You wouldn’t know it at first glance, but I’ve always been a very fearful person. An easily made nervous child, who was later diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. However, when I tell people this–as I often do to promote the breaking down of mental health stigma–they are surprised due to my seemingly fearless exterior. Living fearless, as someone living with anxiety, has been a lifelong battle. There is nothing more hindering as a creative, adventurous individual than to be bound by the mental chains of anxiety. Anxiety is very real, and I will not pretend for a moment to have all of the answers. I don’t have a background in psychology. My hope is to pass on what I have learned along the way in an effort to live fearlessly with an anxiety disorder.
Put it on paper.
I don’t know about you, but my mind is constantly spinning in five million directions. While there are a host of proven methods to calming yourself and promoting clarity, one of the best ways I have found to put my mind at ease has been through list making. I have lists for everything, and sublists for those lists. It may seem a bit overboard, but fleshing out your thoughts onto paper can cleanse your frantic mind like nothing else.
One spoonful at a time.
What I often find preventing me from accomplishing a task is the fear of inadequacy. This can range from a lack of time, an overload of outside responsibilities, or self-doubt. So I break it down into small, manageable pieces. After listing off my thoughts as I mentioned above, I will then figured out what I need to accomplish it by dissecting it even further. How much time will I need? What will I need? Will I need to seek the help of others? Is there someone I can talk to about this responsibility? Can I knock out two of these items at once so that I lessen my burden? And then you prioritize.
Think of the worst and then expect the best.
I remember vividly sitting in a session with my therapist, talking about a situation that was bringing me a great deal of extra anxiety. The interesting thing however, was that this situation hadn’t even come to pass. It was imagined. So after rattling off why I was so anxious about the prospect of this situation my therapist simply replied: “Okay, what if x did happen?” I must’ve looked at her like she had suddenly grown a second head because she then quickly explained that her intent was to get me thinking of possible solutions so that if worst case scenario, x did occur, I would be prepared. Being fearless, doesn’t mean you fly from the seat of your pants. Prepare for the worst, expect the best.
The little victories.
Celebrate your little moments of fearlessness. Treat making an important phone call like you would traveling halfway around the world. Because I personally know that sometimes the first one takes just as much courage in spite of anxiety as the second.