• Mariama Suwaneh

4 Life Hacks I Learned from Living with Anxiety

Living life with anxiety is not always fun - but it’s been one of the greatest teachers I could have ever asked for. Here are 4 of the beautiful lessons I learned from living life with my homegirl “Becky” aka anxiety:

1. Be patient with yourself.

I’ve always been a go-getter, sometimes to a fault. I push and I push and I push and I push until there is absolutely nothing left, until the tires on my personal life-mobile begin to shed, until I start to swerve and get out of control and - BOOM! I crash and burn.

Until the past few years, this cycle of speeding up, running on empty, and eventually crashing into a wall mirrored the way I dealt (or rather didn’t deal) with my anxiety. I pushed myself when I knew I needed a pit stop, a moment to come up for air and recenter myself, remind myself of the truth when my anxiety tries to suffocate me. But I was afraid.

Afraid that if I took a break, someone else would pass me, that they would win the race and no one would ever know my name. I had convinced myself that being seen was more important than feeling whole and that is simply not the case.

When I decided I was done with all the fires I set within myself, I chose to intentionally practice patience, to graciously walk myself through each moment of anxiety, figure out the roots and begin to nurture it back to health.

I started to notice I crossed the finish line in one piece, in the whole, beautiful way that God designed me. And maybe I wasn’t the first person, someone may have passed me up, but the feeling of taking a deep breath, celebrating my accomplishment, and reveling in the excitement was way better than anytime I crossed the finish line first, on fire, and needing a fire extinguisher to put me out.

I thank my anxiety for teaching me patience.

2. If you can feel, you are alive.

I wrote a whole piece on this one because it’s just too good! But it’s really that simple.

After I stopped compartmentalizing and allowed myself to feel the pain, the sadness, the frustration, even the panic at times, I began to live again.

It opened up the opportunity for me to feel love and joy and grace and light all over again, and I had forgotten that those are some of the most essential pieces to living.

3. Say “no” and mean it (set boundaries)!

I remember being younger and wondering how I would be able to have healthy relationships after having few opportunities to witness them growing up. I was nervous that I would turn out cold, bitter, and hostile, and it legitimately scared me.

At the age of 18, I had a choice - I could go back to the environment that bred and cultivated my anxiety, or I could choose a new life, a fresh start.

I chose the latter.

Leaving my childhood home was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Not to mention, dealing with the repercussions - the endless phone calls asking me to return, the pit in my stomach missing everything I had ever known, and the feeling that I was a “bad” daughter for leaving.

And if I’m being honest, I may have had some of the highest levels of anxiety in my life the week or two after moving out but this anxiety was different. It was feeling of being unsettled; and that makes sense. I was charting a new path and that’s scary. And it’s also exciting.

A few weeks after the initial shock of moving out, the uneasiness began to fade, my ability to choose myself got easier and easier. But not without the help of a tight circle of individuals who constantly reminded me of my mental health goals and the reasons why I was setting new boundaries each time I wanted relapse and overstep my own boundaries.

They reminded me it’s okay to love myself, and to take care of my mental health. They reminded me that boundaries help both me and the other person know how to best communicate with one another. And they reminded me that I deserve respect.

My anxiety was the catalyst for me saying “no more!” It was the deciding factor in me setting boundaries and choosing my mental health day-in and day-out. And for that I will always be thankful.

4. Memorialize your growth.

Life moves quickly, especially when you have anxiety. It’s easy for the mind to start running rampant and like a snowball rolling down a hill, the anxiety you’re feeling gets larger and Larger and LARGER, until Boom! You hit a tree and fall apart.

While moments of high anxiety are frustrating, I often found myself more frustrated by the fact that it seemed like I hadn’t make progress in my ability to self-regulate my feelings.

That frustration would lead to some level of a self-deprecating inner-monologue and I’d find myself in a puddle of tears on the floor in my room, feeling hopeless and like nothing would ever change.

It’s not always easy in the moment to remember how far you’ve come especially when you could use a reminder that you may not be where you want to be, but you aren’t where you were.

I started memorializing my growth, honoring the changes I’ve seen in myself in real and tangible ways so that in moments when I want to curl up in a ball and cry, I can remind myself of all the strength I’ve mustered, all the lessons I’ve learned, and just how far I’ve come self-regulating my emotions and being empathetic towards myself.

For me, this looks like a collection of post-it notes with words of affirmation that speak to the times I’ve overcome my anxiety, that highlight pieces of my identity I often forget in moments of high anxiety, or simply notes that have encouraging messages like, “You’ve made it through once, you can do it again!”

What would the sticky notes say for you?

What good has come from your anxiety? What lessons ha e you learned from overcoming challenges with anxiety? Comment below!

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by Mariama Suwaneh

 © 2020 Own Your Audacious by Mariama Suwaneh.