10 Common mistakes that many people who struggle with Anxiety make

“How can I feel less anxious? When you ask yourself this question, what do you think of first? Do you consider all the ways anxiety affects your life, both negatively and positively? Or do you immediately go to all the things that make you anxious — people, places, situations, thoughts about the future?”

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If these are your thoughts when thinking about feeling less anxious (and if they’re not, read the article anyway), then according to therapist Juliann Schaeffer, “you aren’t alone.” After asking herself how she could address her own anxiety issues successfully long ago (when she was first working as a therapist), Schaeffer realized there were ten common mistakes that many people who struggle with anxiety make. If any of these sounds like you, she says, “then you will want to read on.”

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I know that sometimes I don’t allow myself to take a break from thinking about anxious thoughts. When I do this, Schaeffer writes, “You stay busy and active in order to keep your anxiety at bay.”

However: “It’s like holding a beach ball underwater; the harder we push down on it, the more forceful the natural buoyancy of it wants to be, and eventually we can’t hold it under any longer, and it pops back up again even stronger than before.”

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The first common mistake people with anxiety make is pushing away anxious feelings (and as mentioned above, those who struggle with anxiety often do this). Not only does pushing those feelings away make them stronger, but “When we push our feelings away or hold on very tightly to an anxious thought, we set ourselves up for a harder relapse in the future.”

On the other hand: “If we can learn to notice and feel the anxiety (being mindful) but then not change our behavior based on its presence, then we will find that eventually, those anxious thoughts lose their power over us. The more neutral you can be with your anxious thoughts and feelings, the easier it is to let go of their control.”

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Accepting your anxiety as something normal and healthy and allowing yourself to feel it without acting upon it might not be easy at first.

However: “The more you practice mindfulness, the easier this becomes… When you accept your anxiety as a part of you, as something that is always going to be there but not the only thing about you, then it becomes easier for those anxious, intrusive thoughts and feelings to move through. The less we fear our anxiety, the faster we can become free from its bondage.”

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The second common mistake people with anxiety make is “trying hard” to feel less anxious. This might mean:
“Working long hours and sacrificing all other areas of your life just so you don’t have to experience anxiety feelings ever again. This actually causes more distress because we take on even more than we can handle and then inevitably crash and burn. Remember, pushing away anxious thoughts makes them stronger! We need balance in our lives.”

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As a result of acting this way, Schaeffer says you might feel more anxious than ever. It’s also important to understand that “Anxiety is not our enemy; it’s actually trying to help us!”
“It’s there to let us know when we are about to make a mistake or take on too much. We need anxiety in order to live life at all. Sometimes the only difference between people who can handle their anxiety and people who get paralyzed by it is simply the willingness to slow down just long enough for their anxiety to catch up.”

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The third common mistake people with anxiety make is avoiding anxious feelings (and this often results in numbing themselves).

This means:
“You outsource your coping skills… You keep your anxiety hidden and tucked away, and then you start to lose touch with who you really are. You no longer know what you like or how to make decisions for yourself, and this can even start to influence your relationships outside of anxiety as well.”

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The problem here is that “you think avoidance will keep the anxiety under control, but in fact, it does just the opposite .” You might feel better for a short time right after acting against anxious feelings (by avoiding them), however:
“Anxiety always wins. It never goes away. If we don’t allow ourselves to feel the anxiety fully, instead choosing only short-term relief over long-term freedom within our brains, then we set ourselves up for a bigger fall at a later date.”

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Schaeffer then suggests allowing yourself to feel anxious without acting upon it, which might be hard at first. She says that “if you can learn not to act according to your anxious feelings in small matters, in the long run, you will see the huge benefit in your general anxiety levels.”

The fourth common mistake people with anxiety make is attaching themselves to unhealthy perfectionism. This means: “You base your entire sense of self on performance, and so any mistakes or setbacks you have… cause a spiral of shame and further avoidance.”
This leads Schaeffer to say it leads to a feeling of being behind, even if we have nothing going on externally. We become our own worst enemy because we are constantly attacking ourselves for not being able to keep up instead of being compassionate and patient with ourselves.

