How to live with anxiety and stop stress from ruling your life

“To be”, Alan Watts famously said, “is to deceive”. I suppose it is because to be human is to have anxiety. No matter how successful, competent, or mentally buoyant we are, anxiety is never far away. It comes with the consciousness package. Nobody asked for it, but it comes free with your purchase.

Why? Because we are essentially skin, bones, and insecurity. The intensity varies from XS to plus size, but the experience is not optional. We only get to decide how to wear it. Some days, it decides how to wear us.

Our instinct is to fix it, of course, either by Googling how to manage anxiety and how to lower stress, popping pills, or simply distracting ourselves with anything and everything just so our anxiety stays inside of our near-bursting closet.

But isn’t it that all these options reject the experience? Like dropping something we touch that is extremely hot?

This is not to suggest cuddling with it, keeping it close, especially if it hurts or causes an imbalance in our lives. Romanticizing, weaponizing, or succumbing to anxiety is dangerous business.

But what if we look at our experience right in the eye, without judgment – without guilt, without shame, without any opinion – and recognize anxiety as a normal part of our existence? Some days it is a little, some days it is a lot, and that is okay.

What if we allow ourselves to feel the depths of our inner turmoil without labeling it or mistaking anxiety for who we are? Sometimes we function despite the anxiety, sometimes all we can do is lay in bed and cry, and that is okay.

What if we do not panic once we recognize the fear, confusion, humiliation, or pain? We make mistakes or have bad days that roll into weeks, even months, and that is okay.

What if we are simply kinder, gentler, and more patient with ourselves when we have enormous waves of anxiety, and more importantly, not deflect, pass, or blame it on other people? There are just moments when we are not our best selves, despite of, in spite of, and sometimes even because of, our good intentions, and that is okay.

What if we accept our situation and let the rough waters calm down so clarity appears? Time, space, and breath can help us reflect, ask the right questions, and allow the real causes and emotions to surface so we can deal with it for real and not just putting a Band-Aid over a festering wound. It may take days, weeks, months, and years and years for healing to arrive, and that is okay.

What if we decide to live with our anxiety instead of avoiding it? We will still be anxious – awareness is no magic wand that can make life any better than it is – but we will not be as doomed or panicked. We have a better shot at becoming more relaxed as our worries ebbs and flows, be more gracious about it, no longer defeated but soldiering on, telling ourselves it will all be okay, because no matter how bad it is right now, we will be, eventually, okay.

111 thoughts on “How to live with anxiety and stop stress from ruling your life

      1. Wow! We have something in common..😁 I’m a Filipino. I practice yoga in a studio, its Purple Bee Shop and Cafe here in Mandaue City, Cebu. Your blogs are inspiring.😍

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        1. Thank you. That sounds awesome. Really glad we have connected through our blogs. We would love to see the Purple Bee studio in Mandaue and we can practice yoga together at some point. How is the lockdown situation there? Stay safe and healthy!

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          1. I feel the same here. Wish we could practice together on the mat when everything becomes normal.😉
            Our place is already considered to be a low-risk area for COVID-19 but this does not mean we should be complacent. We still make sure to wear masks, sanitize, wash your hands and observe social distancing.

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            1. Yes, at some point. Looking forward. And that is an inportant thing you mentioned – we should not be complacent. I think this is why many countries are hving bigger next waves. The infections drop and people act like everything is back to normal. Infection spikes again and it is a frustrating loop.

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          2. You made me proud of you. I told Purple Bee and my yoga teacher about your passion and all. We practiced last night. And they’re all happy with my stories about you.😍 take care you both.❤️

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            1. Wow, you can attend the studio already? That is super nice. I hope you had a good practice. What was the class? And thank you, hopefully we can all practice together soon. Looking forward to seeing Purple Bee!

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              1. Yeah. This excites me a lot. Looking forward to practice with both of you someday at Purple Bee.😍 Every practice is different. We do vinyasa. Ashtangga. Restorative yoga.

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                1. Cebu is very near, we can make it happen. I like your island and have visited many times. Markus, too. It is lovely. Restoratives are my favorite. When I train actively, my yoga practice is to supplement it. Makes an entire world of difference!

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                  1. Yeah Cebu is just so near. And thank you for the appreciation as well. Cebu really is a beautiful place to visit with.😍 I hope I would be able to join your yoga practice and your energy. This is something I look forward to. Take care both.❤️

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                    1. Many thanks, yes, same, it is on our thoughts and we can make it happen! Isn’t it fascinating how life finds ways to connect people mean to find each other? It is lovely. See you soon!

