant feelings of anxiety full-on and get progressively better than distracting myself momentarily and only ultimately ending up worse.

Forgive and accept yourself
These days I try my best to remove myself from a situation when I’m feeling anxious but inevitably there are times I can’t help but engage impulsively and end up acting like an emotional wreck. It’s important that I accept what was done and forgive myself for my unattractively anxious behaviors. They don’t define me. I can always do better.

In fact, my anxiety-driven behavior might be clouded most of the time, but there’s always a level of truth in it. It’s deep in the way I feel and I must honor it. Perhaps there’s a better way to communicate this truth but it’s there regardless and it’s good insight for me to understand myself and the situation I’m in better. There’s no regret.

By Ellen Nguyen for ThoughtCatalog

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