There is an epidemic of Anxiety seemingly sweeping the world.
1 in 6 people in the UK workplace suffer from anxiety.
Twice as many women as men.
Nearly 40 million people in the United States (18%) experience an anxiety disorder in any given year.
That is huge, by anyone’s descriptive language.
So what is anxiety?
There are various definitions. For the sake of my ramblings I am not referencing people with PTSD or Clinically diagnosed depression, I am referring to the type of anxiety that leaves us overwhelmed, uneasy and nervous. There is a very wobbly line between ‘normal’ anxiety and ‘anxiety’ disorders.
The Oxford Dic describes it as
1 a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome: he felt a surge of anxiety | [count noun] : anxieties about the moral decline of today’s youth.
• Psychiatry a nervous disorder marked by excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behaviour or panic attacks: [as modifier] : she suffered from anxiety attacks.
2 [with infinitive] strong desire or concern to do something or for something to happen: the housekeeper’s eager anxiety to please]
At the Life Coach School we describe Anxiety and all feelings, as a vibration in our body. Anxiety is a generalised feeling of worry, apprehension, nerves, nausea and it can have its best friends, increased heart rate, sweaty palms, tight chest, shortness of breath and occasionally in my case, a full blown panic attack of trying to pass out.
Our incredible bodies created ‘Anxiety’ as a way to protect us. If we needed to escape from predators, we would suddenly get this jolt of adrenalin and were put into “fight or flight mode.” It was a natural and healthy response to help us cope with impending catastrophe. The problem nowadays is, that our body hasn’t evolved from being chased by sabre toothed tigers (why do they always get the rap?) in so far as down regulating out fight or flight response.
If we appreciate that this is what anxiety is, it can help us downplay the feelings we are experiencing. We don’t need to fear them, just accept that this all part of being a human being.
How would your whole life change if you could genuinely accept that Anxiety was feeling and that as such, it couldn’t hurt you? It’s is our fear of feeling it and the resultant resistance, that creates the panic and increases the anxiety.
When we can just accept it, anxiety in itself can’t hurt us.
Historically anxiety was there to protect us. Now the danger has gone, but our system is sending our the same clanging bells and screeching sirens for… a late bus, 10lbs extra on the scales, trying to please our boss, a bad hair day, fill in your cause here…….whaaaaaaattttt???
We experience the same clenched fists, the pounding heart, we are ready to run like hell and in general for no reason that requires us to escape imminent death.
Now imagine doing the complete opposite. Slow down, step back, breathe, unclench those darned fists. Imagine not being afraid of a feeling and being in control of how you want to be. Imagine feeling uncomfortable, but knowing that was OK. I know in the past my full blown panic attacks were a menace. I can still get baby versions of them. I wish I knew then what I know now. I am now, back in control I was making them worse. I was creating a self perpetuating cycle of fear and what if I have a panic attack and guess what, I would create one!
No shit Sherlock!
I honestly didn’t understand that my thinking and my resultant terror was creating the chaos and acute anxiety. My thinking was escalating the adrenalin jolts and convincing myself that imminent death was a pretty likely situation!!
I am going to reference Eric here. For those of you who haven’t met him yet- he is the seemingly unsupervised part of my brain, who enjoys wearing a Viking hemet, brandishing his sword and leading the Revolution of mental chaos! He is the primitive part of my brain who thinks adrenalin is the best drug ever (Actually that part isn’t true is it Eric- looking questioningly over glasses on end of nose?) and a totally necessary part of my survival. He forgets to notice how adrenalin exhausts me and wastes a shit load of time being anxious about things that need no anxiousness. They just are things. Our ability to recognise anxiety for what it is and choose how we respond to it is mind blowing. Well it was to me!I was able to poor some soothing oil on the wound and stop rubbing sodding salt into it!
The first step is to recognise anxiety.
It’s no longer a vague and overwhelming jolt, that seemingly slaps you in the face before your feet even hit the floor as you get up in the morning. Name it. Name it anxiety. Sounds strange but sometimes the simplest of steps are so effective.
So there it is. Named.
Now you have four options. Three add fuel to the flames by resisting it and the forth, will dampen them down.
‘Resistance is futile’ a famous Star Trek character saidWe are feeling Anxiety and we are resisting it. Resisting is like fighting it, pushing it away and as we do that getting cross with ourselves and actually creating more anxiety. Its like trying to push a large exercise ball under water!Its exhausting and unsustainable!
“Our reaction to a situation literally has the power to change the situation itself.” anon
We are feeling Anxiety and we react. We rush about doing things, we do lots of shouting, we get cross, we feel victimised we generally have a pretty crappy day.It appears that this is just what happens when we get anxious!
“Avoidance is the best short-term strategy to escape conflict, and the best long-term strategy to ensure suffering.” Brendon Burchard.
We are feeling Anxiety and we avoid it. Head in the sand, it’s not really happening and let’s do things to avoid this. Let’s go vacuum the fridge of all edible food, let’s go drink a whole bucket of wine, let’s spend 3 hours mindlessly scrolling through facebook…what ever you pattern of avoidance is, yes you know your go to one….yup, that’s it.
The emotional eater, the over enthusiastic drinker, the netflix addict, the procrastinator expert, all that shit! What ever we do to avoid the feelings of Anxiety, that thing becomes the cause of more anxiety. Simply put, we are out of control!
“Acceptance is a wonderful key to empowerment” Me!
We are feeling Anxiety and we decide to accept it. When we learn that to change something we must first accept it as it is, our life opens up.
Acceptance isn’t giving up, acceptance is about, owning what ever the thing is. Once you own it you my friend, have the power to change it.Studies have proven that by accepting something, say our body shape, we have the power to observe and then make changes.
“So by observing your own anxiety, we experience a moment of relief and a moment of perspective. Think about the concept of being allowed to do something. Think about the word “Allow” If you allow yourself to do something, it immediately gives you authority over it.”
So we have 4 choices. We can resist, react, avoid or allow. The allowing doesn’t act like magic and make the Anxiety go away, but it allows you to take control back over how you think about it. You are gently explaining to yourself that it is harmless, sure it doesn’t feel great at all, but it is harmless. It is just a feeling.
Next week, let’s take a detailed look at how we can allow anxiety to just co-exist. It really doesn’t have to be a self perpetuating cycle of doom!
From an increasingly less anxious… Marianne.x