How to Overcome Anxiety and Enjoy Epic Adventures

How to Overcome Anxiety and Enjoy Epic Adventures

Modesty aside, I consider myself to be an intelligent person and I’ve spent my whole life trying to improve on that by reading a raft of personal development books. So it’s strange it took me over 40 years to realise I suffer from anxiety and only then because a doctor diagnosed me with anxiety after I sought help for depression.

Anxiety often goes hand in hand with depression and it’s a common problem. Global statistics show I’m not alone:

  • In the USA anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness affecting 18% of adults or 40 million people.*
  • In Australia  one in three women and one in five men will experience anxiety at some stage in their life and, in any 12-month period, over two million Australians will experience anxiety.**
  • UK statistics are similar with one in five people feeling anxious all of the time or a lot of the time and anxiety accounting for 30% of the mental health problems seen by GPs.

It sucks realising you’ve got anxiety but it’s better to know what’s causing your problems than to thrash around in life not knowing what’s wrong with you or how to fix it. I’ve spent years running away from problems and I always felt like I don’t fit in but now I realise I do because anxiety is so common I’m not alone.

How to Overcome Anxiety and Enjoy Epic Adventures

What does anxiety feel like?

Symptoms of anxiety can vary in experience and severity. My personal experience of anxiety includes but is not limited to:

Constant worrying. And I mean constant.

Many times in my life I’ve literally woken up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat because my worries were pressing down on me even when I slept. I worry all day and when I fall asleep I worry myself awake again.

Problems sleeping. See above.

I often have bad dreams or nightmares, in particular about men coming into my house while I’m asleep. Once the dream was so vivid and scary I actually ran out of my hotel naked. It makes a funny travel story now but living with that level of anxiety is not fun.

Feelings of fear. I’m a pretty nervous person,  often jumping just because my husband walks into the room.

I’ve spent my life planning for the worst case scenario so I can cope in case my greatest and many fears are met. When I stay in a hotel I locate the emergency exits in case there’s a fire, tsunami or earthquake. When walking alone at night I clutch my car keys in my hand in case someone attacks me. When my children were babies I was constantly scared that they’d be stolen or abducted and, even now they’re older, that fear can grip me at the unexpected moments.

These feelings of fear may be irrational but they’re very real meaning I live in a constant state of high alert.

Over-active mind. I’m constantly thinking, worrying and plotting ways to stay safe, get everything done and keep everyone happy. No wonder I often feel like I’m not coping with life.

Concentration problems. The constant worrying and thinking mean I have trouble focusing on what I’m doing and get distracted.

Inability to stay still. I’ve lived in eight different counties and celebrated 27 years of nomadic living.

I don’t watch TV because I can’t sit still that long in my own home. There’s always something that needs to be done.

As a kid I was always called a fidget because this restlessness and anxiety started at a very young age. I just never knew why I couldn’t stay still until now, mistaking anxiety for high energy or an A type personality.

I’ve never had a full blown panic attack but, even though I didn’t realise I had anxiety, I have spent my life trying to overcome these feelings by self-medicating. I’m not ready to go into that part of my anxiety experience yet but this undiagnosed, untreated and unwanted anxiety led to a lifetime of battles with addiction that started when I was 13 years old and lasted decades.

How to Overcome Anxiety

What causes anxiety?

In some cases life circumstances like unemployment, financial problems, worry about loved ones or relationship issues can cause anxiety or make it worse. Apparently older people are more commonly affected by anxiety than the young and I’d love to hear your theories on why that might be.

For many people anxiety is a permanent fixture, present even when there are no major life problems going on. If you ever experienced stress, violence, abuse or fear as a small child then that could cause you to be on a constant state of high alert and prone to anxiety for life.

It helps to know what causes anxiety and what it feels like so you  know when you’re anxious, but it’s equally important to think about how anxiety effects your life.

