We all experience stress once in a while but some of us suffer from extreme anxiety that keeps them from living their life. They are so afraid to take even the smallest decision thinking that they’ll ruin their lives or the lives of others.
I was one of them and, after figuring out how to calm my anxiety effectively, things got much better. I might even say that anxiety is a thing of the past now.
Anxiety is not dangerous. However, it might keep you from living a good life and having great relationships that will support your well-being. Anxiety makes you avoid people or situations that will trigger an anxiety attack.
In this article, I will share with you how to calm anxiety by showing how I healed my anxiety with the psychodynamic technique. If you’re interested in calming your anxiety, I advise you to start as soon as possible.
How to calm anxiety with the Psychodynamic Technique
After four years of therapy, I learned that you can calm anxiety in few steps. It will take you months to practice these steps, do have patience with yourself!
1. Go to the root cause of your anxiety
This is the most important step in recovery. If you skip this one, you might just well skip the entire article. You won’t calm your anxiety in a million years if you don’t know where it came from.
There is a cause and effect to everything we do and feel. So, try to understand that, diving deeply into your own anxiety is crucial to your recovery. To manage this, keep a journal and do 20-30 minutes of journaling every day.
It took me four years to discover my root cause. The cause was my toxic upbringing. The reason why it took that long was because I was, for a very long time in denial that my family was dysfunctional.
Psychologists and researchers concluded that, a majority of people who struggle with panic and anxiety grow up in dysfunctional or negative homes. If you didn’t have a secure attachment as a child (meaning that, your parents divorced when you were small or your mother had depression and couldn’t care for you), you will become anxious and confused about yourself and the world.
Try to go to the root cause of your anxiety by talking to a therapist or counselor whom you can trust.
Warning: don’t drag friends into this, as it is not their duty to guide you.
2. Once you find the root cause, stay there and educate yourself about it
Let’s say that, your root cause is you never having a father in your life because your mother got divorced when you were small. This means you might struggle with the fear of loss and abandonment. You might think you’re not good enough or that you’re not worthy of love.
Your anxiety revolves around the fear of being left alone, so you’ll be clingy to situations or people in your life. You won’t be able to live alone, travel alone or just sit by yourself as your anxiety might be going through the roof otherwise.
Grieve the parent you never had, or the loss of a past relationship that hurt you.
If your father, for example, is not in your life, grieve him. Look at a photo of him and sit through the feelings that come up. Expect a high level of difficulty here. I assume that, if you grew up in an unstable home, you weren’t allowed to feel the pain.
The way I managed this step is by educating myself about dysfunctional families. My mother has Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). I started on a journey of learning about this disorder and what it means to grow up in a family affected by it.
Now is the time to learn how to let go and grieve an unhappy time in your childhood. Read books on abandonment and shame. Read about how a divorce affects a child if that’s your case. I recommend The Journey from Abandonment to Healing: Turn the End of a Relationship into the Beginning of a New Life by Susan Anderson.
If you can, connect with the other parent and express these feelings to her/him.
3. Learn the language of emotions
As I said above, you need to go deeper and let go of all the negative emotions you’ve kept in your prison since forever. If you had a father who wasn’t present, you’re probably angry or upset with him.
In my emotionally unstable home, I learned that it’s not good to cry or scream or make noises as a child. I was even scolded for crying once.
As an adult, I would rarely cry or get angry with people. But that was before psychotherapy. Once I learned that crying is healthy, I would start weeping for hours. It felt so ‘right’.
So, if you have trouble expressing a negative feeling, seek the help of a therapist or coach. Don’t be ashamed to cry or balk in their presence. They are there to help.
You might say, ‘But I’m a guy. Guys should look strong in front of others.’
So what if you’re a guy! If you have this limiting belief, it means you were taught this by someone in your family. Or by your school or mass media. Know that all you’ve been taught about emotions is wrong.
Read the book The Language of Emotions: What Your Feelings Are Trying to Tell You by Karla McKlaren, you will find out more about how to learn the language of emotions from this book.
Use journaling to try and find out daily how you feel. If you start crying out of the blue, let it go. Don’t be ashamed to cry.
Everybody should learn to tune into their emotions and know what they feel at a specific time. If you are using games, internet, drugs or alcohol to numb your emotions, stop that. You are making your anxiety worse. Panic attacks are usually a cover for unexpressed negative emotions like anger, sadness and guilt.
4. Let go of your inner passivity
Inner passivity is a term I learned from Peter Michaelson, a psychodynamic therapist from Michigan. He links inner passivity to chronic unhappiness and panic attacks.
