To solve problems you use your mental powers to think for solutions, be creative etc. However when the mental powers are hit with a disorder it becomes one of the most challenging things to fix as you will have to use mental powers to heal your mental powers. Sounds challenging? Let’s do this!
First and foremost, this article must not be used to diagnose mental health conditions. The advice here must not replace the psychiatrist’s suggestion. If you think your disorder may be caused by something serious like an underlying medical condition you must consult with a good psychiatrist and/or a psychologist. However I still encourage you to read this article as you will need every bit of self-motivation, self-belief, a change in perspective, and other tools to help speed up the process of recovery (which-ever mode of battle you select – doctor or not).
I am writing this article out of personal experience. I once battled an anxiety disorder (I still feel some of the effects). When I was first struck by an anxiety disorder it brought my life to a stand-still. Feeling anxious for no obvious reason (or worse a panic attack) is a terrible feeling. If you haven’t experience it you won’t understand the actual feeling (even if you are a psychologist or a psychiatrist) just like a man or even a woman – who is not a mother – will never truly understand the extent of pain a mother goes through while giving birth. I wish and pray you never experience an anxiety disorder or any mental health issue. Having said that though, it may happen to any one and for any reason (and in some cases like mine for no obvious reason). To be honest we all have anxieties and it’s not such a bad thing. It becomes a problem when it goes out of control, mismanaged, which then may become a disorder.
I will not go in to too much detail about my story as that would require a lot of time to read (I will be writing posts and/or making videos about that too some time in the near future). Let’s jump straight to the point. I suffered for a good few months when I finally decided ENOUGH IS ENOUGH and so the change happened. As they say the change happens when you are no longer willing to tolerate something in your life. And so my breakthrough came when I decided that is it I am not going to live with this feeling for the rest of my life.
This lead me to discover and develop some techniques and tools that helped me in the darkest hours. The decision is the foundation where you start your journey, the feeling does not go away overnight, you will fall down multiple times but you have to keep going. So the (personally tested) tools I am about to share you are surely going to help you in the darkest hours.
1. Understanding Anxiety as it is…
For the sufferers this word ‘Anxiety’ is a synonym of monster. I remember from my personal experience that this word in itself would cause anxiety like even if someone else would talk to somebody else and me overhearing the word ‘Anxiety’ would make me anxious.
The dictionary meaning of Anxiety is, ‘a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome.’
Wow, anxiety is a must-have for humans (looking at it’s definition). I mean let’s imagine for a few minutes that this feeling of worry is not instilled in human beings. So humans would never get worried, nervous and feel uneasy about any situation. Looks like a great situation right?
If that happened nobody would go to school, or job or care about anything in the world. You get up to go to school because you are worried about the exams (and your career, family etc in the long-term). You are going to pass through a jungle and you are nervous because you may encounter something dangerous on the way and that keeps you vigilant. There are so many situations where anxiety saves you.
The problem arises when anxiety goes out of the healthy range – meaning either it becomes so intense that it paralyzes you or it falls down so low that you don’t feel the need to do anything because you don’t gave a damn about anything. In both cases you will suffer. If it’s too high you will have an intense feeling of unease and if its too low you will not be accomplishing anything or caring about your family etc in which case too you will be at risk of ‘anxiety going up thought the roof’ at some point in your life when life gets tough and it starts demanding things from you for which you will not be ready (because of having no anxiety about any situation all your life and not getting ready for the future).
Coming back to the scope of this article anxiety becomes an issue when it becomes a disorder in which case you start feeling very anxious for no clear and obvious reason(s). That is when it starts affecting your life e.g. sitting with friends having a good time and all of a sudden you start sweating, your heart starts pounding, and you may even have a panic attack. The first thing to do here is to make yourself understand and convince yourself that ‘anxiety’ is not a monster. It is an important thing but it may have gone out of the healthy range and so I will be bringing it back to the healthy level. This leads us to the second step.
2. Convincing Yourself, ‘You are NOT going Insane’
The first step was crucial. If you don’t understand what anxiety is you will not be able to execute the other following steps.
This one is a classic feeling. When you start experiencing the effects of an anxiety disorder for the first time this is one of the first thoughts that comes to the mind that may be I am going insane, may be there is something wrong with my brain etc. And guess what that makes you even more anxious which as a result reinforces the belief that I AM GOING INSANE. Have a look at the following example;
Feeling very anxious, scared for no reason
Thought: May be I am going insane
Emotion: Feeling very uneasy/stressed.
Behavior: Behaving negatively because of the emotion being experienced.