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                    2. Yeah! This makes life more interesting when you meet people of the same interest and passion. See you soon then.😍 And then who knows this connection will blossom into a beautiful friendship.😊

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        1. True. Lockdown life is so isolating. I imagine if we are having mental health issues pre-pandemic, it could have gone way worse by now if we are not mindful. This is one reason I am frustrated with how governments are handling this. It could have been a lot better.

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          1. Agree! Thankfully, I try very hard to see the silver lining during our initial lockdown…. using the time to advance my language skills and to spark my artist skills again…

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  1. Thank you for this post ❤ I have learned to recognize when i’m having “a moment”. As you have pointed out here, my main challenge each time is to stop blaming others and really focus on identifying my triggers and calming myself.

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    1. Oh, that is a lovely way to put it. It is indeed a moment. I feel we all have tendencies, how we wrestle with our anxiety. Sometimes we play the victim or blame others or whatever else. My hope is that we calm down more, the more we invest in awareness.

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  2. This is a really interesting outlook and I think it could be beneficial for some, but I think this would only work for those who suffer from mild or occasional anxiety rather than extreme x

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    1. Perhaps. But isn’t it more important to relax into it when our anxiety is enormous? It could very well be that the more we fight and struggle against it, the bigger the panic? Ultimately, we are all different, like you say, and we all manage our anxiety in the best way we can from one moment to the next. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and welcome to our blog.

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  3. This is a great post. Very eye-opening! You made a great point about learning to live with anxiety instead of avoiding it. I am still learning to do this because it seems like I’m anxious about everything and worry a ton! We all have to learn to give ourselves grace sometimes!

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    1. Thanks, but that is just the point, isn’t it? Worry is ever-present, justified or not, and perhaps it would be less terrifying if we simply accepted this fact and not think we should not be worried or this makes us anything negative. It is just as it is.

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        1. I spoke to multiple people, mostly older than I am, and they are uncomfortable talking about their anxiety or even admitting it, because they worry I might think they are crazy. It is sad actually, because if people think this way, they will be forced to deal with their problems alone.

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  4. Great post and has given me a lot to think about! I suffered with an extreme anxiety disorder for almost a decade which only within the last year have I come out of the other side of. It’s definitely a learning curve and something you have to take day by day.

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    1. Wow, really glad to hear you are feeling a lot better now after years of extreme anxiety. And that is a good point, taking it day by day. It is certainly like the weather: one moment we are all okay and it changes in a snap. Many times I marvel at how close I always seem to be to catastrophe. But like you said, we keep learning and take it as it comes. Thank you for your input and welcome to our blog.

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  5. I totally think it depends on the situation – some days I’m able to accept the anxiety and roll with it but some days when the circumstances make it worse – I just can’t accept it. Those days I just want to curl up in bed and never leave. 😦

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    1. Yes, I suppose we all have those days, and that is okay. Actually, sometimes I have weeks like that! All we can do is try to cope, no? No matter how that looks like. We try the best we can do from one moment to the next.

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  6. Yep, anxiety doesn’t really go away. It will be a part of us, it’s just how we handle it. I’ve come to terms with living with my anxiety, we’re friends now sometimes we’re not. I just know that it comes and it goes.

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    1. It is a reasonable way to go about it, right? Like seeing an acquaintance on the street, recognizing. Glad to hear you have come to terms with yours. What do you do when it stirs?

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  7. Thanks for the gift of this post. I so agree with so many of your thoughts about anxiety. Avoiding and repressing emotions can cause so many unconscious problems as life continues. Am probably going to be writing more about this tomorrow. 💗

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    1. Thank you, Kathy. My dream is to sit with you one day and have a nice chat over tea while we watch the leaves. I feel when I am older I will be like you, or at least I hope I will be. Sending you lots of love.

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  8. You have such a way with words 😊💕 From describing anxiety as coming “free with purchase” to describing its intensity in sizes to not covering up our anxiety like a “festering wound.” You always paint a vivid picture with your words that is so relatable 🙂💕 Thank you for this awesome post!

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    1. Words are fun, aren’t they? And how we choose to use them can change the feel of things. I am not sure, but I just wanted for this post not to sound too severe, even ifanxiety is a serious subject. I mean, we all deal with it but we do not have to be burdened by it. In the same way that you live life with your condition. You continue to smile through it all!

