How long does it take to recover from anxiety?


“Muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone”

Alan W Watts

 

How long does it take to recover from anxiety?How long does it take to recover from anxiety?

It’s a question which should never be asked.

Yet I often see people talking about it in forums and on other blogs and websites.

So why shouldn’t you ask what seems to be such a valid and important question?

Because it has no real answer.

Instead, worrying about if and when you will feel better will often only delay your recovery further.

Yet despite the fact there is no answer, I’m going to answer it all the same.

In order to this, we first need to discuss what recovery from anxiety actually means.

‘Recovery’ is a word I use a lot on this blog, but it is actually one I do not like.

I use it because it’s easily understood, the problem is it implies that at some point in the future you’ll change from being an anxiety sufferer to someone who feels anxiety no longer negatively affects their life.

This stark transition isn’t how it works, it is never that clear cut. There is no single moment or switch within the mind which will take you from how you are feeling now, to the way you want to be.

Recovery therefore isn’t a single giant leap, but rather a combination of small and on their own seemingly insignificant steps which make up the process of feeling well again.

You may think that recovery is when you no longer feel anxious, but every one experiences some anxiety from time to time.

You may think recovery is when you no longer think about your anxiety, but if you’ve suffered from it for a number of years, at times, it will still enter your mind.

Recovery is when you fully understand what makes you feel the way you do and are able to stop giving it the power to exist because it no longer bothers you. You’re able to just let it go, get on with life and then slowly but surely your anxiety disappears.

The ability to do this cannot be measured, there is no ‘aha’ moment when it all just falls into place. 

When you make the right choices, for both your body and mind, it will just happen. The change is so subtle it cannot be observed and the time it takes will depend on a number of things.

We may all experience a lot of the similar symptoms and anxiety traits, but we are all different and completely unique.

This difference from person to person means there is no ‘one size fits all’ timeline to recovery.

It often comes down to a number of things:

  • How long you have had anxiety – those who have had it for many years are more likely to have it firmly set in their mind, reinforcing it daily with habits which are hard to break
  • How severe your anxiety is – the more limiting your anxiety the harder it can feel to face
  • How varied your anxiety triggers and negative thinking has become – the more complex the anxiety the more your mind has to re-learn
  • Your ability to believe that you can be well again and trust in the process it takes
  • Your general lifestyle and day to day stresses
  • How well you deal with the bad days when they happen

There are many other smaller parts besides, which will all have a say in the time it takes to recover. Yet even if you knew what they all were, you’d still be no closer to an answer.

The only real answer you need is this:

It takes as long as it takes and you should never concern yourself with how long that may be

Any pressure you put on yourself to feel better will act as a stress and only serve to further aggravate your anxiety.

Wondering how long it takes to recover is exactly that, another stress on your mind which focuses you in on your anxiety and not away from it.

Just know this, deep down you are still that person you remember, your anxiety is just overlying who you really are.

Your mind has learnt to be anxious, be it acute onset or gradually over time. Therefore the process is to reverse your anxious habits, re-learn your prior non-anxious ways and to stop believing the lies your anxiety is saying.

You can only do this by going against what your anxiety is telling you and not allowing it to control you in the way it does. If it does control you, it wins, you remain anxious about being anxious and your anxiety continues.

This is not always easy to get your head round, I found it difficult for a long time, until I asked myself a question which I could answer.

If I am always going to feel this way from now on do I…..

a) let anxiety affect me to the point where I limit what I do, retreat from the world and end up ruining my life?

or

b) do as much as I can in spite of the way it makes me feel, and push myself a little more each day to get more out of life so I don’t look back with regret?

I chose b, and I’m continuing to choose b. Every. Single. Day.

This is what helped me to stop caring how I felt and to stop thinking about recovery and the time it will take.

It doesn’t matter either way, if I feel better or I do not, I’m going to do it anyway.

You have to show your anxiety you don’t care how it makes you feel and you have to do it over and over again…..

You’re going to be meeting a group of new people and you’re going to feel anxious.

So what, go do it, it doesn’t matter how you feel.

You want to go for a run but you’re worried your racing heart will give you a panic attack.

So what, go do it, it doesn’t matter how you feel.

You’ve got an important meeting at work and you’re worried you’ll say something wrong.

So what, go do it, it doesn’t matter how you feel.

If you are always going to feel anxious then you might as well stop stressing over it and just get on with it. Only then will you remove the pressure of worrying about anxiety, if you will recover and how long it will take.

This is what gives your mind the space to actually recover and allows you to get on with the more important things in life.

Stop trying to recover, so you can recover, but don’t worry about how and when this may take place.

Sometimes you’ll have good days, weeks or even months, then out of nowhere it can resurface and your recovery suddenly seems so far away again.

Either way, good day or bad, your only focus should be doing what you need and want to do.

Slowly but surely the bad days become fewer and farther apart and when they do occur they don’t knock you all the way back to square one. 

Eventually they don’t even really bother you, they are more of just an annoyance, but still you continue on.

Recovery has no time frame and to wonder about it only makes you care.

This is what fuels the fire of your anxiety, it keeps you trapped within its walls.

Instead, for now, accept the way you are feeling and get back to your life and then push yourself to go do even more.

Join a club, take up a sport, learn a new language, spend time visiting family and friends. Welcome new experiences, the randomness of life and whatever may be ahead.

Whatever you do, stop worrying about how long it will take to feel better, recovery only begins when that question no longer even matters.

 

Hugo Rock

 


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