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How Accepting Your Anxiety Can Help You Actually Feel Better

Anxious thoughts can be overwhelming, intrusive, and difficult to manage. You may try to manage your anxiety by avoiding things, denying how you feel, intellectualizing your emotions, or even dissociating them entirely.

None of these methods are inherently wrong, but overreliance on them can make you feel worse. In addition, if you don't know how to contextualize your anxiety, you may perpetually feel overwhelmed. You might also assume the worst-case scenario is doomed to happen at any point.

Accepting anxiety in its raw form may be one of the best ways to actually feel better. Let's get into what you need to know.

Understanding How Your Anxiety Disorder Affects You

We all get worried, and feeling anxious is an entirely normal human reaction. Your nervous system is hardwired to seek threats, and it responds accordingly when such threats are detected. But sometimes the nervous system gets hyperactivated. This means that you sometimes feel anxious even when everything is seemingly calm.

Both genetic and environmental factors can make anxiety worse. For example, you may be at a greater risk for experiencing anxiety if you:

  • have high levels of stress in your daily life

  • resonate with themes of perfectionism or overworking

  • have a history of trauma

  • have a family history of anxiety disorders

  • abuse or have abused alcohol or drugs

Anxiety is experienced both in the mind and body. Some people note the physical sensations (chest tightness, panic attacks, muscle tension) long before connecting to their feelings. Others recognize anxious thoughts (i.e. This is doomed! This is never going to get better), but they may feel disconnected from their bodies or feelings.

What Does It Mean to Accept Your Anxiety?

The overarching concept of acceptance is rooted in mindfulness, which embraces being present in the here and now. When you're mindful, you're not overly focused on what's happening in the future, and you're not ruminating about the past. You're simply attentive to what is.

Accepting anxiety means letting go of trying to change or control how you feel. It means settling into feeling afraid without fighting it.

The paradox is that leaning into how you feel (even if you're in an anxiety spiral) can actually desensitize the intensity of how you feel. This is the leading premise of any exposure therapy or stoic mindset. By simply sitting with what makes you feel uncomfortable, it has less power over you.

Steps to Practicing Acceptance of Your Anxiety

Accepting anxiety doesn't mean liking your fear or even connecting with your anxious thoughts. It also doesn't mean passively surrendering defeat to what's going on.

Accurately name what's going on: Identify how you feel and note any associated physical sensations, thoughts, or other reactions. Practice saying it to yourself neutrally and without judgment or bias (as if you're a news reporter keeping tabs on a story). This allows you to describe what's going on without being so emotionally attached to it.

Reframe with self-compassion: Instead of getting reactive when you feel anxious, consider telling yourself, "This is anxiety. It's frustrating and hard, but I will be okay." Regularly practicing self-compassion allows you to lean into your humanness. It also encourages you to be gentle with yourself when you're having a hard time.

Consider what will comfort you: What does your nervous energy need right now? Try to spend a moment and go inward. Ask yourself, "What would help my anxiety feel regulated?" You may find that you need to spend some time alone or seek comfort from a friend.

Affirm yourself that your anxiety makes sense: It's easy to judge yourself for how you feel. But anxiety doesn't work on logic. It works on emotion and perceived threat. So, when you experience anxiety, remind yourself that your brain is simply working hard to keep you safe!

Don't wait to "not" feel anxious: Many people assume that they shouldn't try something if it makes them feel worried or afraid. But this just isn't true! Some things will always feel scary, and that fear shouldn't necessarily dictate how you live your life. Avoiding things often just magnifies the worry.

Relax your body: Instead of trying to reframe your anxiety, allow yourself to find relaxation somatically. Spend a few minutes lying on the floor or grounding yourself in a chair. Take a few deep breaths and simply allow yourself to regroup. This form of mindfulness can help you slow down and reconnect with what you need.

Mental Health Treatment for Anxiety and Depression

At Resurface Group, we treat all mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, PTSD, and substance use disorders. While you can't get rid of your anxiety altogether, you can learn new ways to manage your stress and take care of yourself.

We pride ourselves on offering customized care dedicated to you or your loved one's needs. Our virtual IOP, Resurface Connect, provides comprehensive, inclusive treatment at all stages of recovery. Contact us today to learn more!

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