“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear”
For most people when they think about someone having courage they envisage a daring act of bravery, risking life and limb against all odds.
A person running back into a burning building to save a child, or someone held captive for many years who finally manages to escape to freedom.
Courage however does not need to be this dramatic, it can simply mean doing something outside of your comfort zone that you would normally try to avoid.
The avoidance techniques you use to try and cope with your anxiety and panic only prevent you from recovery. In many cases they often make it worse.
It takes courage to go against what your anxiety and panic are telling you to think and do, it takes courage to stand up and make the changes required to feel well again.
If you don’t do things differently from how you are now, how do you ever expect to see any change?
Only those who are courageous enough to change their thoughts and actions into new better habits find their path to recovery.
You can know everything there is to know about anxiety and panic attacks, but if you do not find the courage to put it into action then you will never see the results you desire.
Courage gives you the forward momentum needed to repeatedly face that which makes you feel frightened and anxious. You must call on it time and time again to dispel the lies of anxiety and panic so you no longer feel the way you do.
Courage enables you to keep going until you have retrained your mind to no longer respond with anxiety and panic when faced with certain thoughts and situations.
The goal is simple, to feel well again, to leave your anxiety and panic attacks behind until they feel like some distant dream.
Before we look at how to become courageous, we first need to understand what courage is and why you should be courageous.
What is courage?
I recently read a very good article about courage here.
The author uses a definition by Robert Biswas-Diener, which I think is spot on:
“Courage is the willingness to act toward a moral or worthwhile goal despite the presence of risk, uncertainty and fear.”
However, my definition of courage when used for anxiety and panic disorders would be as follows:
Courage is the ability to repeatedly do what makes you feel anxious and panicked in order to enable you to change your thoughts, feelings and emotions for the better.
Courage enables you to say ‘yes’, despite the way you feel.
It helps you to challenge your current beliefs, thought processes and avoidance practices so that you are able to see that you do not need to remain this way, where you continue to allow anxiety and panic attacks to limit your life.
Why be courageous?
To recovery from anxiety and panic attacks you must do things differently to the way you are now and it is the ability to use courage that is the biggest driver to achieving this.
It will enable you to make the right choices and to continue making them so that you do not turn back the moment you hit your first set back.
Many become disheartened when they do not see quick progress when trying to overcome anxiety and panic.
This is often because they forget to start from where they are now and rather focus on where they want to be. When they don’t quickly see themselves as this new person they quickly lose hope, give up and return to their old thoughts and habits.
It takes courage to accept where you are, to understand what is ahead of you and to step out upon your path to recovery.
It takes courage to make the changes required in your thoughts and actions and to not let your bad days deter you from your goal.
It takes courage to accept that you are where you are because of your current thoughts and actions, that although there is help out there, only you can make a real difference.
If you expect the words of a therapist or a doctor’s pills to help without any input from you, then you are mistaken.
Things only change and get better by taking action, day in day out, by making that decision to never give in.
Courage is vital to allow you to show yourself that anxiety and panic attacks are a lie, that you only feel the way you do because you believe your thoughts, feelings and symptoms.
When you stop caring if you feel anxious or panicked because you know they are not the truth, you take away their power and the grip they have over you.
As with most things, it comes down to this:
You only get out what you put in
So you must find that courage to put more in, get more out and feel all the better for it.
How to be courageous
As with any skill, courage takes time to develop and master and like learning anything new, you must begin with the basics first.
Just like building muscle in the gym, you start off with light weights and gradually progress to heavier ones as your muscles grow and strengthen.
Even more importantly, you keep the exercise up, you must keep repeating it because if you stop doing it you will quickly lose the gains you have made.
Courage is no different, it only develops through use and it will quickly fade if you do not keep it up.
Courage to face your fears comes when you have the following three things in place:
- A worthwhile goal, a reason for wanting to face that which makes you panic or heightens your anxiety – this should be simple, because you want to stop feeling that way.
- A decision made inside, that you will act despite the way you feel – this is because you understand that if you don’t you will always remain as you are.
- The perseverance to keep going, repeating what you have to do, no matter if you have a set back – this is because you accept and are ok with the fact it won’t always be plain sailing.
Always remember that what is courageous for one person may be a simple task for another, it is all relative and only you know where your efforts must be focused.
You must plan out where to begin, what needs work first and where those easier first steps are.
No one else can do this but you, it’s all inside your head and only you can commit to doing it.
Your courage is not only needed to face your fears, but also to keep yourself going and to not give up.
Once you begin you must not look back, only forward, using each small success to drive you on so you can take on the next challenge.
Tell yourself you want this, that you want to be courageous because you want to feel calm again. That you will do what it takes because you don’t want to look back with regret that you were never able to face your demons and be well again.
Just as I used to believe, you may truly feel that you will never have the courage inside you, but you do. Every one does and you are no exception.
Stop making the excuses, stop letting your anxiety and panic determine your decisions. The choices you make must be based on what is right for the future, not for what is right for now so that you can just get by and cope.
Find that courage deep inside and stop anxiety and panic from dictating your life.
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