Growing Through Anxiety

Springtime is here and with the extra sunshine, warmth, rain and flowers in bloom, new growth is not only inspired outside, but also from within. As most of you know, I have written extensively on anxiety because it is something that impacts nearly all of us at some point in our lives. At its best, anxiety serves a purpose by alerting us to danger, cautioning us against a misstep. At its worst, unchecked anxiety can have debilitating effects, preventing us from living the life that we were meant to live.

So, how do keep ourselves moving further along that spectrum of unhealthy anxiety? The answer is multifaceted and certainly every individual needs a different combination of supportive measures. But, let’s explore one aspect in a little more depth. This is something that applies to all of us, no matter the level of anxiety we experience. With growth and change there is a certain level of anxiety, but that discomfort doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep growing.

This topic has been on my mind quite a bit lately. It seems that more and more young people are affected by anxiety, for all kinds of reasons. The heartbreaking part is that with that anxiety comes the tendency to shy away from the discomfort; to make oneself smaller and smaller, to hide away at home or behind a screen, and to miss out on opportunities because of crippling self-doubt.

With these behaviors also comes that part that is unseen. With the missed experiences also comes the lost opportunity to grow one’s confidence. The more experiences missed, the fewer the opportunities that deepen confidence and empowerment, the very things that keep anxiety, fear and self-doubt at bay. You can see how it quickly becomes a self-defeating cycle.

It is essential that we distinguish between healthy anxiety as a warning system against danger, and when our anxiety is simply discomfort in the face of a new situation. If it is the latter, I encourage you to lean into the discomfort. Feel it, acknowledge it. Then do it anyway. As you repeat this process you are no longer bound by the confines of anxiety, but instead, you are growing and expanding in your life.

As you try something and succeed, you will have the confidence to try something more. And then more. Like ripples in a pond, your life will continue to grow outward, developing your confidence along the way. Yes, there will be hard times that make you want to contract, to turn within for a period of time. But don’t stay there too long. The world needs you to get back out there again and you need to know that you can.

Avery Neal, PhD is a practicing psychotherapist, international author and speaker. In 2012 she opened Women’s Therapy Clinic, which offers psychiatric and counseling support to women. She specializes in depression and anxiety at all stages in a woman’s life.

Dr. Neal is the author of, If He’s So Great, Why Do I Feel So Bad?: Recognizing and Overcoming Subtle Abuse, which has been translated and published in twelve languages. Her articles and interviews have been published by, American Counseling Association, Counseling Today, BookTrib, Best Self Magazine, Hitched Magazine, Bustle, POPSUGAR and PKWY Magazine, and her courses have been taken by over 18,000 people worldwide. The International Association of HealthCare Professionals nominated her as one of the top psychologists in Houston.