Growing up, I suffered from severe anxiety that stemmed from my adoption at 6 weeks old, and ever since those days, I’ve dealt with the mystery and anxiety of the unknown as a constant negative in my life. Being able to twist that and embrace the unknown as a guaranteed, constant thing of life has helped me to feel better about my life’s journey.
Over time, I’ve learned that it’s not worth fretting over the anxiety of the unknown because I will always have it. As an “anxiety survivor” (I like to consider myself), I know that it’s not truly SURVIVING or overcoming anxiety, more so than it is learning to live with anxiety and work with it. Nobody ever “gets over” anxiety, but they learn to cope better than before.
I ask myself a few questions when I feel the anxiety of the unknown creeping up…
WHAT’S THE WORST THAT COULD HAPPEN?
I have to remind myself: what’s the worst that could happen? Forcing myself to envision this is the best thing I can do to ease my anxiety in the moment. Say, I have a speech to give – what’s the worst thing that could happen if things don’t go well?
I could stutter, I could pass out, I could even throw up. But would any of these occurrences ruin my life forever? No. It might make me embarrassed and maybe even ashamed, but nothing else. My classmates might not forget about it, but it’ll be old news in a couple weeks tops.
Being able to recognize what is truly catastrophic, or mildly embarrassing is key. My dad taught me this skill early on, and while it was hard to grasp in “the olden days”, it resonates with me so much today.
IS THIS FEAR REALISTIC?
Asking myself, “But truly, is this fear realistic?” helps me to process the fear in its entirety. The fear of public speaking is actually considered a fear that is instilled in children from a young age – children are not born with the fear of public speaking, but more so our society forces this fear upon them.
Is the fear of being laughed at or throwing up during a public speech a realistic fear? For some, maybe, but for the average person, no! Usually your classmates (or your audience) are very respectful and are nervous, too. They won’t make fun of you, nor will you throw up or pass out.
The fear is not realistic to an extent. How high is the likelihood that any of these things would happen to you? Very low. I remind myself that I don’t need to worry about things that aren’t likely to happen – this will stress me out and scare me beyond the healthy range of fear.
TELL GOD YOUR PLAN AND HE’LL LAUGH AT YOU
As the common quote by Woody Allen goes, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.”
I feel as though there is a divine purpose and a reason behind everything. Although I do believe in the notion of free will, I believe there is a higher power (God, or whatever you want to call Him/it) that knows the path of our lives and will be there to guide me on my journey. Things in my life have been too coincidental for there not to be something greater than myself and I will forever believe in this idea.
I’m not sure if you can relate to this, or if people who share similar anxiety struggles feel me, but these three questions greatly helped me refocus my energy on succeeding and finding happiness in life as opposed to worrying each and every day about things I have no control over.
In your darkest moments, it can be quite hard to see the light and the hope at the end of the tunnel. Hopefully this post will remind you that you're not alone (and that I think you're awesome).
What techniques have helped you survive the anxiety of the unknown? Leave comments below!