I’m sure you’ve heard the standard advice for anxiety, everything ranging from “Go see your doctor and get a pill,” to “Meditate daily, take these supplements, and go to a yoga class.”
This isn’t that kind of article. Because I did those things, and they didn’t work for me. I had to find different solutions, and look for them in places many other people weren’t looking.
Namely: I had to look INSIDE MY MIND, at my beliefs and perspectives, and change those.
The good news is that it worked. It was more challenging than taking medication, supplements, or even following a super-restrictive diet. But it WORKED. While I the occasional anxious thought clamors for my attention, I feel liberated from the constant, obsessive, catastrophic thinking that once colored my life.
You must understand that anxiety used to RUN MY LIFE. It sabotaged my joy, prevented me from sleeping, and gave me chronic digestive problems. I held the steering wheel of my life with a sweaty death grip, and didn’t know what it felt like to “go with the flow.”
Here are 26 pieces of wisdom and insight that have helped me overcome anxiety. (Why 26? Because that’s what it turned into when I started writing, and I’ll go with it since I’m 26 years old.)
1. When I’m anxious it’s because I’m trying to control something I can’t control.
- I used to be obsessive and anxious about my weight. Turns out, that’s because we can’t really control our weight or hunger (more info on that here).
- I used to be obsessive and anxious about my appearance. Turns out, that’s because we can’t really control our bodies to meet an impossible beauty standard.
- I used to be obsessive and anxious when I was in an abusive relationship. Turns out, that’s because I was trying to control my intuition which was telling me to GET THE EFF OUT.
2. Approval is a trap.
“When receiving praise becomes one’s goal, one is choosing way of living that is in line with another person’s system of values,” write Fumitake Koga and Ichiro Kishimi in their bestseller, The Courage to Be Disliked.
This book helped me realize that the degree to which I need validation from others is the degree to which I can’t walk my unique life path — and not being on one’s life path always causes anxiety. It provokes a stirring in one’s soul, an urgency, an unsettled concern of: “I am not using myself.”
All the time I was chasing approval, what I really wanted was acceptance of my true self. And, ironically, the places and people to whom I looked for approval weren’t very accepting of who I truly was.
3. It’s okay for me not to slow down for others. If they truly value me, they’ll meet me where I’m at or run to catch up with me.
4. It can take years (and years and years) to write a book.
Four years ago, I had a dream where i sat in a circle of white-haired wise women. In the dream, I cried and said, “I have to write the book that changed people and I don’t know how!” The women tut-tutted and comforted me, silently projecting the message, “It’s okay, there’s plenty of time to figure it out.”
When I woke up, however, I didn’t really believe them. I felt the liberating, shining presence of this book, even before I had a clear idea or title for it, and I wanted it NOW. Throughout the writing process, I felt stabbed by anxious thoughts like, “It’s taking too long!” I would think, “It should be done already!”
That dream was four years ago, and, due to the length of the publishing process, I’m still waiting for the book to be in my hand.
But you know what? That’s okay with me. Because, although I went kicking and screaming to this life lesson, I’ve learned…
5. The Universe has much better timing than me
Always, damn it.
6. It’s okay to make relationship decisions based on who someone is NOW and how they are treating me NOW, not based on their potential.
What a spectacularly effective way to alleviate the anxiety of trying to make someone change, or waiting for them to change.
7. I don’t understand how the universe works
Between the ages of 21 and 24, I a series of unexpected spiritual awakenings shattered my perceptions of reality.
During this period of awakening and shifting perceptions, I struggled to reconcile my experiences with the religious and scientific beliefs I held. At first, I did mental gymnastics to fit a big truth into a small box. This made me brittle and fearful and defensive.
I look back and realize a large portion of my anxiety at that time was because I was afraid to be wrong. If I assimilated my spiritual awakenings, it would mean I was wrong about some really big things.
That leads me to the next point…
8. The best thing I ever was was wrong.
- I used to think God was a judgmental being who was “out there” somewhere. Wrong.
- I used to think I had to be prettier and thinner and acne-free to be enough. Wrong.
- I used to think that I couldn’t be happy with myself until I accomplished X, Y, or Z. Wrong.
I’ve noticed this interesting pattern: every time I’m wrong, my life gets more wonderful and full of love!
Fundamentalists as people who refuse to entertain the question, “What if I’m wrong about my beliefs?” There are religious, scientific, political, and nutrition fundamentalists… to name a few. They are some of the most anxious people, and I know because I used to be one.
When I was afraid to be wrong, I exerted inordinate mental energy to see only what confirmed the beliefs I held. It created profound anxiety, because it put me on high alert to defend rather than expand my beliefs.
Now I live with the perspective, “This is what I believe…. but I could be wrong!”
