Opinion: Overcoming Your Anxiety

Editor Notes: Andrew Castro is a local songwriter turned author. In his writing debut, Overcoming Your Anxiety for People on the Go, Castro shares his personal journey on he overcomes his anxiety, and continues to do so every day. He provides support and tools for his readers, and how they can beat their own anxiety habits. The views expressed in this commentary are his own.

Let’s get this out of the way from the get go:  I’ve suffered from anxiety my entire life, but I didn’t truly know that until about five or six years ago. I was kind of just floating through life thinking that all these unhealthy, unproductive habits I created were just me. I thought that this is how I was born. And I found that there is nothing anxiety hates more than true awareness. When I say ‘true awareness’, I don’t just mean realizing you are an anxious person, I mean truly realizing WHY you have anxiety. Having a genuine awareness of your anxiety and coming to understand that you have the power to transform it, is your responsibility. Of course, the awareness is just the first step in a long and, to be honest, grueling process. But I promise you it’s a process that is well-worth your energy.

I didn’t set out to write a book. I was pretty content pursuing my full-time music career. I was touring and playing shows all over. But that lifestyle started to wear me out and playing music just didn’t feel as genuine anymore. So, I took a break from performing and writing. I sat down and outlined what I thought could be an idea for a book.

I started exploring how I got to where I was. Starting at a very young age, I started worrying about things I couldn’t control and then did nothing about it. I would unconsciously react to all my emotions without a second thought. The years of habitual worrying that stressed my mind so much I developed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Adding to that, I had a quick temper and the inability to control most of my emotions.  I fell so deep into my OCD habits that I needed them in order to survive. I built this life from the ground up. I built all these false safety nets. Worrying about something you cannot control isn’t going to change the outcome. Checking the locks on my doors twenty times before I went to sleep will only make it a little bit harder if someone wants to break in. When I got angry at the smallest most insignificant things it didn’t make the problem go away. In fact, it made it worse because my anger is still my responsibility. I learned that sometimes you just can’t control certain things in life.My anxiety and yours too, is not something that pops up overnight. It may certainly seem that one day you have this amazing life and the next day you are crippled by these awful thoughts and sensations. I definitely felt that way. But the more I reflected and analyzed the problems I was facing, I found that those thoughts and sensations were supposed to happen to me. Now I don’t mean I was destined from birth to have anxiety. I just mean that the habits and lifestyle I developed were not leading me down a path of carefree living and peace of mind.

There is some good news if you’re starting to feel down. You see, I definitely built my life. But if I built it then I could tear it down AND also rebuild it. All those habits I created I can undo. I can begin to implement more productive, healthy habits. But it all started with that true awareness of what’s going on, and recognizing that snowball and how it was built. From there, I started to learn to flex my acceptance muscle.

Of course, I know acceptance is not an actual muscle, but it can be trained like one. The more you practice it, the stronger it gets. I began to stop fighting my anxiety because, honestly, what’s the use? It clearly wasn’t working. I was angry and pissed that I was dealt this hand. It was like me and anxiety were playing tug-of-war and neither of us wanted to let go of the rope. This is where practicing acceptance of my current state really benefited me. I slowly learned to let go of the rope. I had anxiety and that was ok.  

Fighting something and changing something are two totally different things. I learned that the more I invited my anxiety in, the more I became friends with it. For real, I would straight up say “Come on in and make yourself comfortable, but I am going to enjoy my dinner.” Anxiety feeds off your reaction to it. If you’re constantly judging your current state and giving it a negative reaction, you’re going to get one right back. It’s like a giant bully. But once you accept that the bully is coming to punch you every day then you’re not reacting to it anymore. Instead, you’re acting and moving to change something. It might sound like the bully wins and you gave up. On the contrary, I learned that I just stopped giving it the energy it needed to survive.

As I look back over the two months of writing my book, I realized it was more for me personally than anything else. And the fact that so many people have bought it and it has helped them begin their journey to recovery from anxiety, is the most humbling and truly amazing thing I have ever experienced. The book isn’t about any tricks or gimmicks, and it is certainly not about fixing your anxiety right this second. It’s about the long haul. If there were three things I’d want you to take away from this article and my book it is that: 1) you’re not alone  2) it’s ok to be who you are right now and 3) you have the ability and power to rebuild yourself. I’m not a doctor, psychologist or psychiatrist or some enlightened person, I am just a regular guy who wants to share how he has got himself untangled from a messy situation. I want you to know that if I can see the light at the end of the tunnel then there is no reason you can’t either.

So, I’ll finish this how I finished my book…

I’d wish you luck on your journey, but luck is something left to chance. You’re going to grab hold of this thing and never look back.

Oh, and my book is titled Overcoming Your Anxiety…for People on the Go and it’s available on Amazon right now in paperback and Kindle e-book. It also reached #1 for New Releases in the short self-help category on all of Amazon.