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      1. Yes we can have a lot of fun with words 😁 We all have different levels of anxiety and challenges in life. But you are right…they don’t need to be a burden and we don’t have to define ourselves by anxiety or our conditions. Some days it’s hard to smile but I just keep in mind that I am fiesty and there are still things in life to enjoy whether living with chronic diseases or anxiety 😊

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        1. Agree. We try the best we can, don’t we? This is all we can hope to do. It will not go away, our challenges, regardless of how we feel about them, so might as well smile and find the good that we can. It also helps that we have support. Makes all the difference in the world, no?

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  9. I appreciate this post so much. One thing when I struggle with when dealing with anxiety is trying to pin exactly what is causing me to feel that way instead of just allowing myself to let the feeling pass naturally. Trying to avoid it with positive thoughts was a habit I also had to kick as it was quickly turning into toxic positivity. I love this post soooo much, another amazing read from my favorite blogging duo!(:
    xo Bri

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    1. Really thoughtful addition, thank you! I am glad to hear you choose to be mindful about your anxiety. It tends to dissipate once we understand it better, doesn’t it? It also feels less overwhelming since we know the trigger, then we can, hopefully, handle it. I agree with toxic positivity! You are right. It does not resolve anything. I feel the same about some rituals where people pass responsibility and just hope that these practices or stuff will magically fix their problems even if they do not take action.

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    1. Many thanks, Cindy. Do you find that some people think you are well all the time because you are a yoga teacher? I find it fascinating how some students are surprised when I say we deal with the same challenges every day.

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        1. Maybe they tend to see only one side, the one who shows up as a professional in class. But it is more fun to practice in an environment where everyone is just all too human, no? Like you mentioned, just keeping it real.

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  10. I think it depends on the levels of anxiety a person experiences and why the experience it. Long term chronic stress can cause a lot of physical damage to people including high blood pressure, but everyone does experience stress at various points in their lives. It is normal to feel stress when people you love are sick or when you are writing exams but the stress levels need to lower in between. I also think that some people become chronically depressed due to stress and that can damage their quality of life too. A thought provoking article, Micah. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Oh, I agree, Robbie. Thank you for pointing this out. Stress is a killer. I imagine stress is high up there as a cause for cancer. I suppose normal worries are okay, we all have those, but the real challenge is when our anxiety is not proportional to the cause. I mean, some days I feel anxious for no reason, or at least I do not know the reason exactly. This is one reason why I want to understand more. Clear head is good in dealing with anxiety, no?

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    1. Thank you. We try to share our experiences, knowing that this is not exclusive to us. Whether we admit it or not, most of us deal with the same challenging stuff everyday. And as you mentioned, acceptance is a part of it. But it is not easy for some people. There is this notion that we have to be strong, perfect, and capable all the time. But we are not that, and actually trying to be that adds to the strain. What do you think?

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      1. Oh, I agree with that! I think we need to confront mental health issues in our own ways provided they aren’t harmful because the effects of anxiey, depression, etc. seem to have different effects on each person. Trying to be perfect definitely adds to the strain.

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        1. Yes, and all we can do is try to cope, keep our head above the water. I think many people will be more buoyant if society just accepts everyone as they are instead of assigning who we all should be.

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  11. Im finding that as I grow older the more ‘anxiety’ I am getting. I get worked up over minute things, things that have not affected me before now play on my mind…..i didnt know what it was to be anxious, not im forever making up things in my head. What is that about??… but yes i also agree that in the end, it always works out- its just the process of going through it x

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    1. Interesting. Is it because you have more responsibilities now? Or are more pressured? Have experienced many things? I wonder what switched from your younger years. But like you said, it is a process that we must, well, process and go through. Otherwise we become stuck, no?

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      1. To be fair I have less responsibilities, life is actually easier. Kids all adults- I’m semi- retired…. Maybe more time?? More time to actually think things over? I don’t know. ♥️

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    1. You are making sense. And I know how overwhelming it can be. I also experience the same thing sometimes when I am dealing with my family stuff. Somehow, I still react like a child and cannot seem to handle it like I know I can as an adult. Are you able to point which anxieties drive you in this way or do you mean all of them fall in this category?

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        1. Sorry to hear about this. Life is overwhelming many times. I suppose this is why we try activities that help us slow down like yoga and breathing meditation. Sometimes I find myself incredibly reactive even to the tiniest things and it helps me to acknowledge them and explore what I could improve. And I agree, there are moments when the mundane seems unbearable. I mean, waking up seems like a chore sometimes. But we try, don’t we? I find acceptance of our reality, without any judgment, plays an important role. If this is the best we can be now, then what more can be asked of us?

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    1. Oh, I love the term emotional superconductor! You are awesome, Ed. And I cannot agree with you more. However, not resisting is the challenge, isn’t it? I am guilty of wrestling with my anxieties sometimes, which is ironic, because letting it flow can be the simplest thing, right?

