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Rebuilding self-confidence, accepting anxiety

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So it's like this.


I seem to be somewhat stuck in low-self confidence vicious circle and I want out.


Even though I understand quite well the multiple reasons why I tipped over the edge into mini-breakdown last November, the multiple reasons why the recovery process is slow, and how this greater understanding give me strengths I did not have before, I find myself fearing pushing myself for fear of breaking down.


I am struggling to get back to work on my studies because they make me anxious. (I understand why they make me anxious, and also accept for now that there is not much I can do about this, it's going to make me a bit anxious to finish this work- it's ground breaking (probably) which is both exciting and scary and anyone would have some trepidations, let alone someone prone to anxiety :) ). So at least some anxiety is something, I need and want to accept and live beside for now. Lessening my tendency to anxiety is going to be a slow process and I'm ok with this, I'm no longer after an instant fix.


However, I fear this anxiety, as I fear it will overwhelm me, so I find myself reluctant to push myself. I have virtually no confidence that I will be able to cope if physically and mentally tested because the last couple of years have been a very shaky and often unpleasant time.


Relentless pushing of myself was one of the key problems that led to mini-breakdown so I do not want to start again. I know I need to be kind and gentle with myself (but retreating to my bedroom and not coming out isn't going to help in the long term either) - I need an active not passive kindness and this is proving difficult.


FOR, if I don't start pushing myself at least a bit I won't finish these studies and re-start my working life which I want to do.


I have managed to get going a couple of times but as I've started to get a bit worn and tired (as it's got a bit challenging) rather than resting for a day or two and getting going again, I've backed out, and it's taking many days to restart.


[This is currently not helped by my physical health being slightly rubbish just now following a nasty viral cough straining a muscle in my chest that is REALLY slow to heal, so it can hurt to breathe hard, stretch or lift things, and my skin condition flaring up a bit just now which makes me feel more than a little sorry for myself].


I find I lack the confidence I have the inner resources to cope with the anxiety - even though I almost certainly do.


It's the fear of breaking down again that's my biggest worry I think.


Anyone have any words of wisdom of how to break this viscous circle and gently start to get myself out of this low self confidence muddle.



I would welcome your thoughts O wise contributors to the SA forum.



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Ok, so maybe all of the above is just a bit too complex for a quick answer, so I'll ask a simpler question.


When you're feeling a bit down or a bit scared or just generally a bit rubbish, what helps you get going and do it anyway? What inspires you to get moving?

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I sure do relate. This, for me, is tied closely to the interest-but-cant-get-motivated-to-action discussion. I can think back at what I used to do, even when 'depressed' and unmedicated and it seems like a mountain now. It is truly a vicious circle. I know that I must take justn a small step in any direction to get momentum and rebuild confidence. But, damn, that first step is like stepping out of an airplane! (In flight, of course). A few years ago, I went through training at a community hospital to be a Patient Advocate. Bought the uniform, did the TB test, background check, references, etc. I know I could have done a good job and been one of the first Advocates hired on when it became a mandated service at hospitals. But I froze at the last minute. Didn't follow through. Anxiety? Ego? Some of both? Better yet....I just realized that I have ego expectations of myself (I can do better than that) coupled w lack of confidence.

I hope it is not wrong to say that I'm a tad envious that you have work/studies to return to.

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I think you have it more or less right in your head; i have the same plan -- gradually building tolerance to stress and overcoming fear by doing healthy things.


I've found that I over think. I worry about what if _blank_ happens because I took action _a_... so I decide I'm not ready for action _a_ (too risky)... Maybe I'm not, but I wind up thinking so much about how to get started with _a_ that I never get started with anything.


Lately, if I am uncertain about something, I don't do it. So, in your case, I'd try to put aside the studies for a while -- i had to do this with some internet work that was very anxiety provoking. I don't want to push myself too hard (and today I can handle the internet stuff with much, much less anxiety). But I'll try to do something else that I view as less of a challenge. part of gradualism is working up to the things that provoke the worst anxiety rather than starting with them...