How anxiety stops you from enjoying the adventures you crave

If you live with fear, stress and anxiety then you’re often scared to do the things you want to do like travel, explore the world and go off on epic adventures.

If you’re the anxious type then my tips for avoiding an average life might scare the pants off you but if you want to overcome anxiety and go on epic adventures then you have to take action now. Not tomorrow, next week or next year.

Which is why I carry on seeking adventure and doing the things pictured here like mountain climbing, rock climbing and skydiving even though they make me anxious.

Life’s short and you don’t want to reach old age drowning in a sea of regrets.

skydiving fears

How to Overcome Anxiety and Enjoy Epic Adventures

1. Accept anxiety

We’ve learnt that anxiety is common and normal. If you’re reading this then anxiety is just a normal part of you that you can reduce and control but may never fully overcome.

Don’t try to run away from your problems or anxiety. Notice anxiety when it crops up. Notice what makes you break out in a state of anxiety and notice what anxiety feels like to you.

Anxiety may cause a tightening in your throat, a feeling of nausea or a prickling of sweat in your armpits. Whatever physical signs of anxiety you observe, notice too that none of those things can hurt you.

Sit with your anxiety and avoid using drugs, cigarettes, food, TV or whatever crutches you tend to turn to overcome your anxiety or quell it. Just watch your anxiety and you’ll see that in time it will ebb and go away by itself.

Do that again and again and you’ll notice that anxiety pops up far less often because the more you reject difficult feelings the longer they hang around. By accepting and allowing your anxiety to be there you’re defusing it and reducing its power to control you.

2. Practice little adventures in a safe environment

You don’t need to start with skydiving, hitchhiking  or pitching a book in front of 100 people. Although I’ve done all those things I don’t recommend you overcome anxiety by diving in at the deep end.

I started the 52 Exercises Quest to do a different exercise every week and a quest like that is a great way to help overcome anxiety. Remember your anxiety won’t go away immediately but you’ll get used to it and learn to get on with life anyway.

Start to shake up your life by shaking up your regular routine and vowing to do something that actually ignites your anxiety at least once a week. That’s right, to overcome your anxiety you have to call it up. Remember the old saying what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. It’s just anxiety, not a real threat on your or your loved ones.

3. Prioritize adventure

Given that I’ve struggled with anxiety all my life I’d never have packed so much travel and so many adventures in if I hadn’t been hellbent on seeing the world and experiencing as much as I can. I’ve visited 44 countries now but you’ve got to want adventure, yearn for it and burn for it to make it happen.

Fuel your need for adventure by reading travel blogs, travel books, travel magazines, travel brochures and adventure books. Feed that need every day and don’t let your yearning for adventure get buried by the daily grind.

4. Visualize your adventures

Decide where you want to go for your first adventure. Find a photo of that place and stick it on your fridge, on the back of your bathroom door AND next to your bed. That image of Machu Picchu, Victoria Falls, the Swiss Alps or wherever it may be will fuel your fire for adventure.

Now take visualizing your adventures a step further and start visualizing yourself actually there. Start researching the equipment you need for your big adventure and buy those boots, that mosquito repellent or the backpack of your dreams.

Visualize yourself in your dream adventure location every day. Start by imagining yourself getting on the plane, setting foot in a new country and clapping eyes on your dream destination for the first time. Feels good doesn’t it? Imagine what you’ll eat, who you’ll meet, how you’ll feel. It’s good to dream and visualizing your goals happening is a great way to get on track with them.

5. Make it happen

Once you’ve visualized the adventure you want to have it’s time to start planning it. How will you get there? How much money will you need? How long will it take you to save? When are you going to leave?

Take practical steps to make your adventure happen and don’t let any excuses like lack of money, time or travel experience get in your way.

You can do it. Anxiety can’t stop you from making epic adventures. You’re a force of nature and nothing will stand in your way.

obstacle race fire jump

What helps you overcome anxiety? Have you had any epic adventures despite your anxiety?