Feeling even more anxious as you think you are going insane
Thought: OMG! I am going insane for sure
Emotion: Feeling a lot more stressed and uneasy
Feeling even more anxious as your belief is slowly getting reinforced that you are going insane
Thought: OMG! There is something wrong with my brain
Emotion: Feeling Depressed
Behavior: Locked up in the room, losing interest in things you used to like.
You are in that VICIOUS circle.
Your mind starts playing with you by magnifying the negativity and giving you reasons of why you are actually going insane. If you notice in the example above our emotion is a result of the meaning that we give to a thought. We can never control what thoughts enter our mind. The thoughts entering our mind are influenced by the things beyond our control most of the time such as hearing bad news, going through a trauma, or someone close to you passing away, or failing at something etc. When we try to control the things outside our control we experience immense frustration. I am sure you would have tried controlling your thoughts and if you have you would know that it does not work at all, it may cause even more stress as you as a result of frustration Now it’s not all doom and gloom, sure we can not choose or control the thoughts entering our minds BUT we can control how we respond to them, in this case consciously putting effort in giving the thoughts different meanings. Mind is a complex thing, most of the responses are programmed and controlled from the subconscious mind so initially it may give you a very uneasy feeling by consciously overriding the automatic response (of giving the thoughts meanings). But if you do this consistently and repeatedly this will permanently override the auto-response and soon you will not be required to put in a conscious effort of giving thoughts a positive meaning (just what happens with the optimists – their minds are programmed such that they automatically give thoughts a different, more positive, meanings). Have a look at the example below now with different meanings;
Feeling very anxious, scared for no reason
Thought: May be I am going insane
(Meaning): It’s just a ridiculous thought, let me talk to a close friend or doctor about this
Emotion: Feeling very uneasy/stressed.
Behavior: Go to a doctor to take advice because of the emotion being experienced.
Feeling less anxious as the doctor tells you it has nothing to do with insanity
Thought: This thing is not going away, I am still stressed and uneasy
(Meaning): I have to change my approach if I have to tackle this thing
Emotion: Feeling stressed but charged to tackle the problem
Behavior: Researching, reading self-help books, watching motivational talks
Feeling less and less anxious as you go through the self-help material
Thought: People have overcome depression and anxiety disorders, will I ever be able to get over this?
(Meaning): If I have to overcome this I have to follow the principles of those who have overcome this.
Emotion: Feeling Determined
Behavior: Developing tools of dealing with the problem.
You are on your way to not only overcome this disorder but also develop some important life tools.
See how it works?
Is it easy?
Is it hard?
Can anyone do it?
Is it worth it?
ABSOLUTELY (you have no choice).
Now time to take the next step!
3. Challenge Yourself (Change Perspective)
Step # 2 help change your perspective too. Once you have successfully executed the step # 2 you will no longer look at Anxiety as a monster. But let’s go a step further and look at Anxiety disorder as a blessing!
WHAT? WHATTTTTTTTT???? ARE YOU CRAZY????
No I am not. I am talking from experience. This step has to be taken if you want to use this disorder as a fuel to achieve big and better things. This approach can be used to turn any adversity into an opportunity but let’s keep our focus on Anxiety disorder. One of the best by-products of this whole process of overcoming something like Anxiety disorder is that you develop some important life-tools. Remember life is out of your control, adversity can hit any time and the tools developed during the process of overcoming anxiety disorder.
TOOLS TOOLS TOOLS, WHAT TOOLS?
If you are reading this topic (suffering from anxiety disorder or something similar) you are actually developing tools. You will find your formula. Sometimes you develop your own formula by reading other people’s formulas. You are encouraged to play around, fine tune or even combine multiple formulas to see what works for you. One person’s formula may not fully work for you so it is essential to read multiple sources and use your own creativity and imagination too.
In life you are going to face challenges, problems and issues and if you have decided to make it BIG you are DEFINITELY going to face a lot challenges and stress will be part of your life so it is extremely important to develop these tools to manage your anxiety. By giving you this disorder life is demanding certain changes and preparing for you the massive things ahead. If you get successful in this challenge (which you certainly can) you will see amazing uplifting changes in other parts of your life too (whether its physical, financial, or emotional etc). But before that happens you will have to learn to change your perspective and learn to use adversity as a fuel. Many people like Muniba Mazari and Nick Vujicic are great examples of how they used their adversity to their advantage and as a fuel. Again it’s easier said than done but give yourself NO CHOICE and you will do it.