Briefly, inner passivity relates to a fear inside ourselves produced by our inner critic. For example, you might refuse a job offer in another state, fearing that you’ll have panic attacks on the plane.
You are in an avoidance mode, which makes you a victim to your circumstances. You might tell yourself you don’t have the skills to perform your job. Or that you’re not that interested in it.
The truth is, your inner passivity is keeping you from achieving your goals, so you won’t have to suffer. What you don’t know is that, inner passivity destroys your confidence little by little.
I believe the first step in letting go of inner passivity is to build a better self-esteem.
How to build a better self-esteem?
- Being truthful with yourself
If you want something badly (for example, ‘I want that web design job in New York’) say it out loud. Write it down. Tell others. But don’t avoid this wish. If you have flight anxiety, you can learn breathing exercises, take medication or do mindfulness exercises. Don’t let fear stop you from pursuing something you love.
- Teach people how to respect you
Try to learn boundaries and surround yourself with people who love you and appreciate you. Very often, people stay in relationships that are stressful, full of drama and even abuse out of fear. If that’s you, set those boundaries in place. When you understand that you deserve to be happy just like everybody else, you’ll stop the cycle of toxic relationships. You’ll stop making excuses for people when they treat you badly and move on.
- Make a list of 5 things you want to achieve (or have) and accomplish them
Start small, like, ‘I want to eat breakfast daily’. Make a food plan where you can write what you’d like to eat for breakfast. Make it fun and exciting for you. If you love pancakes, go ahead and make pancakes, use Maple syrup and strawberries if you want. Accomplishing this small thing will give you the confidence to accomplish other, bigger things. Remember that inner passivity comes into action when you make excuses for not doing something or when finding valid reasons for giving up. Or, in other words, you’re self-sabotaging.
- Talk positively to your inner critic
You don’t have to sit still and take the kicks from your inner bully. If your inner critic starts a fight, fight back. Teach the inner critic to talk positively to you and encourage you. Use positive affirmations to retrain your mind. They will help you in long-run to counteract the negative effects of your negative voice.
- Set boundaries
As for boundaries, you can learn about them with a therapist in a safe environment. You can start researching what boundaries are and talk about what you have found with him/her. If you want a cheaper approach to learning boundaries, read Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No To Take Control of Your Life by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.
5. Confront your fears
This might be an obvious advice but many people engage in avoidance behavior because of their fears. For example, for many years my anxiety kept me from going to the bank and asking about my own debt.
The bills would be sent home and I would be terrified of opening them. My fear was real: I didn’t have money to pay those debts but it made life a daily challenge. Each time I’d return home, I’d see the unopened letters piling up on my kitchen table and I’d shiver. I’d tell myself that tomorrow is a good day to confront the debt but ‘tomorrow’ never arrived.
When I finally got the courage to call my bank and negotiate on a new payment plan, I felt free. I opened the letters and realized that the fear was bigger in my head than it was on paper.
Find 30 minutes every day to learn about your fear and make friends with it.
For example, maybe you have a bank to call about an outstanding loan, just do it! You can tell a friend and ask her to assist you during this time and, perhaps, knowing that someone is there for you will make things easier.
If ‘just do it!’ advice doesn’t work (and I assume it might not), try writing about the fear. Ask yourself why are you so afraid of calling the collection agency or the bank:
Is it because you’re afraid they might find out how ashamed you are of being in debt? Do you think they’ll judge you for it? Know that collection agencies deal with debtors every day and they don’t really make an opinion about them. They just wanna do their job so they can earn an income.
If this doesn’t work either, ask help from a therapist to face your biggest fears.
You shouldn’t be afraid of anxiety because it is there to help you and not destroy you. Make anxiety your friend.
Calming anxiety is possible
Learning how to calm anxiety is not such a difficult task to do if you are really committed to getting better.
Carve a chunk of your time daily and dedicate it to knowing yourself and your feelings better. Do some research about your early life or experiences and get some kind of closure to what they meant to you. Invest in some therapy sessions with a psychodynamic therapist.
Learn how to put your emotions into words and understand how inner passivity plays out in your life. And maybe, you can let go of toxic relationships to make room for positive people who will treat you well.
You will see that once you start feeling happier and more secure with yourself, your anxiety will not terrify one bit.
Featured photo credit: Allan Filipe Santos Dias via unsplash.com
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|||^||Kelly L. Drake • Golda S. Ginsburg: Family Factors in the Development, Treatment, and Prevention of Childhood Anxiety Disorders|