“Life has no remote , so wake up and change it”
We’re into the last few hours of 2014 and the new year will soon be upon us.
It’s that time of the year when people look to make their new year’s resolutions and aim to start January with a bang.
Most resolutions centre around health and fitness; to stop smoking, drink less, eat healthier, join a gym etc.
For many these last less than a few weeks. The gym is a prime example.
Every January there’s a queue of people at my gym’s reception signing up to a 12 month contract, determined if they make the commitment in costs then this will be the year they get the body they want.
For 2 or 3 weeks I’m driven mad by the packed weights room, watching people dangerously trying to lift weights in all manner of ways.
I start to think about coming down early morning or late at night when it’s quieter, but then I quickly remember it won’t last long.
By February almost every single one has given up and it’s back to the same old faces who were there the week before Christmas.
It seems that for most, willpower isn’t a trait many possess.
It got me thinking about the willpower needed to overcome anxiety and panic. The truth is, it’s not too dissimilar.
Just like an expanding waistline over Christmas gets people back down the gym, a few bad days or even weeks of increased panic and anxiety often get you focused again on dealing with the way you feel.
You go see a new doctor hoping they’ll have the answer, you’ll ask to try some different meds, you buy a new book or read a different website and feel determined this time you’re not going to let your panic and anxiety win.
Just the act of doing this often raises your moods and you see some improvements for a while, but it doesn’t take long to slip back in to your old thoughts and avoidance routines, and soon the dark clouds roll in again.
Why is it that although most anxiety and panic sufferers would (if they could) hand over a cheque for £10,000 in a heartbeat if it meant they would instantly be cured for good, yet are not able to focus long enough on doing what they require to feel better again?
It comes down to willpower, strength of mind and determination, that’s it.
I struggled with it.
I would get myself all worked up about not letting this beat me, I’d learn new ideas, try new things, pushed myself to expose myself to things which made me feel anxious or panicked.
Then after a few weeks I’d find myself back where I was, scared of almost everything and ready to give up. I’d eventually work myself up again and the cycle would begin.
So what changed in me?
The short answer is I decided to change my mindset. I stopped looking at my anxiety and panic in the same way, I understood that it was my thoughts which made me feel they way I did. There wasn’t something wrong with me, I’d just got trapped inside my own mind and I was now ready to escape it.
I stopped looking for the instant wins and accepted that it would not be a linear path but that I had to keep going, never giving in. Most importantly I understood and accepted that it was going to take time.
This change occurred after I saw the truth in a very simple saying. One my father had said to me a number of times which I had always agreed with but never really took onboard.
That saying was this:
You only get out of life what you put in
I’m not usually one for sayings or haikus, they’re usually throw away statements we nod in agreement at but pay very little attention to.
This one however, is worth not only paying attention to, but fully understanding. It is true across every aspect of your life and therefore of course it is also true in terms of anxiety and panic attacks.
You will only feel better if you put in the time and effort, not just now but for always. It doesn’t matter if you’ve felt good for years, if you slip back to your old thoughts and habits anxiety can raise its ugly head again.
Do not think of panic and anxiety as something you can smash to smithereens in an instant, but rather the gentle deconstruction of your thoughts and behaviours which got you to where you are today.
That’s not to say that giant leaps forward cannot be made, but be prepared for the set backs and remain determined that you will never give in.
You have to want it, more than anything else in the world. Yes there are other important things in your life, your family, job, home etc, but if you do not get ‘you’ right first then you will never truly get those right either.
It’s not selfish to make you the priority, by doing so you’ll then be able to make improvements in all aspects of your life.
I’m sure if you sat and thought about how your life would be without anxiety and panic you would also see how much better everything else would be too.
That is why today I am urging you not to make any new year’s resolutions.
Instead make a life long, every day resolution. Not just for 2015, but for every single day you have.
Make it your commitment that you will get the most out of your life by putting the most in to it. Find that drive and determination, that fire inside of you to dispel the lies of panic and anxiety, to not allow it stopping who you want to be.
Then keep that fire fuelled by getting out there and doing it, over and over and over until you become that person. More importantly, you leave behind the person you are now.
As Andy Dufresne said in the one of my favourite films, The Shawshank Redemption:
I guess it comes down to a simple choice really…….get busy living, or get busy dying
You can view the clip from the film here.
So if just like Andy Dufresne you’re trapped behind the high walls of the prison (of your mind), then it’s never too late.
You have what it takes inside you to make the right choice. Then to keep making it, not just for the new year, but for every year you have left.
It’s what I’ve chosen and boy does it feel good.
My path will continue in the right direction, isn’t it time you started on yours?
Thank you for reading Calm and Courageous, it’s great to have you here. I just want to wish everyone a Happy New Year and a Calm and Courageous 2015!
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