Many minds in our beautiful world are troubled with anxiety and worries. It is a prevalent burden amongst friends, family, colleagues, and just fellow humans. One such human is a close friend of mine.
He has struggled with anxiety for as long as I’ve known him. He carries with him a heavy burden of worries that weigh him down like a loaded pack on a grueling hike. He has not yet learned to lessen the weight of his pack, still carrying that heavy load.
Today is his birthday, and for it, I thought that I’d write him a letter to give him some thoughts and help him see what I see in him (so much more than he sees in himself). So… here is a letter to an anxious friend of mine who I love dearly.
A Letter to an Anxious Friend
You have struggled with anxiety for many years; I’ve been there a lot along the way. I’ve tried to help you through each moment. Anxiety has told you things that you’ve believed—many of them lies and exaggerations. Anxiety has told you things that have plagued your mind with a lack of confidence, clarity, and swagger that we both know you possess. I’ve been with you and I’ve seen it first-hand. I want to show you what I see—an outsider’s perspective from one who knows and loves you well.
First off, you should never feel inadequate or irregular for having anxiety as you do. You have accomplished an incredible amount, and anxiety has served a role in helping you reach each goal. It has pushed you to gain acceptance into a prestigious university, it has spurred you on to reach incredible milestones in your career, it has kept you out of harm’s way, it has helped you get good grades, make good friends, and so much more. The problem is when your anxiety’s volume is too loud—when it carries more weight than it should. I want to help you relate to it better, but do not forget the amazing things that you have accomplished and that there is nothing wrong with you. You have simply given a necessary and good thing too much power in your life.
Understand what your thoughts are and what they are not. They are stories that your mind tells you. Some of them are true, but many of them are false, unimportant, comical, unhelpful, and outrageous. Like a news network broadcasting in your mind, understand that it is not always going to be accurate or valuable. That news network will always be there broadcasting at times. Don’t try to avoid it; just understand that it does not need to weigh you down: they are just stories!
Connect with the here and now—the present physical moment. I know that sometimes you can feel like you are stuck in your head. You can feel disassociated from the world around you and alone with just your thoughts. Take a deep breath, feel the air come in and out of your lungs, and press your feet and toes firmly against the earth. You are here and now and nowhere else. Ground yourself in the present moment and notice through your five senses exactly where and when you are. No matter what your mind tells you, it is you who can enact change in the physical world right now.
Act according to your values, not your feelings. In the pursuit of what is important to you, you will feel uncomfortable. You will be anxious, sad, and in pain. That is ok. Ride with those feelings; don’t try to avoid them. What matters is that you are living according to what is important to you, regardless of how you feel. Get in touch with exactly what it is you value in life (not what your parents, friends, significant others, or anxiety values) and exactly what you want to see yourself become and keep that as your North Star. Let that drive your decisions, not your feelings. Accept that pain and anxiety will be along for the ride: they are along for the ride in every worthy pursuit.
My main and final thought: see what I see in you. In many ways, our friends know us better than we know ourselves. I know that you are one of the most personable, kind, good looking, funny, smart, hard-working people I have ever met. Sometimes your anxiety tells you otherwise, but I assure you, your anxiety is wrong. I see so much in you that I don’t think you see in yourself. I am fully confident in you and your ability to hurdle every obstacle that your anxiety says you can’t climb over. I’ve already seen you do it time and again.
Love you like crazy. Happy birthday big man.
Written by Blake Sanford