4 Ways to Stop Hiding from Anxiety and Start Living Freely
Wanting to hide from anxiety is a normal reaction. It's hard-wired into us as the fleeing part of the fight-or-flight response. It's a self-protective response that kicks in in the face of anxiety-provoking triggers. The problem is that its use is limited. While it might protect us from danger or even discomfort in a particular situation, if hiding from anxiety is our main way of dealing with it, we severely limit our lives. It's hard to override this impulse, though, especially if you've been doing it for a long time. To help you emerge from hiding and embrace your life, here are four ways to stop hiding from anxiety.
Avoidance is a recognized coping mechanism but is one that is ultimately unhealthy because of its negative effects on our lives. Before looking at how to stop hiding from anxiety, pause and appreciate yourself for all that you do to manage anxiety. Don't judge yourself harshly or use negative labels if you find yourself using avoidance to deal with anxiety. As someone who used to experience a great deal of social anxiety, I've avoided plenty of people and situations. No one is terrible for avoiding anxiety. It's just liberating to be able to emerge from hiding.
4 Ways to Stop Hiding from Anxiety
Each of these strategies is a process of shifting your perspective and focus so you can reduce anxiety long-term.
Rather than hide, try these things:
- Cultivate awareness. Anxiety can be broad and vague. It can feel as though you are always anxious. In reality, anxiety grows and shrinks--even if you experience generalized anxiety disorder or similar, constant worry. Notice what you avoid the most. What makes you want to hide from your feelings of anxiety? This can be extremely uncomfortable because it involves doing what you don't want to do: face your anxiety. Facing it, though, allows you to know it and understand it more deeply so you can better address it. Consider using a journal to record your observations.
- Be present with your thoughts. Devote some time each day to tuning in on purpose to your thoughts. Just notice them without getting stuck in them. Note what they are and then remind yourself that they aren't necessarily real or accurate. Just because we think something doesn't make it true. To put distance between your real self and your anxious thoughts, tell yourself, "I'm having the thought that . . ." To say, "I'm having the thought that everyone is secretly making fun of me," is less anxiety-provoking than telling yourself, "Everyone is secretly making fun of me."
- Be present with your body. We experience anxiety not just in the mind but throughout the body as well. When our bodies respond to triggers, we feel physical symptoms of anxiety like nausea, an urge to use the bathroom, chest pains, lightheadedness, headaches, sweatiness, shakiness, and more. Part of the reason is that pesky fight-or-flight response again. Our bodies are preparing to fight or run. We don't feel well and want to retreat because of it. Start to develop an awareness of this reaction, and stay present with it. When you recognize that your body is simply reacting automatically to a trigger, you have the power to choose not to give in. With this conscious choice, your brain and body will begin to slow down that fight-or-flight response.
- Be present in your moment. Mindfulness helps ground you in the reality of your moment rather than needing to hide. Granted, staying present is hard when there is something you want to escape, but choosing your focus helps you stay grounded. Instead of letting your thoughts about the situation run wild, attend to neutral or positive aspects of the moment. Use your senses to calm you: what do you see, feel, hear, smell, or taste (if appropriate)? Being present shifts your attention away from what makes you anxious and prone to hiding.
Start Living Freely
As uncomfortable as it is to face anxiety--thoughts, sensations, and situations--doing so frees you to experience life as you want to live it. You might not feel less anxious instantly, but cultivating awareness and presence with yourself and the world around you lets you live fully despite anxiety. Then, as you do so, you just might discover that you're gradually experiencing more joy and less anxiety.
What will it be like for you when you start living freely? What will you be able to do? How will you feel? Where will your thoughts be? Who will you be with? Freedom from anxiety is limitless, and so, too, can you be.
Peterson, T. (2020, April 16). 4 Ways to Stop Hiding from Anxiety and Start Living Freely , HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, July 27 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2020/4/4-ways-to-stop-hiding-from-anxiety-and-start-living-freely