Are you struggling with anxiety?
Do you feel like you’re fighting a losing battle?
Are you starting to feel like no matter what you do, this problem won’t go away?
You may have tried different methods to reduce your anxiety, but none of them work. You’re feeling helpless and overwhelmed by the situation. It’s hard to keep going when all your efforts are in vain.
So what would you say if I told you that I can provide you with a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel? I’d even say I have a solution for you. And this approach worked for me and others. Imagine a life without ever again feeling the burden of anxiety.
How would that feel?
It may sound counter-intuitive, but you don’t have to do anything about it.
Do you think now beating anxiety without doing anything sounds too good to be true?
Well, read on and see for yourself.
Let Anxiety Just Happen
You might be wondering how and why in the world you should anxiety just “let happen” if you want to get rid of it.
It’s pretty simple.
Because you have no choice.
You tried everything. And nothing worked. That’s why you’re here.
There’s an ancient Chinese concept of non-action called wu wei (無為).
It essentially means you stop forcing yourself to do something to fight anxiety. Instead, by allowing things to happen naturally and without resistance or attachment, you find relief from your anxious thoughts and feelings.
I’m living and breathing Daoist concepts for 17 years now. But I’d say the last 2 years were the most challenging for me regarding anxiety. It was like a never-ending roller coaster. And after such a long time, it should have been a piece of cake for me to solve this situation in a second. Even though I solved it in the end, it wasn’t easy, because it was related to a new situation.
However, I’ve learned a lot on the way, and this is what I’m sharing here (and in future articles) with you.
Stop Punching It in the Face
I know how you feel. When anxiety comes, you want to punch it in the face, try different methods of squashing it down, or just curl up and cry.
So why is doing nothing (more) helpful when it comes to beating anxiety?
Because doing nothing is much deeper than you assume.
It’s not just about being passive or lazy. It’s about shifting your perspective, allowing yourself to be in the present moment fully, and understanding what even happens.
But first, let’s talk about what people usually do when they’re anxious and why it doesn’t work. Understanding what doesn’t work helps us recognize what does work, allowing us to stop losing time and energy on things that bring no results.
Yep, I’m giving you the “why are you even doing this stuff?” look if you know that it doesn’t work.
We’ve all been there. Overwhelmed by anxious thoughts and emotions, so we try to push them away. But trying to ignore it not only doesn’t work. It makes things worse. This tactic is based on the notion that by ignoring something long enough, it will go away.
But that’s not how anxiety works! When you try to suppress anxious thoughts and feelings, they become stronger and more intense over time.
Alcohol and/or Drugs
Many people use alcohol or drugs to cope with their anxiety because they promise a quick fix. But they can make your anxiety worse in the long run.
Not only is this coping mechanism dangerous and unhealthy for your body, but it also won’t offer lasting relief from your symptoms. Which you already know if you’ve used it.
Plus, using alcohol or drugs can create an emotional dependency that keeps you stuck in cycles of self-medication and avoidance behavior. Which is ultimately harmful to managing your anxiety in the long run.
Constantly over-analyzing situations to outsmart anxiety is useless too.
When we focus too much on our worries and anxieties instead of maintaining our sense of perspective and balance, we get stuck in a cycle of obsessing over our fears without finding any real solutions or progress toward healing.
Overthinking can quickly become an inescapable rabbit hole.
Overworking or Over-Exercising
Some people attempt to get rid of anxiety by working too hard or over-exercising.
While exercise and work can help manage your stress levels, it’s necessary to maintain a healthy balance so that you don’t overexert yourself and end up feeling worse afterward.
Anxiety isn’t something that can be easily beaten with short-term fixes. It requires consistent effort and dedication to finding lasting relief from our symptoms.
Unfortunately, many tactics we try don’t work as well as we’d hoped. We must remember this to stop wasting time trying ineffective strategies when there are better ways out there for us to manage our anxiety!
How to Unlock Anxiety Relief With the Ancient Art of Wu Wei
Now that we’ve discussed what doesn’t work and why let’s talk about what works: the Daoist concept of wu wei.
You might still wonder why you should do nothing about anxiety. The answer is that you’re not focused on getting rid of it when you’re acting. It’s the same as with a conversation. If you want to hear what other people say, you must stop talking.
It’s about changing your perspective. From one of trying to control, fight or suppress anxious thoughts and feelings to one of welcoming and understanding them. When you understand them, you start seeing them for what they are and then learn how to respond appropriately. And eventually, solve them.
At its core, the philosophy of wu wei has two central tenets.
1. Success comes from effortlessness. When you stop struggling against something and instead embrace it — not just accept it — you open yourself up to new possibilities and better results.