I try to be kind to myself. I didn't ask for this or do anything to deserve it and, honestly, some of the issues we face aren't well studied. This causes a lot anxiety that maybe something i do will make my ordeal worse; this is a legitimate fear too. That's why I try to be gradual. Like you said, the fix isn't overnight.


My main objective is to "do" healthy things that I can handle. I try to be more socially active, I walk outside, I try to write a bit on this site and others even though writing is pretty challenging, I try to work a bit on the computer, I watch my diet. I accept that this is where I am right now but know it is likely I will be in a better place in the future.


Also, I am learning how to trust myself more. I am getting better at recognizing when I am pushing too hard.


Anxiety is a whole other deal. I suffer from anxiety, had a bad case of social anxiety as a teen (that's why I'm with you today, 14 yrs later). My anxiety feeds on my thinking, isolation and overreaction. So I try to focus on thinkingless, beingaloneless, and takingmorethingsinstride... My anxiety is a feeling and can be countered by other feelings that result from successful action. I've come a long way using CBT to reframe my feelings and I know others who have had success with it as well. But it is not a quick fix either, and it takes a lot of repition and engagement to see signficant improvement (at least fore me).


Finally, I try to remember that nothing lasts forever. I don't think this helps most people, but I'll mention it: It is very comforting to me to know that I am one person amoung 7,000,000,000 on 1 planet among ?,000,000.... in 1 galaxy among ?,000,000... and that there isn't a lot to fear, really. The universe is estimated to be 14B yrs of age and I don't intend to be around for more than 100yrs of it. So, really, a lot of my anxieties are just things I have created (not by fault, often through conditioning brought on by situations from my youth) and, for most of them, I can choose to say "Who cares?"... "This is not that big of a deal." It's somewhat paradoxical, I have found. The more I argue with my anxious thoughts, the worse they terrorize me. The more I dismiss them, the less they affect me.... I don't know if any of this will be helpful. But, I can assure you, that in 25 years most of the people on earth (assuming there are still people on earth) will not be concerned about the anxiety thoughts and feelings that were ruining my life six months ago. I'm a person who is as good as every other person. I am choosing not to allow my anxiety thinking today to make me feel worth less than others or to ruin my hour or my day.


One last thing, Alto talks a lot about helping others. I agree that helping others is something that helps me as much as the person I help. There are people who need help on here, but there are people who need help in other ways. Getting of my own head and being helpful occupies the mind with something useful. It's a great thing to do.


So that's my take: Ease into some things, especially activities with other people, and try not to spend too much time worrying about your future. Plan for the future, but keep your living in today away from the fear of tomorrow and the anger/guilt/sorrow of yesterday.


To answer your question, sheer concentrated power of will is the only thing that gets me showered and dressed a lot of days. I don't want to do anything. I don't feel like doing anything. The only times I do things is when I force myself, but this has gotten easier. Somedays, it's not realistic that I will be able to get anything done, and that's fine. But some days, I know I can but I just am too anxious to take the first step. Understanding my anxiety and having strategies helps me take that first step. Once I've had a couple successful forays into the world, then it is easier to motivate myself because I know that 'getting out there' has worked in the past and made me feel better. Though, again, I am careful to take slow steps.


Okay. So that was a jumble of stuff that I try to employ.


I hope things get better for you.



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I know that I must take justn a small step in any direction to get momentum and rebuild confidence. But, damn, that first step is like stepping out of an airplane! (In flight, of course).


Bar, I just love this metaphor / analogy / sentiment (never had formal grammar training - not sure of proper word). It's spot on.


I would add that as you go to step out the plane and you look at the rucksack thing they're strapping onto people you find your wondering if the parachute will work. Of course if you're really unlucky when it gets to your turn they announce they are out of parachutes but it's ok most people learn to fly....most, what do you mean MOST...