As it was discussed in the start of this article overcoming a mental health issue is one of the most difficult things to do but once done it gives you the inner-belief that ‘you can achieve anything if you put your mind to it’ – obviously when you climb the Mount Everest all the other smaller mountains automatically becomes conquerable. This very thing changed my attitude and gave me the belief that I can get rid of my life-long obesity and I did (for my photos and an article on self-motivation for fitness click here), it gave me the courage that I quit my lucrative job and moved back to Pakistan to have my own startups Educationary and Go Fancy, it also made me believe I can live one of my childhood dreams to be in movies and so the first movie I am featuring in, Parchi (from the makers of super-hit Janaan), is releasing end of this year.
4. Take Full Responsibility For Your Life
The problem is, we want to be spoon-fed and so we wait on a miracle to change our state, in this case our mental state. Let me tell you something, you have to take full responsibility of your life. You can not just wait and hope here. If you do that in other things (still a bad approach) but you will still be ok in the ‘wait and hope’ mode but with mental health issues you are in a constant pain (it’s worse than a physical pain) so while you are in that ‘wait and hope’ mode you are enduring pain. And the worse part is that your pain worsens (it has this snowball effect, keeps getting bigger and bigger).
Crisis happened, you did not want it, you may have not done anything to cause it so thinking about the ‘why did this happen to me, I have not done anything wrong’ will not help here. I did the same mistake, I was in self-denial for a long time and I made zero progress in those months. I could only feel getting worse. If you ask me even now that what caused my depression and anxiety disorder, I still don’t know honestly. What I came to know and realize though was that my solution lies with me too. I have to dig out a solution and so finally I managed to decide, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! It doesn’t matter why this happened, what matters is how will I get out of this.
When you make a DECISION, set a MASSIVE GOAL and get your BELIEF on your side that you will get there, ways start opening up for you. Part of your mind that is working for you and not against you start looking for the solutions. There could be multiple ways but I will suggest a standard starting point here.
Bestselling self-help books are bestselling for a reason and famous motivational speakers are famous for a reason. The best self-help books are from the authors who have faced adversity themselves and the best motivational speeches come from the people who have had a hard life themselves. They talk about the practical tools which they have developed and/or discovered themselves, and most importantly applied to overcome their crisis. As I mentioned at the start that the pain of a childbirth can only truly be understood by a fellow mother, similarly when people with practical experience talk that makes a lot more sense and goes straight to the heart than those people who have just read and researched about it (no matter how many PhDs they have but if they haven’t experienced anything of the sort they will lack empathy and so their expression may also lack practicality).
I used self-help material a lot and I still remember how my first book on this path Alchmist by Paulo Coelho gave me a huge boost. I still remember texting my sister while standing on the platform of Upton Park station in London waiting for the District Line train, “I guess this disorder and depression happened now for a reason, my thinking pattern needed to be changed and this is forcing me to change, also if this had struck me in sixties or seventies it would have been a lot worse as such a major change then would be even more difficult”. This was a first positive text she had received from me in many weeks as I usually would talk and text very hopelessly. She was very encouraged too and replied, “I guess Alchemist is working for you…..” and added some more encouraging words as she would always do.
There had been many books I have read along the same lines after Alchemist and I still read but I would definitely mention “The Power of Your Subconscious Mind” by Dr Joseph Murphy. This was the game changer for me. I read this book after trying Norman Vincent Peele’s “The Power of Positive Thinking” which did not appeal as much. The Power of Your Subconscious Mind gave me insight into why we respond, or behave differently from others, what makes us miserable etc and importantly how we can alter our subconscious to bring positive changes in our attitude and behavior. I tried many of the techniques as I had no choice and I had made that decision that I will be coming out of this. I noticed some very positive changes from applying those techniques.
I was not a reader, I did not even read my text books with any zeal but when life demanded change the best thing I did was to change and so I started reading and that is another thing I am grateful for because reading a variety of books (now) gives me a variety of benefits. It’s like an investment in oneself. Whenever faced with the need to learn about something now – I say go buy a book or attend a seminar or watch a video.
If it’s possible to find self-help workshops or seminars. GO ATTEND THEM! Looking up on YouTube is great but when you are in there physically with so many other people with the similar needs, an atmosphere of positive energy is created where all are on the same wave-length you get spikes in motivation and that is the time (that spike in motivation) when your perspective is most likely to change. You also get to meet other charged people which rubs of on you and the sheer vibe in the air causes your perspective to change some times.
NOW ASK YOURSELF
‘What steps have I taken to overcome this?’
‘What serious effort have I put in?’
‘Am I also in the wait and hope mode?’
