Experiencing heavy (existential) anxiety and therefore symptoms of depersonalization or derealization is one of the most scary things I’ve ever experienced. After going through it for about 6 months, I managed to fully recover by using simple tools that were able to get me completely through it and made me find true inner peace again.
The most important thing I can say, first of all, is that there is NOTHING wrong with you. I will get deeper into this throughout these next 10 recovery tips, but I want to start with this because the belief that something is essentially wrong with you is one of the biggest blockages for your recovery process. DPDR and Existential anxiety/dread is a very misunderstood concept amongst traditional mental health care. It’s often just labled as ‘depression’ or ‘general anxiety’, when actually, I believe in a way that it’s a quite understandable effect of being human. This human experience can indeed be quite overwhelming when we don’t learn the right tools to cope with chaos, stress and trauma, and so we create coping mechanisms that feel quite scary such as anxiety and feelings of dissociation. Although the process is different for everyone and it is about taking small steps everyday that will benefit you in the long wrong, I truly believe it is possible for everyone to recover. If I was able to do it, and many other people I’ve known, you can too.
So what are 10 things you can and should do in order to recover from your existential anxiety and DPDR?
- First and foremost, for those struggling most with existential questions and dread:
Change your main focus and priority from wanting to know the truth about existence, to wanting to feel good. You can’t answer these questions when you’re in chronic stress and fear because these emotions color our thinking as well. It’s important to surrender to the fact that we can’t answer certain questions from our limited mind, and that what we’re actually REALLY looking for, is the feeling we tell ourselves answering those questions will give us. We’re looking for a feeling of security, safety and purpose, but we fool ourselves by saying we can only achieve this when we answer all questions, and we can’t so we’re doomed. It’s not true, however. The moment we prioritize the feeling itself that we’re looking for over the question we put as a condition for that feeling, is when we can start to free ourselves.
- Stop obsessively looking online for answers. I guess this is contradictory because you are doing it now, but by going on platforms such as reddit & facebook groups that are NOT positively focused towards recovery and sharing positive progress, what this will do is that it will give you even more beliefs about being unable to recover, when really all people that are sharing their positive experiences online have also just like you just not found the right recovery method yet. Recovery IS however 100% possible and so it is important to fill your mind with motivating input that will make you get more beliefs about being able to recover.
- This follows to the second tip:
Start celebrating positive moments more than you are sad about negative ones. Your mind repeats what you focus on and if you keep giving it negative input, you will keep repeating the same negative emotions. At the end of each day, focus on what moments were good and celebrate them by feeling grateful for it. You will get more and more of those moments in the future.
- Learn to seperate yourself from your thoughts and emotions.
You are NOT your thoughts and you are NOT your emotions. Thoughts and emotions come and go, but the person behind them, that is experiencing all of that, is you, and so you are separate from your thoughts and emotions. When you feel your thoughts having a negative effect on you, don’t try to balance that out by thinking even more, because this is what created the problem in the first place. Change your response to them by simply becoming aware of your thoughts, and embracing them as they are at that moment. By observing and embracing, you realize that you are greater than your fear and greater than your thoughts. A book I suggest you to read to help you with this is The power of now by Eckhart Tolle.
- Stop thinking you’re the only one that is struggling and that something is wrong with you. Existential anxiety is a completely normal thing to experience and any thought that tells you there’s something wrong with you or that you won’t recover, is just a part of the anxiety itself. Everyone I’ve coached has had that same concern and they all are just as much able to recover. TRUST that you are alright. Everything is possible and there is a way to every desire. Because you haven’t figured that out yet doesn’t mean that you’re doomed.
- Start embodying new beliefs.
Part of why you feel so bad is because you’ve created certain beliefs about the world and yourself that are not true, such as ‘I’m a victim of life’ or ‘I need control in order to feel good’ or ’the world is a dark place’. Our beliefs influence our perception of reality and emotions, and so we can change our emotions and change our perception of the world by changing our beliefs.
There are different ways to start changing your beliefs. Some simple ways to start is to listen to affirmations, objectively question your beliefs (ask yourself if the thoughts you’re repeating over and over again are even true), and focus on trying to see the world as a safe place by being grateful for everything there is.
- Stop fighting and start embracing.
STOP fighting unwanted emotions. It will add more stress to your system, and thus create more anxiety and feelings of DPDR. Embracing and allowing your emotions to be exactly as they are does not mean you will feel like this forever. It actually means that you are choosing NOT to allow your emotions to take control over your life. Emotions will pass when we stop focussing so much on them. And so, by just allowing them to be as they are, we allow them to become smaller and smaller. On my YouTube channel I’ve created 2 meditations that can really help you practice this acceptance. (YouTube: Robin Schindelka, playlist: meditations)
- Take care of your general (mental) health.
Eat healthy, exercise, take vitamins, connect to nature.
Your brain needs to be taken care of as well in order to feel mental wellness and to feel safe and comfortable again. If you’re in sweatpants, inside all day, not eating well and taking care of your body, your brain will perceive an even more negative feeling and it can make it hard for you to break the pattern. If you’re stuck in anxiety but can’t change it right now, you might as well go through the process healthy and well. This maybe seems too simply put, but small things do really make big changes. By taking care of your body, you’re also taking care of your mind.
- Watch some of my YouTube video’s.
I know this may seem a little off to add this here as a tip in this article, but I’m adding it because I have in fact created a lot of video’s around this topic and giving advice from my own experience recovering from anxiety and derealization. I suggest you to try some of my meditations, as they’ve helped a lot of people already and can give you a practical tool to start with.
- Break your comfort zone in small steps to face your fears and take away the power they have over you.
Try to face your fears step by step, and try to become comfortable with the unknown. The most scary and overwhelming thing I remember for me, was the not-knowing. Actually it was not the not-knowing, but my resistance to the not-knowing. The moment I started to open up to uncertainty & the unknown, and still decided to trust that I was in good hands, is when I started to notice a lot of positive change. Break the pattern of attachment to certainty and see what happens. Often we’re mostly afraid of the fear itself, and by allowing the fear to be there, and uncertainty to be there, our fear can slowly go away.