Also thank you for your envy, I really am in many ways in a very fortunate position and it's good to be reminded of that sometimes. This may sound very weird to you but I have a little envy of you just freely driving around too, I'm sure it's not always great, but I have a unmet wanderlust and the thought of often being somewhere new and just spending some time just watching and observing the world for a bit is rather attractive.


So thank you muchly for your thoughts.




Thank you so much for such a long and thoughtful reply. There is so much I identify with and so much good advice. I think I willl make a copy of your post so I have it handy to read in the months to come.


Just to comment specifically on a couple of things you said.


Your advice on doing things gradually is really important, and it has done two things, made me feel less guilty for not getting much done, and also realise that I don't actually want to stop the studies, but it is ok if I go slowly, and if I get too stressed it's ok to rest up for a bit - this is a very important realisation for me.


I too take great comfort in feeling inconsequential, so thank you for reminding me on a universal scale how small we are. We (me and my husband) used to live a short drive from a very long and often fairly empty beach. One of my favourite things was to go and stand facing the ocean and feel really small which I found, perhaps surprising to some, very reassuring. I don't live near the sea any more, but there are quite a few ancient hills so I shall probably try and get a look at them this weekend, it can have a similar comforting effect.


It also reminds me of that Monty Python song about the universe and how tiny you are which I've always loved but I know some people find a bit disturbing; must be on you tube by now, I'll see if I can find it.


So that's my take: Ease into some things, especially activities with other people, and try not to spend too much time worrying about your future. Plan for the future, but keep your living in today away from the fear of tomorrow and the anger/guilt/sorrow of yesterday.



This is really good advice, thank you.


Also, I have just been reading a new book by Russ Harris whose one of the people who write stuff based on the Acceptance Commitment Therapy approach (ACT). The book is called The Reality Slap and has a lots of useful ideas on how to deal with the 'reality gap', the gap, sometimes gulf, between the reality you want, and the reality you've actually got right now, especially when then reality has suddenly been made worse by the 'reality slap' - stuff outside your control that has happened to you, like chronic illness or bereavement or (though he doesn't mention this as an example) AD withdrawal. Once I've processed it I'll post more here. I'm sure it has ideas that can help with stuff we've posted about here.


Thanks again for your thoughts,



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Hey Bright, please do post back about "The Reality Slap". I was considering getting that book myself, I think it could be poteintially helpful in coping with withdrawal.

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Phil (and anyone else interested),


I would definitely recomend The Reality Slap. I would describe it as Acceptance Commitment Therapy with added self-compassion, and yes I think it could be useful as a strategy for dealing with the gap between reality you've got and the reality you'd like for both chronic illness and anti-depressant withdrawal.


The strategy is basically

1) Hold your self kindly - (the self compassion bit)

2) Drop the anchor - (various exercises where you ground yourself by connecting with the present moment - links to a mindfulness approach)

3) Take a stand (this is about connecting with your personal values and then acting in ways that are in accordance with them - despite other bits of life still not being the way you want)

4) Find the treasure (this is mainly about appreciating the privilege of being alive - and some ways to do this even when your pretty dis-satisifed with some aspects of your life).


There are free specimen chapters that actually give a pretty good introduction to what the book covers here:

This is a direct link to the pdf - Direct link to pdf of Intro and Chapters 1 and 2

or here:

Free resources page including link to chapters


And yes I think some of the ideas in this book may well be able to help me move forward on the lack of motivation.


I'm currently re-reading the book more carefully.


If you do decide you want the book, it's not yet released in the UK (and when it is it looks like it'll be around £8-10)



But you can get it as an ebook direct from the website for around Aus $14.99 (so that's about £9.25 (GB £) or $14.29 (US $) depending on what your credit card charges you.

Link to ebook


Will try and post a more considered review when I have a bit more time, and once I've read the book again and tried some of the exercises properly.





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