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The Paradox of Allowing Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety and depression can often feel like a battle.

There may be thoughts that “it shouldn’t be happening” or that “I should be able to overcome this”.

What are my options?

As with anything that feels like it is wrong, it's very normal to respond with fight, escape or give up (roughly equivalent to fight, flight or freeze – our inbuilt fear response).

Fight response

If you choose to fight, questions might arise like, “How do I get rid of this?” or “What can I do to end this?” Unfortunately, the fight approach not only doesn’t work, but it adds other negative feelings to the problem such as anger, worries about self-efficacy and more.

Fighting anxiety and depression can feel like shadow boxing where every move you make is immediately countered.

Escape response

If you choose escape, other problematic behaviors might be adopted which begin to create their own challenges in your life. This could include avoiding relationships (isolating oneself), falling prey to distractions such as drama and obsessive thinking, and addictions to anything from substances to work, gaming, sex, shopping and more.

Escape never works for long because the underlying issue is still there. In addition, any way of escaping tends to add problems which compound the anxiety or depression.

Give up response

If giving up happens, you feel defeated and stuck. Thoughts like, “this is never going to end,” or “I am always going to be this way,” might come up and leave you feeling hopeless.

This is one of the worst places to be and because you feel stuck, you are not likely to notice or enact the changes you need to make in order to get past it.

Why does nothing seem to work?

Fighting, escaping and giving up don’t work because they all give anxiety and depression power – your power. Not only do these responses not work but through this power transfer, they help maintain anxiety and depression.

The allowing response

Another response that seems counter-intuitive at first is to allow what is happening - even anxiety and depression.

This is not the same as giving up.

Another way of describing allowing, is that you make space for anxiety and depression when it arises - it is witnessed/seen and allowed to be there - for the moment.

Emotions serve a purpose

It’s important to understand that all emotions serve a purpose. When allowed to fulfill their purpose, they naturally diminish.

Without giving your power to anxiety and depression through fighting, escaping or giving up, it is seen for what it is and it loses energy.

It may stay or reassert itself still at times, but each time it is allowed to be, it becomes less and less of a problem.

It seems like a paradox but you regain your power by allowing what is to be there.

For awhile you may need to co-exist with anxiety and depression, but whereas before you were waiting for the battle to be over so you can move on, now there is no battle and nothing stopping you from moving forward.

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