I used to decide everything I did based on how I was feeling.
I feel a little off?
Then it's only natural I cancel every plan I had for today. It might be a sign of some sort of doom.
I might be exaggerating a bit (not really), but you get the idea.
I thought that was what I was supposed to do. Listen to your body: We hear this all the time. But listening to your body and being controlled by your feelings are not the same. They are not the same at all.
This is a common problem for people with anxiety. Because when we have anxiety, we tend to be hypersensitive to every little feeling inside our bodies. Especially if we have health anxiety.
Uh, my forehead feels weird . . .
I better lie down until it gets better.
I was like this for so many years. And the urge to be like this still comes. But it's important to know better. To replace this unhealthy habit of the mind with a healthy one.
I've never met anyone who tortured themselves with these thoughts and actually had a real problem. There is no problem. The problem is that we fear that there will be one in the next moment. And we try our hardest to avoid it.
So we constantly turn our attention inward, always keeping a watchful eye on every little sensation in our bodies. But if you search for a problem, you will find one.
Hypersensitivity amplifies everything. It creates problems where there are none. People who are hypersensitive to their own feelings make a huge deal out of sensations others would not even notice.
And once we notice, we become anxious. We might even panic. And so the feeling amplifies. It grows into a huge monster when it was only a harmless little feeling we weren't even supposed to notice.
Now, I know that we do this because we think it keeps us safe. We constantly keep checking ourselves, that can't be bad, right? We are just keeping ourselves safe. That's what our minds say. But it couldn't be farther from the truth.
What we actually do is miss out on our lives because of an imaginary threat in our heads. It's like spending your life in a hospital, getting checkups every single day when there is nothing wrong with you. Let me repeat that again: There is nothing wrong with you. Let that sink in.
When we don't feel perfect, the urge might come to just lie down. Take time off. Wait until it goes away. That is absolutely the worst we can do.
We are just reinforcing the idea that we should let our feelings control our lives if we react this way.
We let ourselves believe that there is an actual problem when there's none. And imaginary problems won't just suddenly disappear. We will keep making them up until we make an effort to stop.
Because let me tell you something that has changed my life: We can choose how we react to our own feelings.
We don't have to let them control us. We can be the masters of our minds instead of letting our minds control us. If we have these thoughts, these feelings, we can know that they are not important. We can choose to go on with our lives, not giving them attention and especially not giving them our time.
We are not our feelings--we are who we choose to be despite of them.
I can't tell you how many times I've looked up my symptoms only to find out that they were caused by anxiety. You can believe your lips are swollen when they are not. You can actually feel the feeling. You can believe you're dizzy, nauseous, choking, basically anything. Because we can become so focused on certain things that we actually start to feel the feelings. But nothing is really happening. Your lips are not swollen. Your throat is not closing up. You are not going to faint or get sick. You are fine. You need to stop looking inward and start looking outward. You can allow yourself to live your life.
This is a habit of the mind. You have believed that constantly keeping an eye on yourself keeps you safe, so your mind made a habit out of it. The good news is, you can replace that habit with a better one. Here are a couple of tips to keep in mind if you want to unlearn the hypersensitivity habit:
1. Don't make decisions based on how you're feeling.
Even if you feel anxious, who cares? Just go about your day. It's not a sin to be anxious. It's not a contagious disease. It's not the sign of a real problem. So just go about your day, and do what you want to do. Soon, your mind will follow in your footsteps and understand that there is no problem. And it will stop searching for one.
2. You don't need to feel perfect in order to enjoy life.
On the contrary to how we might have thought, we don't have to feel perfect in order to live life. I know I missed out on so many things because I felt like I shouldn't do them when I didn't feel totally fine.
But we don't need to wait until everything is perfect to live life. You're not feeling so hot, so what? You can still do whatever you want. I wrote a little note to myself that always makes me smile. It says, "Never forget how good it feels to dance in the rain."
3. You are fine, always remember that. Even if your feelings tell you otherwise.
This whole issue feeds on the belief that there is possibility that we are not fine. There is a possibility that some kind of doom is near. But just because we think it does not make it true. In fact, if we think it, it's probably untrue.
How many times were your anxious thoughts right? Mine were right zero times, and I've had hundreds of anxious days, so I've given them plenty of chances to be right.
When something did happen, I was never anxious! Because our bodies know how to calm us down when stuff actually goes down. My anxious thoughts were correct zero times. I think your number is the same. So let's draw the conclusion shall we? Once and for all: We are fine. Repeat as often and as many times as necessary.
4. Turn your attention outward instead of inward. Live your life.
It's good to understand our thoughts. To know our minds' habits. But understanding our heads and living inside of them are two different things. If we constantly turn our attention inward, we miss out on life in favor of something that is not even real.
So stop checking yourself, and turn your attention outward. Instead of listening to your thoughts, admire a flower or a tall tree or a beautiful bird. Instead of scanning your body for problems, hug your loved one, feel their warmth against yours and smile.
Because life is good, my friends, if we don't live it inside of our heads. There are people to love, things to create, adventures to live. We cannot think life. We cannot think love. We just have to allow ourselves to let everything go and feel it.
“Don’t move the way fear makes you move. Move the way love makes you move.” - Osho