9. The best time to start is when I’m not ready. Turns out, I’m never ready.
When I sit around waiting to be ready to take the next step in my personal growth or business, the buzz of anxiety I just turn up my courage louder than my hesitations and I go for it. Anne Lamott says, “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.”
10. Life is uncertainty. The uncertainty can be an exciting adventure or a cause for debilitating paranoia… I choose which one.
11. Other people can only love me to the degree they love themselves.
So I stopped trying to get self-accepting, soul-affirming love from those who can’t accept themselves or affirm their own souls. Talk about anxiety-relieving!
12. The means is the end.
Almost daily, I coach women who are afraid to give up body hatred and accept their bodies. They think that if they give up their feelings of shame, inadequacy, and unhappiness with their bodies they’ll lose motivation to improve their health and wellbeing.
Over and over I tell them, “If you accept your body, won’t lose the motivation, you’ll only lose the self hate!” I also tell them, “The means is the end. You can’t hate your way to loving your body. You can’t stress your way to a relaxation. You can’t deprive your way to pleasure.”
I had to learn this lesson myself first, especially when it came to my work. I used to tell myself, “I’ll feel satisfied with my work WHEN… WHEN my book comes out. WHEN famous people like it. WHEN my next book comes out.” Definitely anxiety-provoking self-talk.
But I’ll never be content with myself unless I am content right now. And I mean right now — not tomorrow, not next week — but this exact moment.
13. If I’m going to be weird, I’ll at least be confident about it.
There is nothing so anxiety-provoking or exhausting than hiding my “woo-woo wackadoodle” weirdness, as one of my yoga teacher calls it.
14. I may have 99 problems, but 99,000 blessings.
In my experience, keeping a gratitude journal is, definitely, worth the hype. When I make it a regular routine, it profoundly lessens my anxiety.
15. My body is on my side.
Few things in my life prompted more anxiety than my body beliefs — not my body, but my expectations, judgements, and perceptions of her.
When she had a severe autoimmune disease, I felt anxiety that she was ruining my life. When her weight fluctuated or wouldn’t meet my standards, I felt the same. Ditto when I believed my skin, thighs, and bloating made me less worthy as a human being.
The best recipe for anxiety is believing your body should meet an arbitrary beauty standard, should be thinner, and shouldn’t manifest health problems in a culture that creates health problems.
On that note, I wrote a poem:
Whenever you diet, she riots.
Wherever you pluck, she grows.
However you filter, smooth, conceal or cover
the truth exists behind the scenes:
your body is a being,
not a controllable machine
You think she’s the enemy,
that you’re under attack,
but what if this is how she says,
“Hey honey, I’ve got your back!”
16. Love never asks me to lie about who I am.
I used to think that love was self-sacrifice, self-deprivation, self-repression. So I did all that in my relationships, called it love, and experienced extreme anxiety in those relationships.
Now I know: Love doesn’t ask me to stay when I should leave. Love doesn’t ask me to stifle my soul for someone else. Love doesn’t as me to enable someone else’s avoidance of growth.
And love NEVER asks me to lie about who I am.
17. Nothing looks as good as emotional health feels.
A common fitspo mantra goes, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” — BUT HAVE YOU TRIED NOT COUNTING CALORIES AND NOT HATING YOUR BODY AND BEING OKAY WITH THE EXTRA 5 or 10 or 20 POUNDS INSTEAD OF OBSESSING ABOUT FOOD 24/7? It tastes so much better than skinny.
On this note, I recently transitioned my work from nutritional therapy to Body Connection Coaching. I realized the food fear and weight anxiety my clients faced were symptoms of other root causes. If you’ve been struggling with food and weight issues, I’d love to help you! I work a small group of spiritually-minded women who are highly motivated to heal their relationship with food so it’s no longer a source of constant anxiety and obsession.
If you’d like to learn more, watch my free masterclass: The 5-Step Approach My Clients Use to Overcome Food Fear and Weight Anxiety.
18. The pain of denying my soul is greater than the pain of destroying my life.
If you want to know anxiety, try staying in your old life when your soul is calling you into a new one.
19. People say to you what they say to themselves.
I’ve been told various versions of: “Don’t dream too big,” “You’re asking for too much, settle for less,” and “why don’t you try to be a bit more… normal?” These comments used to make me go “WOE IS ME people don’t understand me, I need to convince them of who I am!”
Now, I understand these messages came from people who told themselves the same thing… it’s the advice they give to themselves, so it’s the only advice they know how to give.
Now, I take to heart only the advice of people who are living joyful, content, and soulful lives.
20. Some people will want me to stay the same, but if I’m going to heal, I have to let them down.
Whenever I stall my own growth to keep other people comfortable, I create intense anxiety for myself. Often, people don’t want want me to disrupt their comfort zone or their coping mechanisms. They don’t want my growth to reveal their fear of growth.