‘How long can I wait?’
‘What if I take full responsibility to get me out of this?’
‘Have I really done anything practical, and done enough to get me out of this?’
Remember! It is only YOU who will make it happen. Luck favors the brave, take full responsibility and you will be amazed of how ways will start opening up for you.
5. Anchor in the Present
Like a ship put an anchor in the sea to stay where it is and not drift away. You have to put your anchor in the present moment at all times to feel connected and not let your thoughts drift you away to the past or the future.
With this simple but amazing step you will find peace. Let’s imagine, you somehow erased everything that has ever happened in the past, and as a human lets say you do not have the capacity to think beyond today (means you are not able to think about tomorrow or day after or a year after or simply the future). Just for arguments sake lets suppose that happens, you will notice majority of your anxieties and fears disappears. This is because the majority of stresses and anxieties originates either from the past or the future. This brings us to the conclusion that if we somehow find the way to stay in the present we will find peace.
That accident happened in the past
The death of the closed one happened way back
That divorce happened 6 months ago now
That (any) traumatizing experience happened in the past
I still have to many years before I worry about my job prospects
The repossession of my house (by the bank) may not happen at all
My future life-partner may be the perfect one for me
If you observe most of the uneasiness is caused by something that is not happening right there but its in the thought whether its thinking about something in the past or fearing something that might come in the future. I am a big fan of the saying, ‘where focus goes, energy flows’. When you are stuck in the past (holding on to someone) or future (fearing something dreadful might happen) your focus is on the past/future. What you need to do is bring that focus to present moment.
Yes, I know it’s not easy to do but its possible and its completely worth it. Eckhert Tolle, in his bestselling book ‘The Power of Now’, defines this as putting an anchor in the present moment and it could be anything, that beautiful flower in the surrounding, that kid playing in front of you but the best anchor is suggested to be inside you that is why most of the experts suggest focusing on the breathing. You can focus completely on your breathing, or your hands, and observe the feeling of being alive in this very moment. This brings your focus to the present.
Your thoughts are keeping you away from the present and somewhere in the past or future. The problem is that you can not choose (or control) the thoughts that enter your mind however you can program your mind to let some thoughts in and discard some of them without you even knowing. The only thing you control (in any situation) is your response so here you respond to the thought (about past or future or any negative thought) by acknowledging and then bringing your focus to the present. You are what you repeatedly do so you do this repeatedly on a consistent basis this becomes part of your attitude and you experience peace (controlled anxiety in a healthy range) by staying in the present by not focusing on the past or future.
Have a look at the following example
(Thought): ‘I will never be able to get over anxiety disorder’
(Acknowledge): I got a thought like this because of my mismanaged anxiety which is pretty normal in this state.
Now I must bring my focus back to the present moment on what I was doing.
Remember acknowledging the thought is extremely important. Just acknowledgement, do not try to get into an argument with your thought to try and justify of why this feared thing in the future may not happen, this may give birth to endless argument inside your mind. This is one of the techniques your mind uses to suck you in. Just feel it will not happen and say to yourself (Now I must bring my focus back to the present moment to what I was doing. This is to be done with conviction saying like, ‘Ok Mr. Thought! You entered my mind, I can either choose to give you attention or not. I choose NOT to give you attention.’ Attention is a thought’s food.
This does not mean that by doing this the uneasy feeling will just disappear completely (it surely will lessen bit by bit) but this is what you have to do with belief every time consistently on a regular basis and the negative thought pattern will lose it’s grip. This is how your mind gets reprogrammed (which obviously takes time and effort). You will start feeling the positive affects very soon but you have to be willing to give it time and the relentless effort for the reprogramming to be done.
If you just choose to just ignore the negative thoughts (the mistake many people make thinking this may work) it stays there and the discomforting feeling doesn’t go away, it rather gets multiplied and magnified.
A human mind entertains about 64000 thoughts a day on average. Now if majority of those are negative, and you start giving them attention (which you would normally do in the negative state of mind) they will start growing branches very speedily and it literally has the power to bring you to a stand still and paralyze you for as long as you are stuck in your mind. So anchoring in the present is the way to go.
FINALLY! I would just like to say this to you that a human being is born with an ability to recreate himself. But for that to happen you have to take full responsibility for your life and don’t just play the ‘wait and hope’ game. You can do this. All the best.
SUMMARY OF THE 5 STEPS
- Understand Anxiety as it is…
- Convince yourself You are not going Insane
- Challenge Yourself (Change your perspective)
- Take Full Responsibility for Your Life
- Anchor in the Present