2. To achieve success, you must learn how to yield or surrender to your environment.
The method is simple: let go of expectations, open your mind to new ideas, and accept the present moment. But simple doesn’t necessarily mean easy. It’s not easy because it needs perseverance as you’re used to thinking and acting in the opposite direction.
There’s a quote that perfectly encapsulates the essence of wu wei:
“When you accept that things cannot be changed and have no expectations, you will be in sync with the Dao and find peace within yourself.” — Laozi
It’s about recognizing and learning to work with the flow of life. To use wu wei to beat anxiety, you must first accept that you cannot control your thoughts and feelings. You can’t force them away, no matter how hard you try. Acknowledging this truth is also not a simple task, but you must be honest with yourself.
Now that you know the major tenets and the core of wu wei, here are the 5 steps on how to implement non-doing to help you finally reclaim control from anxiety:
Step 1: Calm Down
Finding moments throughout your day to take a few deep breaths helps slow your racing thoughts and brings you back into the present moment. Deep breathing also helps trigger the body’s relaxation response, which calms down physical symptoms associated with stress or anxiety, e.g. as increased heart rate or shallow breathing.
If you want to take it to the next level, spend dedicated time doing that. For instance, meditate or simply sit in stillness. It’s about tuning into your inner realm.
Step 2: Focus on Your Senses
In moments where you feel overwhelmed by anxious thoughts, try redirecting your attention towards something that brings you joy or comfort — like petting your dog, spending time with your loved ones, etc. — and notice all the details around it using all five senses.
That will help ground you in reality and provide mental clarity so you can handle whatever situation has caused stress or unease more efficiently. With the necessary foundation in place, you’re now ready to progress.
But even when you don’t feel anxious, it’s still beneficial to cultivate these techniques regularly.
It serves as an effective preventative measure. That way, if you experience anxiety, you won’t be unprepared or feel overwhelmed by your emotions. With repetition, while feeling relaxed and confident, it’ll become second nature — making it easier to recall the steps during distress.
Step 3: Recognize
Recognize and be curious about what sensations arise when you feel anxious. This step helps you become aware of your physical responses and understand where these feelings originate from.
How does it feel?
What thoughts come up?
Where does the tension appear?
What happens when you breathe into those areas?
If maintaining concentration is a struggle for you, journaling can be an effective way to stay on-task.
Do you get annoyed by the anxiety or because it doesn’t work?
It won’t help anyway, and you know that! Just observe with a non-judgmental attitude. By becoming aware of what is happening inside your body when you feel anxious — instead of running away from it — you can learn how to manage it healthily. By simply allowing yourself time for self-reflection and understanding. Though, it will require constant conscious effort.
Step 4: Let Go
This doesn’t mean neglecting your feelings or pretending they don’t exist. They do, and you’re f*cked if you ignore them. It means being mindful enough to recognize them as they come up while remaining open and receptive. Instead of resisting your fear or anger out of habit or desperation, take some time to sit with it and observe.
Let go of the need for immediate results and accept whatever comes up.
By doing this, you can start to understand yourself better. And you can start to recognize that some feelings are temporary and don’t have to stay for long.
Step 5: Accept
Non-doing encourages us to accept ourselves just as we are and the world around us just as it is. Without judgment or making assumptions about what will happen next. That helps us create space between our feelings and reactions to decide better how we want to move forward.
When we permit ourselves not only to have emotions but also to accept them without judgment, it helps us gain perspective so that we can move through our emotions instead of getting stuck in them.
Look For Effortless Solutions in Challenging Situations
The next time you’re feeling overwhelmed with anxiety, try taking a few moments for yourself before attempting any sort of action. Take some deep breaths and calm down. Allow yourself time for reflection without judgment before deciding on any course of action. This will provide clarity which leads to successful decision-making.
To maximize the effectiveness of the steps above, practice them even when you’re calm. Doing so will help develop healthy habits and provide long-lasting benefits because you’ll remember them quicker when anxiety hits.
Here’s a quick summary:
What Doesn’t Work
- Ignoring anxiety
- Alcohol and/or drugs
- Overworking or over-exercising
5 Steps on How to Implement Non-Doing
Step 1: Calm down
Step 2: Focus on your senses
Step 3: Recognize
Step 4: Let go
Step 5: Accept
Wu wei is a beneficial tool for dealing with anxiety because it encourages us to take a step back from our emotions rather than jumping straight into action mode every time something feels overwhelming.
It’s important not only as a way to manage our feelings but also as a reminder that sometimes all we need is time away from stressors so that our minds can catch up with our bodies and make informed decisions based on understanding instead of fear or panic reactions.
If you struggle with anxiety regularly, give wu wei a try — you may be surprised by how easily it works!