Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the US. It affects approximately 40 million adults in the United States, meaning 18% of our population is affected. Growing up as a late-generation millennial, I was exposed to people being open about their struggles with anxiety. I found it comforting to know that in America, we can be our authentic selves and talk about the things that are bothering us as a society. As I grew to the young adult that I am today, having anxiety does not scare me and can actually bring joy, because I was taught that it’s okay to be vulnerable. Your worth does not decrease because you have these feelings, and there are many ways you can find joy through being your authentic self.
All of us have our triggers, things that create anxiety within us. When you feel anxious, try to take a step back from the situation. Think about the situation as if you were an outsider. What would you say if your friend told you that he or she was anxious about this? Use the advice that you would give to them to create a new perspective. The relief that comes out of taking this approach often brings me joy.
We’ve seen it everywhere, but I am going to repeat it here: It’s okay to not be okay. What is not okay, though, is to stay there. Seeking professional help is definitely an option, but it’s not the only option. When you are feeling overly anxious or down, take a step back and do something kind for yourself. Practice breathing exercises, talk a walk, journal, or find a relaxing game or show to watch. Do whatever you know can bring you back to calm. Taking the time to do these things often leaves me with the joyous feeling of self-empowerment. The joy in knowing that at the end of the day I can make myself happy is very freeing. It often leaves me refreshed for my next goal or challenge.
The number one thing that gives me anxiety is meeting new people, especially in a professional setting. I never know what to say, what body language to project, and am always anxious that I’m going to say the wrong thing. As I came into adulthood and started internships and jobs, it dawned on me that maybe it wouldn’t be so hard if I came into these events as my authentic self. See one of Brené Brown’s TED Talks for more information. No one is fooled by a person putting on a show and trying to be who they are not, anyway. This was hard for me at first, but taking the jump to be your authentic self with other people brings so much joy. Other people truly want to see the real you – and the relationships you create that way are bound to be rewarding personally and professionally.
If you are one of the 40 million that struggle with anxiety, know that you are not alone, and there are many resources available to help you. I hope that some of these tactics help you to think differently and find joy through authenticity.