I wanted a quick fix, one that would preferably fix it by the weekend. Maybe a few tricks I could use when things were bad. I wanted it to be easy and pain-free.
But nothing I found worked quickly or easily, because anxiety can’t be overcome quickly or easily.
It takes hard work and a lot of effort and it usually doesn’t feel good.
But it CAN be overcome.
I’m in the process, and the difference between me now and me in April is remarkable.
Here are the five things that have helped me the most:
1. Eating healthy.
I was already a vegetarian, but I still ate a lot of sugar and bad carbs. So eating healthy for me meant cutting back on the desserts and making fruits and vegetables the core of my diet. When I’m not eating healthy, I immediately notice the difference in my anxiety. (I now follow the eating principles in Eat To Live)
2. Cutting caffeine.
For seven years I was a coffee addict. I would have 30–40 ounces a day. But one day in May, I didn’t have access to coffee. I had a headache and I was extremely tired, but I also didn’t have any anxiety that day. So I decided to try cutting coffee out of my life. And it helped. If I had to pinpoint a turning point in my battle against anxiety, it would be that day in May
3. Exercising regularly.
I was active in high school, but I became rather sedentary in college. I would exercise every now again, but never consistently. So this summer I started exercising regularly, and I immediately noticed the difference it made in my anxiety levels. If I’m feeling anxious, the best immediate cure for me is to go for a run. (If you’re looking for something to keep you consistent, try signing up and training for a half-marathon).
4. Seeing a counselor.
I meet with a counselor twice a month. He helps me sort through my crap and figure out what is going on inside me. He’s also a great encouragement. It’s the best money I spend each month. If you’re going through any problem, whether it’s anxiety or depression or a break-up or dissatisfaction with life, go to a counselor. They are alchemists of the heart. (If you’re in Denver, I recommend Mark LaFleur).
5. Creating a support system.
Anxiety isn’t a battle we can fight alone. We need people in our everyday lives who know what is going on and love us and encourage us even on our bad days. My primary support system is Kalyn and my parents, but it also extends to my friends and pastor.
All these steps may seem easy in theory, but they are hard in practice.
It takes a lot of self-control to eat healthy. Coffee is the drink of the gods, so it’s hard to go without it. Consistent exercise takes time and isn’t always fun. Seeing a counselor is a financial commitment and requires uncomfortable levels of honesty. Creating a support system means you have to be vulnerable.
Overcoming anxiety is moment-by-moment, day in and day out, never-ending work. It can be a drag.
But the results are worth the work. The fullness of life. The increased happiness. The strengthened relationships. All worth it
You can’t overcome anxiety easily. But you can overcome it. Just take the first step, and then keep going.