Changing your life does not change anxiety
The idea that we have to change the conditions of our life to overcome anxiety is flawed…
I do get a bee in my bonnet about this. I often see the advice: ‘do this, do that, change this in your life and then you will feel less anxiety’. I hear people say it all the time – if only my job was less stressful, if only there were more hours in the day, if only I could stick to a healthy routine, if only my husband (or wife!) would do more…
It is the ‘if this… then…. logic’. If this… then I would happy, then I would not have anxiety, then I would have more fun and joy.
It does not work like that.
As the famous book by Jon Kabat Zinn says ‘Where ever you go, there you are’. You have to carry you with you in everything that you do. In your job, in your relationships, in everything.
If anxiety is here now, it will show up in your new job, in your new relationship, in your new house, in your thin body…
Now, I am not saying that some conditions are not easier than others. Of course this is true. Healthy is easier than sick. Rich is easier than poor. Love is easier than conflict. And also, you can, to a point, influence the conditions.
But really overcoming anxiety does not depend on you being able to influence external conditions. It depends on you influencing the internal conditions in you. Good news is: everything you need to live anxiety free is already inside of you.
You do not need more money, be healthier, be thinner, have a different job or buy a new pair of shoes.
Finding freedom in the life you have
The key thing to overcome anxiety is to be ok where you are now. From where you are now you can learn to understand how your brain and mind are creating anxiety and start training your mind to find more ease, calm, joy and get less stuck in endless thoughts and worries. Living free from anxiety is a skill that you can start to master right now.
We need to find clarity in our own minds before we can really know what it is that we need to change in the world of conditions (if anything at all). Only then will we be able to make the right decisions. If we make changes without this inside work, we risk making changes for no other reason than hoping to escape our anxiety.
I have a friend who is now changing house and country for the 4th time in 6 years. Each time looking for something and each time hoping that the new location will give her that boost that she needs. Every time it does not work out she explains this is because of the conditions – corona, the job, the people, the weather… this will be an endless search unless she really looks inside of her.
She is not alone in this, many of us do this. It’s an attractive thought: I can be less anxious if I do this. It gives a sense of agency and control. We humans like that.
You have agency and control, but that lies in your agency over your own mind and brain. It does not lie in your agency to try to control the conditions. Because sooner or later, you will fail. Something will happen that you do not want or like and that you cannot change or control.
This is why training your mind is so valuable. Because with the right skills your wellbeing and ease does not depend on anything other than you. How empowering is that?
Making changes with a focussed and aware mind
From this empowered space you can take decisions to change the conditions in your life, if they need changing. When we start working on our own mind things can become clear very quickly. When we sit still in meditation and watch our thoughts, when we clarify our values in our life, when we treat ourselves with compassion, change happens.
Slowly but surely, that job that was so stressful but felt impossible to leave can be left. The cookies that you ate automatically can be put aside. The relationships you struggle with change because you have changed.
Once you start to see the(mind)habits that lead to anxiety you are no longer a prisoner to them. Once you start to walk another path, the old one seems alien. With that, anxiety will play a much less important role, and possibly even no role at all.
You can choose to start right now to move towards that life you want. Your mind is right here. You can start right now with training, understanding and with being compassionate. If you feel that change is needed in your life – start your change now. Why wait?
You can book a 75 minute session with me to create a personalised action plan that you can start to implement right now.