What Does It Mean To Be Anxiety Free?

How can I be anxiety free?  How do I make anxiety go away?  How do I get anxiety to stop?  What am I doing wrong that I keep having anxiety?  I was doing so good and thought I was cured, and now it’s back?  Am I’m going backwards?  What is wrong with me?  Am I broken?

These are just a few of the exasperated questions I hear from people I work with who have anxiety.  Because anxiety feels so uncomfortable and is so disruptive to life, it makes sense that we just want it to go away and never come back.

In this post, I hope to shed some light on the what it means to be “anxiety free.”

If you have anxiety, chances are you have done plenty of research to figure out how to make it go away.  And here’s the truth:

You can’t make anxiety permanently go away for two reasons.

First, we are biologically wired for anxiety.  In order for our species to survive, our nervous system is pre-designed with the fight-flight-freeze response. Because of this, every human being is going to experience degrees of anxiety.  Simply stated, without anxiety, we would all perish!

Second, if you have an anxiety disorder, such as panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, or any other anxiety disorder, the neuro-biological and functional activity in your brain that processes emotion works differently than in a person that does not have the disorder.  This is the reason you experience anxiety in greater doses than the average Jane or Joe.

If you have anxiety, it is not your fault, it is not a character flaw, and it does not mean you are weak.  It just means that you have anxiety, and we can manage that!  Anxiety is largely genetic and is thought to be a result of an imbalance of the activity in the emotional centers of the brain, primarily involving the limbic system, which includes the amygdala and hippocampus.

That we can’t “make anxiety permanently go away” might seem like bad news, however, it really isn’t.  Even though we can’t change our biology, we can learn to manage our panic, worries, and fears.  I often use the prayer of serenity as a way to reframe how we think about anxiety. 

If you have anxiety, you can learn to accept what you cannot change (your biology and genes) and change the things you can (how to cope with and manage anxiety).

In this regard, to be anxiety free is not, “the absence of anxiety”. Anxiety is going to exist.  To be anxiety free, instead, is the ability to manage anxiety when it arises and carry on with life even when anxious! 

To be anxiety free really means to be free from the suffering of anxiety when it shows up.

We can do this!  Just because we have anxiety does not mean that we have to suffer.

By accepting that we are going to experience anxiety and skillfully managing it, we are free to live our lives with passion and purpose. 

By focusing and investing as much time, energy, and emotion into accepting and actively coping with anxiety instead of trying to make it go away, you will not only feel less anxious, but you will feel empowered to know that anxiety does not have to shut your life down or cause you to struggle.

Remember, when you fight with your anxiety, you reinforce the anxiety and wear yourself out.  However, if you accept your anxiety and manage it, you can quickly reduce your “symptoms” and the anxiety will quickly subside.  With continued practice and patience, your waves of anxiety will be less frequent, less intense, and shorter in duration.  This is excellent news!

In this way, you truly are free from anxiety.

Finally, remember that you are going to have good days and bad.  And even if your anxiety has, “gone into remission” and then mysteriously shows back up in your life, this does not mean that you are going backwards.  It just means that you have to refocus your efforts and cope.  If you can manage anxiety once, you can manage it every single time thereafter.  Practice makes perfect!

For practical ways to manage anxiety, read:

A Two Minute Tool to Calm Anxiety and Panic

4 Steps to Coping with and Releasing Anxiety

The Four Cs for Overcoming Anxiety

The purpose of this blog is to help you calm down and get back to life by providing you with plenty of information and inspiration.  Sometimes, however, you need a trusted guide.  If this is the case for you, I’m happy to help!  Leave me a comment or shoot me an e-mail to explore your options.