Is anxiety holding you back? Anxiety is something that effects millions of people, and can range from mild cases of nerves to debilitating emotional trouble. Gay men face some very specific problems, which can be very painful and emotionally devastating. The fear of being alone, and of being rejected, are very common ones, and can really eat at one’s self-esteem. Worries about HIV and STD are also heavy loads to bear. Homosexuals also face the heartbreaking and painful realities of being rejected, not only by potential lovers, but by one’s family, and society in general.
Here are some tips to help you cope with anxiety.
Sobriety is not the opposite of addiction: actually, connection is. Anxiety often leads people to disconnect—or feel disconnected—from others. Reconnect with people in your life, or form new friendships. Remember, you get to choose the people who are in your life. Don’t be afraid to amputate relationships that are toxic or negative. That’s better than letting them become gangrenous!
Goals help you set a purpose in life, and give you something to strive for. You have to let yourself want what you want, no matter what it is. Whether you want more money, a better job, a great relationship, or acceptance, don’t let society tell you that you aren’t allowed to have these things.
Face Your Fears
Sometimes, fear can be more damaging than the sources of those fears. Are you afraid to come out to your family? Take the leap, and find out what happens. Are you terrified that you have contracted HIV? Make an appointment and find out for sure. Look straight into your fears, and face them. In cases of coming out, you may find that becoming estranged is actually more freeing and less stressful than fear of estrangement, because sometimes cutting ties releases you to be your true self. And as for HIV, if you are positive, you’ll be able to take actions to slow the disease, live a fulfilling life, and seek comfort and support from others that are in the same boat. Even if the news isn’t what you want, the sooner you find out, the sooner you can start coping with it.
Let Go Of Emotional Poisons
Life isn’t always fair, and most of us have picked up significant emotional scars. Learn to let go of negative feelings. If you can’t move past your ex, and how badly your last relationship hurt you, that memory will color all of your future relationships. This emotional baggage can also lead you to project your ex’s traits onto your new lover, which can end up forcing your relationship to be a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure. Or, worse, it can lead you to close the door on a new relationship without even trying.
Listen To Your Gut
Sometimes both our hearts and our heads can lead us astray. Don’t forget to trust your gut instinct! That base feeling that something is right or wrong isn’t based on emotion: it’s coming from energy, and subtle signals that you may not pick up consciously. This can be hard in relationships, as it’s easy to picture a new partner as the perfect mate. But your wishes cannot change others: they can only transform you.
One of the most powerful tools that can help you defeat anxiety is one of the simplest. Picture yourself in 5, 10, 20, or 60 years. What do you want your life to be? What sort of partner do you want to be with? Picture your ideal self, in the life that makes you happy. Then, step into it, and become that person.
Is your life unstructured? If so, a bit of routine may do you good. This doesn’t mean checking off a huge ‘to-do’ list every day. Just settle into a natural, but productive routine. Include things that help you grow, like education and hobbies. It’s also important to incorporate things that help boost your self-esteem, and are good for you physically, like exercise. Reading is also important. Everything you read will teach you something, and knowledge is truly a powerful tool. In fact, it is the most powerful mechanism for change. Fiction is also great: escaping into someone else’s problems is a wonderful way to turn your thought patterns away from your troubles.
Use Coping Mechanisms
There are many different methods for coping with and releasing anxiety. Unfortunately, none of them are one-size-fits-all. For some, journaling or writing can be very powerful, as it allows you to release your emotions, uncensored and unchecked. For others, exercise, travel, or a fun night out can be a balm for a troubled soul. For others, time for self-reflection and relaxing may be what’s needed. Don’t forget to take time for having fun! Laughter really is the best medicine.
Anxiety is, to some extent, a fact of life. It is something that you will always feel. Don’t let it control you. If you are afraid to try that hot new gay club you’ve heard about, you may get tension in your stomach as you walk up to the door. You may also have the time of your life! If you let your fear prevent you from trying things, or doing things, you’ll never fully experience life. With anxiety, half the battle is not trying to eradicate it, but learning to cope with it.
This may sound like a flippant tee-shirt slogan or a hashtag, but it is in fact very significant. That special person that lights you up inside? He—or she—is worth fighting for. Don’t let your fear of rejection overcome the love you have, and the love you want. Sometimes, the fear you have for something is proportionate to your love for it. Did your favorite bakery balk at making a cake for your wedding? Give your business to someone who is happy to take part in your celebration, and focus on the joy of your event. Never let someone else’s storm cloud your sky.
Don’t bottle up your emotions: that’s letting poison fester inside you. You don’t have to make an issue over every tiny thing, but don’t let anger build up, either. That’s how volcanos work!
Learn to identify, and in some cases, accept, the things that cause you anxiety. For instance, family issues can be very painful. If your relatives are not willing to accept you for who you are, that is their problem. If your partner isn’t engaging in safe sex, don’t avoid the topic: face it head on. Don’t let discomfort weight you down: use it as fertilizer, and grow from it. True change requires evolution, so don’t be fooled into thinking that running away from your fears will help you. Trying to deny your feelings will only cause you more anxiety, in the end.
For some people, overcoming anxiety can take years of self-work, struggle, and therapy. For others, a single ‘a-ha’ moment, where something really clicks, can get the ball rolling, and move them into a positive direction. However, anxiety is not usually something one deals with once: it tends to rear its ugly head over and over again. Having the wisdom and tools to defeat your anxiety is crucial in winning not just a battle, but the ongoing war. Learning how to face your fears, and either overcome them, let go of them, or cope with them, is one of life’s hardest, and most important, lessons.