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The fifth common mistake people with anxiety make is not wanting to feel vulnerable. This means: “You shy away from anything that might break you open because all you have been taught is that when we are broken open, it’s better to be closed off.”

However, Schaeffer argues that vulnerability is a key part of healing our anxiety: “When we learn the skills necessary to allow ourselves to be vulnerable in healthy ways, we can greatly reduce our overall anxiety levels.”

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“Once you release the urge to stay strong and in control within your own mind at all times… You will begin to see a huge shift in both your emotions and behavior.”

The sixth common mistake people with anxiety make is that they put their expectations on themselves and then pressure themselves to meet them. This means: “You wait for something magical to happen before you allow yourself to have what you really want, but the truth is that magic doesn’t just come from nowhere.”

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The problem here is that “life has a funny way of humbling us when we least expect it. If we are holding our breath for some fantasy future where everything’s perfect, it’s easy to feel like we’re missing out on life as it happens right in front of us.”

Instead, Schaeffer suggests focusing more on small moments of everyday living because doing this will make anxiety less important in your life. She says: “When you take the focus off needing success or happiness to be a certain way, you become lighter and happier.”

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The seventh common mistake people with anxiety make is holding onto the belief that they have to be constantly productive. This means: “It’s easy to lose perspective on what it means to actually give ourselves space for rest and recovery because we’re so wrapped up in needing to achieve more things for the sake of achievement itself, rather than for how it makes us feel.”

In real life, though, “we all take time out from productivity. Bodies need rest. Minds need breaks. And souls need nourishment. Believe me when I say this: When your mind is constantly racing without any release, you will eventually crash emotionally and physically.”
Schaeffer recommends setting aside time to rest and recover, as we all need to do this. She says: “By allowing yourself some time out from productivity, you give your mind a break it so desperately needs.”

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The eighth common mistake people with anxiety make is not accepting their limitations. This means: “As you constantly strive for more and better, you can’t see that there are more than enough opportunities for growth available in your own life right now. So, instead of making changes within your current situation, you constantly push those boundaries because you feel like what’s happening isn’t good enough.”

Schaeffer argues that constantly striving for improvement will never feel like enough because it will always leave us feeling empty: “When we stop looking beyond ourselves for happiness or success … we finally allow ourselves to start looking for happiness and success within.”

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She suggests focusing on improving yourself in your current situation rather than always thinking about the next thing. Schaeffer says: “I encourage you to embrace one of my favorite sayings: ‘Good enough is good enough.”

The ninth common mistake people with anxiety make is not allowing their feelings to have a voice. This means: “When you are constantly forcing yourself forward, putting off what’s important for who knows how long, it can be easy to feel lost or lonely at times because you aren’t being true to yourself.”

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Schaeffer argues that following our feelings will lead us on more fulfilling paths: “If we only listen to those thoughts which tell us we’re not good enough, we miss out on the wellbeing that comes from listening to our inner guidance.”

She encourages us to start following our feelings again, saying: “I know it can feel scary or overwhelming to take this leap into something that looks too much like what you’ve tried before. But let me assure you. The more you follow your heart, the happier and calmer you will be – Every time.”

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The tenth common mistake people with anxiety make is not accepting where they are at in their lives. This means: “When anxiety takes over your life completely, it’s easy to put off living life as it currently stands … You think that there will come a day when everything finally clicks into place. And then, magically, all your problems will melt away.”

Schaeffer argues that putting things off just gets us further from our goals: “The longer you wait, the more your anxiety will build … Putting life on hold isn’t living. It’s just avoiding the pain you’re afraid to feel deep down inside.”

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She encourages us to start living in the moment, not waiting for everything in our lives to be perfect in order to enjoy ourselves: “I want you to understand this right now… You are enough. You always have been, and you always will be.”

These are all common mistakes people with anxiety make, although they might not realize it at the time. Remembering these mistakes could help put an end to negative thinking associated with anxiety. There are also some simple steps you can take to prevent anxiety.

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