We’re used to thinking of the worry, panic, fear, etc. of anxiety, but some of the other elements can have huge knock-on effects that we either don’t see or which we do our best to ignore. Having lived severe anxiety for decades and having gotten out of it with the right help for me, I look back and notice how much easier life got in many ways.
I see the same things when working with people overcoming anxiety each week.
We live in our hopes but don’t build them into reality
‘One day I’ll do that…’, ‘I’m working on my book…’, I’m going to get a better job…’, ‘I’ll do a course…’, and so on for years.
Sadly, we can exist in these ideas while holding back from doing anything concrete to move us forward. The feeling of anxiety gets worse when we try to take action, so we opt-out and content ourselves with sweet lies.
It feels better in the short term but keeps us stuck in the long term. You can see this each year: The cut price supermarkets thrive on this. Each year we see people buying the cycling gear that comes in. They get the helmet, the odd boots that only fit pedals, the lycra gear, the water bottle, the gloves.
All bit by bit telling themselves ‘I’m getting into cycling’, but they don’t end up on the bike much.
The same is true with fitness equipment, gym memberships and so on. We’re content to lie to ourselves and it feels like we’re doing something when we spend the money but that’s not using it or taking a real action to make change.
Seeing the worst-case Scenario
When we’re stressed or anxious we focus on the negative. It just stands out so clearly for us when something is wrong, not good enough, or flawed. That can lead us to be very hard to live with. I’m sure we all know someone who simply can’t be pleased. Ten things could have gone well but the one thing that wasn’t perfect is all they notice. It can lead to nagging, fights, always giving out, and misery.
There is a reason for this behaviour. The anxiety generates a bad feeling and without us consciously noticing what’s going on. Our self-preservation system is activated and its job is survival.
Seeing problems is what it’s designed for, so, we’re pointing out the problem, nit-picking again, and unable to see the good – just the problem, because our mind is in crisis mode and looking for danger. That’s the core of anxiety.
Missing the opportunities
The tendency to always see the worst-case scenario is very much related to how we often feel we have no opportunities. One of the things that amazed me once I got past my anxiety was how much easier life had become.
In the past I would have seen many things in life as ‘I can’t do that’, ‘it’ll never work’, ‘it’ll be so much hassle’, ‘I’m not good enough’ etc. No matter what it was, I saw 15 ways for it to be a hassle, a problem, and something that wouldn’t work, before I could see one way that it might work.
Now I’m astounded by the amount of opportunity in life and the amazing thing is it was there all along. I just couldn’t recognise it! Once we’re not anxious or stressed we think differently. Things genuinely feel differently, and life gets easier.
Poor sleep is often present with anxiety and has a big impact.
We all know we don’t do as well when we’re not getting quality sleep. However, we rarely realise just how big a difference it makes in life. I so often meet people getting 4-5 hours of sleep a night who say they are fine because they can manage and keep going.
Here’s some way of how sleep deprivation actually hits our lives:
We don’t learn as easily
Concentration is reduced
Reasoning and problem solving are reduced
Memory doesn’t work as well
Judgement is significantly impaired
Anger and snappiness increase
It’s even been shown that we can be as impaired from sleep deprivation to a similar level as when we’re drunk.
How much of life can slip by if we’re in that state a lot of the time?
Immune system can drop
Stress and anxiety are designed for a crisis. If someone is mugging us, we don’t need to be fighting off a cold so, stress hormone suppresses the immune system so that energy can go into the more immediately important tasks of fighting off the mugger or running away.
In long term stress/anxiety the immune system can be lowered. I see many people who complain of ongoing sinus infections, colds, and runny noses more than any other physical issue. Of course, it also makes it more likely we’ll suffer cold-sores.
A related issue, which comes about in a different way, but again from the stress hormone, is that any touch of IBS (diarrhoea, wind, pain, bloating or constipation) can be magnified and blown up into a major issue. People often spot that when they’re stressed, their bowels are much worse. Trips to the toilet are a constant dread for many.
Yet we think of the worry and stress element and ignore or are oblivious to the rest in most cases. Certainly, when I was crippled with anxiety, I had no idea what was going on or how much of my life it hit.
See what is going on
My advice is to take an inventory of life. It might be painful to do. But identifying what we are doing, holding back from, and experiencing can give a much better idea of what to do to make life much better.
Simple interventions like Mindfulness and even exercise can make it easier to make headway, and there are several therapies with proven track records of reducing anxiety out there.
It’s in our own hands. But let’s be clear that waiting and hoping is not a plan for the future.
Have hope, lots of people make huge change in their anxiety and build better lives.
It all starts with awareness. Let’s take a look at life this week.
Then look for what can help. You don’t need the answers at the start. Once we see the problem clearly, we can start looking for the right answers for that.
We’re always happy to chat about how life can improve, so feel free to get in touch.
A healthy mind, A healthy body, A healthy Life!