I have generalized anxiety and I finally worked up the courage to find a therapist about a year ago. I wish I’d done it sooner because she’s helped me tremendously. Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from her so far that might help you too.
It’s OK to think about yourself. Constantly taking care of everyone else first can be exhausting, and it means my own happiness usually comes last. But taking care of myself is crucial too because it improves all aspects of my life, including my relationships and my ability to parent. My therapist helped me see that it’s OK to prioritize myself as well.
Cutting out toxic people is necessary sometimes. For example, my mother is an alcoholic and has done some horrible things to me. I’ve pushed her out of my life multiple times over the years to protect myself, but I always let her back in because I feel guilty. My therapist helped me realize that it’s OK to keep her at a distance. It’s an unhealthy relationship that only hurts me and makes my anxiety worse.
Avoid things that trigger stress. For instance, if I know that attending a particular event is going to trigger my anxiety, then it’s OK not to go. Sometimes I do things simply to please others, but my counselor helped me see that it’s just not worth it. It only makes me more stressed, and this affects my life negatively. If I’m irritated, it’ll rub off on those I’m close to, especially on my kids.
Accept people for who they are. I always thought that maybe there was something I could say or a certain way I could act that would improve how others treated me, but my therapist helped me realize that people are who they are and I can’t change them no matter what I do. Acknowledging this has helped me deal with people better.
True friends are important. I try my best to maintain close friendships, but it’s really hard sometimes when life gets in the way. My therapist has reminded me that it’s essential to have friends to talk to, especially ones who might be going through similar situations. Friends can support me through difficult times and can also be there with me to share the good times. Life is more fulfilling with people in my corner.
Take things one day at a time when you’re feeling overwhelmed. I’m easily stressed out and I’m always thinking about things that need to be done. I worry about how everything will work out and I think about the future a lot. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, my therapist has taught me to focus on what I’m doing at that moment so I don’t drive myself insane with worry—and it works.
Do things that make you happy. This is hard for me to do sometimes because I feel like my responsibilities should always come first. I also don’t like spending money on things that aren’t necessary. For example, date nights with my partner don’t happen as often as they should because I think about where that money could otherwise be going. However, my counselor taught me that it’s important to enjoy life and to do fun things for my own sanity. It helps me relax and reset too so I can handle challenges better.
You can’t always think about what could go wrong. I have a tendency to think the absolute worst of every situation and to expect bad things to happen. For example, I’m so paranoid about school shootings that I’ve considered home-schooling my children. My therapist has helped me realize that I can’t live to the fullest if I’m in constant fear.
You can’t dwell on the past too much. Whenever I express regret about questionable decisions that I’ve made in my past, my therapist reminds me that there’s nothing I can do about those things now because they’re already done, so it’s pointless to think about. All I can do is live in the present and focus on what I can control now.
Realize that you’re not perfect. My therapist has helped me see that I’m a work in progress. I can always improve myself, for example, by learning how to react to people and situations in better ways. I’m also really hard on myself when I make mistakes, which is silly because no one is perfect, so I shouldn’t have to be either.
There’s nothing shameful about seeing a therapist. It’s very beneficial to have an unbiased third party individual to talk to who has no investment in my life whatsoever. Since I don’t have to worry about upsetting her, I can be completely honest. And she can offer me a unique and useful perspective in return because she’s been trained to help people. She’s had a huge positive impact on my life and has taught me a lot, and that’s nothing to be embarrassed about.
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