Managing an anxiety disorder is a bit like navigating a minefield. There are safe places to step and there are dangerous places to step. The trick to navigating a minefield successfully is to not step on any mines, which is made easier by being able to detect where the mines are buried. The trick to navigating anxiety is much the same. Avoid the anxiety and/or panic attack by knowing how to avoid the triggers.
Unlike anxiety, a mine has the decency to only explode once. But it is possible to have anxiety be triggered by the same thing multiple times. If loud noises give you anxiety, they will continue to give you anxiety. If you can avoid loud noises, you’ll be fine.
But what can be done about anxiety triggers that you can’t avoid? What if the only path through the field is to step on the mine?
Anxiety Triggers Can’t Always Be Avoided
For many who are managing an anxiety disorder, people are anxiety triggers. It would be nice if all the people who caused us anxiety could be removed from our lives, but that isn’t a realistic option.
To put it frankly, anxiety triggers can’t always be avoided. Along the same lines, the behavior that triggers us can’t always be avoided either. If your boss triggers you by telling you what to do, it isn’t possible to avoid that. A boss’s job is to, well, boss you around.
Items, places, and circumstances are in the same category. Not everything is avoidable, not matter how hard we try. Trying to avoid the unavoidable is one the principle causes of agoraphobia.
Fight Anxiety Realistically
The truth is that sometimes we just can’t beat anxiety. If our workplace, to continue the example above, is truly causing crippling panic attacks and anxiety, then you might not be well enough to hold a job at this time. It becomes a question of how to live with what you cannot control.
There were times during my recovery where I couldn’t work and there were times I couldn’t leave my house. The focus of my recovery didn’t become how to avoid having a job or how to get the entire world to happen in my home. It became about what tools I needed to manage my illness so I could get back out there.
We must fight anxiety realistically. Some of my worst panic attacks were caused by a job I no longer have in an industry I no longer work in. The pressure and stress of the job were more than I could handle. To put it another way, I was unable to perform the requirements of the job. Managing my illness meant I had to find a different job and part of that process was mourning what I had lost.
The same is true of almost everything. Managing anxiety isn’t about hoping the world bends to us, it is about us thriving in the world. It is about accepting our limitations and finding a path we can successfully walk.
Through therapy, medication, hard work, and experience, I learned to manage my anxiety around some unavoidable triggers. (Anxiety Disorder Treatments Are Effective) Some things I had to replace entirely and sometimes I have setbacks.
We can’t judge ourselves for living with anxiety and all that encompasses. We need to focus on the little goals, acknowledge our successes, and celebrate the fact that while anxiety might win an occasional battle, we are doing all that we can to win the war.