The Key to Improving your Anxiety – Do What Makes you Anxious (and stop excessively washing your hands)

After a little break from technology I am back with some new blog post ideas and a calmer mindset, yay 🙂 I originally meant for this blog to be aimed at people with emetophobia, as the resources I found on other blogs when I was suffering with it were pretty unhelpful and actually made my phobia worse.
In short – The phobia revolves around vomit, and the tips I saw online to ‘help it’ were mostly just advice on how to avoid vomiting or seeing vomit in every situation. That is not only unrealistic and unhealthy, but is exactly the kind of advice someone who is desperate to never face their fear looks out for. Only, that it reinforces vomit to be something to be scared of and the phobia cycle continues (I have outlined this in a prior blog post).

Face what you fear (maybe not dangerous animals though, as they could actually kill you… How about starting with irrational anxieties?)
Image source: https://coreaspect.org/way-for-facing-your-fears-and-bounce-back/

Anywho, I have recovered from my phobia by slowly doing things that make me nervous or anxious. But I feel like this applies to all types of anxiety – You need to do what makes you anxious for you to realise it really is nothing to be anxious about, which is also empowering in itself. The thing is, it is really uncomfortable in the moment; You might cry, maybe you’ll have a panic attack, but I promise you, you will not die, and over time you will decrease your suffering!

Let’s take a personal example of mine: Washing one’s hands! Even though I have pretty much overcome my phobia, this was still a big topic in my life the past few months. When people around me did not wash their hands before cooking or after going to the bathroom, I would not only get uncomfortable but I might even start a fight. I would cry a few tears and possibly insult their hygiene as a way to protect myself and make my fear of germs seem valid. But making them wash their hands will only validate germs as a bad thing, and it could even harm them mentally and physically when excessively done! That made me realise, my thoughts and behaviour were catastrophic and obsessive – Yes, washing your hands is important, but it’s not as dramatic as my mind made it out to be.

Let’s be honest, today’s society has huge (ridiculous) hygiene standards of constantly using antibacterial gels and wipes. That is important for some settings, but for the typical person with a fear of germs, this can become excessive and unhealthy. Where do we draw the line?
Image source: https://www.cdc.gov/features/handwashing/index.html

This past month I faced my fear of not having ‘clean’ hands very dramatically by pretty much only washing them when they were visibly dirty (and most toilet breaks). Of course, washing your hands after going to the toilet is a hygienic standard, but I am glad I can calmly go take a pee-break at night without having to worry in bed that I did not wash my hands. Might sound gross, but hey I’m still alive and healthy and my excessive worry is gone too!

So – The only way I got over my excessive worry about my own and other people’s hand-washing behaviours was by drastically changing mine to be what I very much feared. Yes, I was uncomfortable and felt dirty, but living through the after effects of not having overly cleansed hands and seeing I was fine, reinforced that my worry was simply unhelpful and false. Doing what makes you anxious is the empowering challenge you might need, to show yourself how strong you are. It’s all about believing in yourself and being patient 🙂