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  12. A very poignant post, and comments! You say about anxiety that “we only get to decide how to wear it”! That is a wonderful way of seeing it. I would add that not carrying so much “baggage” throughout life might have helped me to be less anxious! Nowadays I’m removing “stuff” that has become redundant, like the clothes I never wear and give them to the charity shop!

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    1. Nice tip, Ashley, thank you! Baggage does show up in various forms, and if we can clear up what is in front of us, we can only hope it supports the clearing that also needs to happen inside of us. It does make a big difference, doesn’t it? Our environment, the clutter, have an impact on how our head feels.

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  13. Love this so much especially your point that what if we decide to live with anxiety instead of avoiding it. Such a very great insight and yes, I believe that no matter how bad it is right now, eventually, we will be okay. Thanks so much for this, Markus and Micah!

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      1. No worries! 🙂 I’d say that it’s really hard to catch up and grasp the lessons fully in this set-up (online classes) but I’m doing my best to manage it. Last week was really tough, a lot of my professors gave their school requirements and I just got so overwhelmed I nearly broke down. I’ve decided to take a break for a whole day and plan things out so I’m kinda feeling a lot better now. 🙂 Thank you so much for asking! 🙂 Hope everything is going well for the both of you too! 🙂

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        1. Oh, good to hear you paused and manage to make it all simple. I see how it can be really overwhelming. Inversely, is there anything that you enjoy from this kind of learning now? And thank you, we are well. Just that lots of rains lately because of the storm!

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          1. Maybe I really enjoy the fact that sometimes we’re in asynchronous which means we don’t have an online meeting for the day– that way I could catch up with my readings. 🙂

            Oh yes, take care and stay safe! The storm last night was really scary!

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  14. It’s interesting that you said this because that is pretty much what all my doctors have ever told me. Eliminating stress/anxiety is impossible, but becoming aware of what is triggering it and then implementing some sort of action to counter that feeling is way more valuable than any pill. Things do always tend to work out.

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    1. Yes, maybe it is better to just treat it as a normal part of life, because it is, no? And I agree with knowing triggers. I read that it is not just emotional thinhs but very physical or mundane stuff like lack of sleep and dehydration can trigger anxiety, too. What usually gets you worrying?

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          1. Ah if you decide to have kids you’ll understand the worry of a mother … worrying if they’ve eaten enough, worrying if they’re still alive when they are laying very still, worrying about the tummy aches that they can’t express, worrying about them being kidnapped from school, worrying about their future, etc. it’s not a daily thing but there is that constant concern. As for my food issues 😅 it’s self inflicted… worry and eat to calm down, then realise you ate like a sumo wrestler and worry a bit more about looking like one then eating to ease the worry and so on 😂 it sounds dumb now that I’ve written it out, but in the moment it feels real 😅

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            1. I do not think it is dumb. I am like that, too! I am an emotional eater, actually when I am bored I also eat. I think I eat all the time because this is what Filipinos do. And I can only hope to understand, what it is like with the children. I mean, you are responsible for the life of these kids. That is not a joke! I can only wish you well, and strength to balance it all. Cheering for you all the time!

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  15. I imagine there’ll be a tidal wave of anxiety sweeping through populations on the back of all this covid, particularly in the young. Schools need to teach tools to deal with this. For me meditation is the antidote. Exercise too, helps a lot.

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    1. Good points. I worry a lot about the children, too. I often wonder how online learning will impact them in the long-term, as well as the lack of socialization. I never learned how to socialize as a child and it is very hard for me. The responsibility of schools and parents have increased. But what can we really expect in the poorer sectors? In the first place, this is also hard for the adults. We do not know how to cope ourselves and it is even more challenging how to communicate this situation to the kids. How is it in HK?

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      1. That’s it I think. It’s hard for parents too…these are ever-present, hard-wired challenges. The move away from social contact makes everything worse without considering the the influence of the technology itself. I feel like we’ve been blindsided by the all the technology in the last 10 years and the impact is hard to predict — interestingly though the research I’ve seen suggests that the kids aren’t being affected by it as much as people might imagine.
        In HK the anxiety issues are probably worse as a result of last year’s pointless protests and also the fact that kids at all level get absolutely smashed with exam pressure.

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        1. Agree. I also read some bits about that, how children are actually coping bettee than expected. I suppose it is because their idea of what is normal is not hard wired. I can only hope for the best outcomes for them. Trying times. Why are last year’s protests pointless? And I agree with the exam pressure. Wonder if this is an Asian thing?

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