If you enjoyed this post, please share it with any friends of yours that you think it could help.


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*The Anxiety and Depression Association of America
**Beyond Blue anxiety fact sheet
***Mental Health Foundation


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  1. Meghan June 23, 2014 at 11:10 am - Reply

    For me, it’s just having faith in your ability to handle situations that might arise…

    • Annabel Candy June 23, 2014 at 11:17 am - Reply

      Hi Meghan,

      That’s great to hear! For people who are still overcome by anxiety that faith will grow with their confidence and of course confidence comes from trying things and succeeding. So I really hope people will overcome their anxiety by facing up to it, taking the first step and doing scary things or starting with small adventures already :)

  2. Sandra Pawula June 23, 2014 at 1:47 pm - Reply

    Dear Annabel,

    I feel like anxiety can be connected to a lack of healthy attachment as a child and to genetics. My genetics make me tend toward anxiety, but I’m careful not to go there much anymore. It’s so true, we can train our mind. And, even if we can’t overcome our anxiety entirely, we can be reassured that we are not alone.

    I’m not sure why anxiety occurs more often in older people. Maybe that’s partly due to all the instability and uncertainty in modern life and lack of support for older people.

    Thanks for having the guts to share about this and encourage others.

    • Annabel Candy June 23, 2014 at 1:52 pm - Reply

      Hi Sandra,

      I think a lot of it’s about genetics too – thanks for mentioning that and totally agree we can change our brain to overcome anxiety. I’ve been working on it :) Love your take on why older people seem to be more affected by anxiety – it sounds spot on and the support things is easily remedied which is good to know.

  3. Seana June 25, 2014 at 5:26 pm - Reply

    Hello Annabel and all, I’ve never really been anxious, just depresssed and hysterical at times. But as I got menopausal I found myself worrying about really small silly things and my jaw muscles kept seizing up. No good. My mum is terribly anxious and it’s very debilitating for her, she does the worrying for all the family. I do think mindfulness is the key and your posts on it are great.

  4. Cate July 8, 2014 at 7:40 am - Reply

    Hi Annabel,

    Anxiety makes me want to plan for every possible eventuality… I had a quiet laugh as I read about your experiences (finding the exit in hotels, etc.) as that has been me. I don’t think anxiety will ever leave once it has found a home, but I do think that you can train yourself to be less anxious.

    Also, I found that when I went gluten-free after being diagnosed with ceoliac disease a whole lot of my anxious traits just disappeared… doesn’t stop me wanting to be in control of situations in my life, but I feel incredibly ‘released’ these days and can actually pin point when my anxiety is illogical.

    It’s hard watching our young teenage son, who has an anxiety disorder attached to his ASD, worrying about stuff that really doesn’t matter, but at least I understand what he is feeling. I think I might try your 52 week challenge with him. It might do us both some good :-) .

    Cate x

  5. Sally @ thewinetraveller July 8, 2014 at 1:35 pm - Reply

    I’m not sure why stress happens more often in senior citizens. Maybe that’s partially due to all the uncertainty and doubt in contemporary life of today and deficiency of support for senior citizens.

  6. Jamila July 11, 2014 at 12:49 pm - Reply

    Great post Annabel. It already feels so much better when we know what is going on and why we feel the way we feel. I used to suffer from anxiety in times when I was more stressed. For me it is mostly stress related and when I get a grip on that the anxiety improves too.

  7. alan hills July 15, 2014 at 8:01 pm - Reply

    Great article and definitely agree with tip no. 1 – to accept anxiety.
    Having experienced it personally and now with clients, our initial reaction is to try and ‘get rid’ of anxiety without wondering why it is there in the first place.
    Once we become curious and accept the feelings, we can learn from them and grow through it, becoming more self aware and less fearful of life.
    Always enjoy your blog Annabel – especially as I travelled all round Oz and NZ a while ago!
    Thanks, Alan

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