But if I am to heal, I have to do the truth-speaking, boundary-setting, and self-celebration that rubs them the wrong way.
21. Flower essences work!
Flower essences are a natural, ancient remedy that work vibrational level, similar to an acupuncture needle. These herbal infusions shift the emotions that keep us stuck in unhealthy behaviors and limiting beliefs. You take four drops, four times a day in your mouth or in water, and the energy goes to work to release trapped emotions.
Of all the natural remedies for anxiety that I’ve tried, they are the most effective. The results are gentle but monumental.
I recently opened Floral Song, where I share the line of flower essences I formulate. Upon opening, the most common search term on the website was, “Flower essence for anxiety.” Working with my clients, I’ve found that people have different “types” of anxiety, that result from different beliefs they hold so I give them an essence after tuning into their specific issues.
As a general recommendation for you all, my go-to remedy for anxious thoughts is Pure Bliss Flower Essence. It helps you live in the present moment instead of constantly replaying stories about the past or future that spin into anxiety.
When I first formulated this essence, I gave a bottle to my team member to try out. A few days later I talked to her and said, “I was so happy yesterday and today, and I couldn’t figure out why — then I realized it I’d been taking this new essence!” She said, “Yes, I had the same experience!”
If you’re an energy-sensitive person like we are, then you may have a similar experience in the first few days.
23. The truth is always love.
I’ve never known anxiety like the anxiety of keeping the truth locked inside me. Realizing this spiritual law liberated me to trust the truth to take care of me.
24. I cut my hair off.
The causes of my anxiety have ranged from spiritual crisis to hair woes. I’ve blamed my hair for being too frizzy, too time-consuming, too annoying. I recently got a pixie cut and all I can say is HALLE-FRIGGEN-LUJA!
SHORT HAIR IS SO LIBERATING! I do hot yoga without a sweaty ponytail flopping around. I spend 1 minute styling it, max. I don’t have to worry about messing it up. I can jump in the pool on a whim, 30 minutes before I have to go to a meeting.
25. All anxiety results from disconnection. All healing is reconnection.
This includes disconnection from nature, from our intuition, from The Divine, from my inner purpose, from other people, and from our true selves.
26. My people are out there!
Once, I thought I was too weird, too intense, and too sensitive to really connect with people. Loneliness gnawed at the edges of my heart, and my ache for true connection created acute anxiety. But it was because I held that belief that I didn’t give myself the chance to truly connect with others.
When I started believing that my tribe is out there, I started finding them, and the new sense of connection started to dissolve my most intense anxiety.
Have you found anything on this list helps your own anxiety? Would you add anything to the list?
16-17-18 Are the best.I have been following you since about 2013 and watched you change and grow.You are an amazing soul. A work of art in the making. You are what life should be about.
First comment I’ve ever made to an article – thank you so much from my heart and my soul. You articulated what I knew but couldn’t consciously recognise.
Bel, I’m honored by your “first comment!” I’m so glad this resonates with you.
Wow! One of the best things I have ever read! Thank you for writing this ?. I will be re-reading it for sure.
Joyce, your words touch my heart. Thank you, and it’s my joy and privilege to be able to share what I’ve learned!
I love this, Lauren! This is so helpful for me – I feel the wisdom and truth in it. Will get that book, too. 😉 Thank you and happy new year!
Happy New Year to you too, Molly, and thanks for your early support of the book!
Thank you for your article. This one is just what I need right now. I think it will be good to keep, reference, and meditate on.
I’m glad it was perfect timing for you!
You’re such a wise soul, Lauren. Thank you for this goldmine!
Thank you Sarah, I’m glad this spoke to you!
Look up the side effects of any OTC or prescription drug you take. Anxiety can be a side effect. Ask your doctor if there is something else you can take instead.
Thanks so much for sharing this–excellent strategies ?
Hey Lauren, I noticed that number 11 and 19 are the same. Maybe they were just extra important! 😉 Thanks for this list, so many of the points resonated with me also, and I don’t even consider myself to be an overly anxious person (although as you pointed out, anxiety can definitely show up in different ways). Sharing this with my sister who suffers from anxiety big-time.
It is an important point, but I didn’t mean to duplicate it! Thanks for letting me know, and for sharing it with your sister!
oh my gosh, number 18 just summed me up to a T! Thank you so much for this article. I really needed to read it today. God bless!
I’m glad it was perfect timing for you!
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Hello, Ms. Geertsen,
I just want to say that your website is beautiful, information and gives me great joy and inspiration. What a wonderful, intelligent, and heartfelt woman you are.
Thank you for your kind words, Lydia! Blessings back at you 😉
This was beautifully precise. Thank you, and I hope I can use this great advice, no matter how intimidating it may seem.