Things to tell yourself when you're not well, according to people with anxiety
In last week's blog post, we looked at some good things to do when you are feeling well. But what about when you are having a rough patch and can't find the energy to do anything? What should you tell yourself?
As with last week, the answers come from group discussions we have had at my anxiety charity. And, as with before, I won't be discussing any specific details because things said in the group are confidential. But I can discuss the common themes that come up.
Be kind to yourself
Anxiety can be a tricky beast. Not only do we have these uncomfortable feelings but we are abusive to ourselves about having them. This, of course, is the last thing we need.
A better approach is to be kind to ourselves. It's not your fault that you are anxious, and you are handling the best way you can. If you can't face something, it's not because you are a weak person, it is because that is the reaction anyone would have when they feel this way.
Give yourself a break. Remind yourself that you are doing the best that you can.
Saying this to ourselves is often not enough. Write it down. Keep a journal of kind thoughts.
List your positive qualities and achievements
When you're failing to find the motivation to face life, it is easy to feel like a loser. Anxiety isn't often a good quality to have, but there are many other qualities in you which are nothing but positive.
Having a list of them can be very useful when you are feeling down. As with before, it is best to write them down to make them more believable.
Better yet, ask a friend or family member to write the list for you. It can be a bit embarrassing to ask: but anyone who cares about you will probably be happy to contribute something towards your wellbeing.
What would a third person say?
We often judge ourselves very harshly when we are in a rough patch. But we are genuinely failing, or is that just the anxiety talking? Usually, it's the later.
Asking our friends and family for a second opinion is a great idea. However, we often struggle to believe them, because we know they are biased: they love and care for us after all, so they are going to tell us nice things.
Instead, try some role play. Imagine you are an uninterested third party. Explain the facts to them and try to imagine what they would say to you. Chances are it is that anyone feeling this way would behave the same way you are doing.
What about your inner parent?
I'm not usually an advocate of anything to come out of the field of psychoanalytics because I am a strong believer in science and evidence. However, one analogy that is sometimes useful is the concept of the inner parent.
We often have a conversation going on inside our heads. When that voice is the critical parent, it shouts at us and tells us what to do. When that voice is the nurturing parent, it offers us a safe haven and unconditional love.
When you catch yourself being a critical parent, try switching it out for the nurturing parent instead.
Call on your support group
If you attend a local support group, or use a virtual one on the internet (and I recommend both of these), thinking about other people in your group can be beneficial, too.
This might be remembering the support and encouragement they gave you at your last meeting. Or, it might be reminding yourself of the stories they told, and how other people have it really bad as well.
The important thing to remember is that you are not alone. It often feels like we are, especially when you are at home by yourself. Being part of a support group can help us remember that we are all in this struggle together.
When we are feeling well, there is lots we can do to keep our mood high. However, when we go through a rough patch, sometimes all we can do is batten down the hatches and wait for the storm to pass.
During such times, what is important is what we tell ourselves; the self-talk we use. The more we can keep this positive, nurturing and kind, the better we will feel.
Published 5 March 2018. Written by Chris Worfolk.
Want more content like this?
Subscribe to our newsletter to get more great content emailed to you directly. Plus, we'll send you some chapters from our books for free. We never share your details and you can unsubscribe at any time.