This week on The Anxious Truth we’re talking about what your anxiety support system looks like. We’ll dismantle the common misconceptions about what support should be, and how those can be problematic in recovery.
This Weeks Highlights
Most people will say that the support system for an anxious person consists of those people that will calm you, soothe you, tell you it’s OK, and reassure you when you ask for reassurance. They may add that a good support system will help to keep you comfortable and will understand why you “can’t”.
You may have a support system that looks like that right now, but that’s not really the best form of support when it comes to anxiety recovery. As usual, the best approach here is the opposite of what “common sense” tells us.
Your loved ones in real life will naturally want to help you feel better because they love you and hate to see you suffering or struggling. But that drive to calm and soothe you can often backfire on you and will accidentally keep you stuck.
When seeking support online, keep in mind that mental health social media content creators are rewarded by social platforms for grabbing your attention, then keeping it by any means necessary. A mental health guide on Instagram (for example) is incentivized to feed you a steady stream of content that pushes your comfort buttons because humans naturally gravitate to validating, soothing, and reassurance. While this is good for the content creator (and the social platform), this has nothing to do with your recovery.
Also, keep in mind that online anxiety “support” groups will also often default to things like symptom checking and comparing, repeating fears out loud again and again, and bemoaning the fact that “nobody understands”. Again, this may appeal to our strong desire to feel comforted and seen, but this does not have any direct connection to effective recovery.
Everyone needs to vent sometimes. We all deserve some kindness and we all get to feel comforted and validated sometimes. There is no crime in that. We just have to remain on guard against using these strategies as our only or primary recovery strategies. That doesn’t work.
The best support system is a cheerleading system that reminds you of how capable you are and why you are doing scary and difficult things. A good anxiety recovery support system will empower you and encourage you as its primary function. It concerns itself not with soothing and comforting you, but with empowering you and cheering for you while you take the actions required to get better.
When consuming mental health information online, which type of information are you consuming? Are you being educated, inspired, and empowered? Or are you being validated, soothed, and stroked all day long? Which kind of information do you think is most helpful in terms of actually getting better?
When interacting with others and seeking support, surround yourself with people that are doing the work of recovery, and who are happy to cheer for you while you do the same, while you also cheer for them. Support has to go far beyond just commiserating and comparing fear and horror stories. Support should help to keep your recovery fire burning. It should provide inspiration and encouragement. It should help you discover your strength and uncover how capable you are and always have been.
Teach your real-life support people to be this for you. Online, hang out with people that will do this for you. It will matter and it will help, even when all you want to hear all day long is that it’s OK for you to sit on your sofa.
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Podcast Intro/Outro Music: "Afterglow" by Ben Drake (With Permission)