Anxiety is our reaction to internal or external stress. It is often an indicator that something has to change or needs to be done. This could be something as small as tidying your house, or bigger, like changing your job. Anxiety is around to serve a purpose and it manifests in many different ways. Some of us have a nervous feeling in our stomachs or a tension headache. However, anxiety can create more problems such as IBS and panic attacks. Anxiety not only motivates us, but it can also cripple us by holding us back from living life to its fullest. If anxiety is stopping you from achieving your potential then this is excessive and unhelpful anxiety
When you can’t face being in a crowd of people, or having to talk to someone new is too much, or just the idea of leaving the house brings on a large wave of anxiety, coping methods can quickly turn to avoidance. You refuse the invitation to that party, change your mind about going into town and decide staying in is easier. When it’s too difficult to overcome these feelings of anxiety, avoiding the trigger solves the problem, but only in the short term.
Other unhelpful ways to cope with these feelings are over-spending, binge eating and drug and alcohol abuse. Commonly known as vices, these can easily become habits and hang around in our lives even after the anxiety has disappeared. Vices not only avoid dealing with anxiety but cause a release of hormones to make us feel good – temporarily.
These destructive coping mechanisms and defences can feed into the anxiety creating a vicious cycle. Binge eating is a simple example of this: we binge eat for comfort when we are anxious and this, in turn, feeds our anxiety levels, because we know we are damaging ourselves. The anxiety level is sustained or even increased by the behaviour because we are not achieving a weight level that we deem acceptable. Another example that I see a lot of is the desire to be perfect. People set very high expectations of themselves. This internal pressure causes anxiety which then hinders their achievement. The pressure rises because they are not achieving the level of productivity they expect of themselves and it once again becomes a vicious cycle. Essentially perfectionists need to reduce the pressure they place on themselves but it’s very hard to let go of those expectations and it requires flexible thinking. Allow me to let you into a secret, no-one is perfect. You can be the best that you can.
The old adage of ‘once a smoker always a smoker’ is a destructive and negative statement. Anyone who really wants to make a change will achieve that change. Yet many hold on to the negative belief that they will always be depriving themselves of their habit. It’s not true. In a similar way, you do not need to identify yourself as an anxious person. Your name is not anxiety! We all feel anxiety, it is our subconscious minds way of warning us and keeping us safe. It is how we manage it that is important. Often my clients think that because they are struggling with anxiety, they have to learn to live like that or that there is something inherently wrong with them. This is not true.
To begin on your journey to overcome excessive and unhelpful anxiety you first have to acknowledge it. Many people never stop to notice they are feeling anxious, it can become something that is going on in the background without recognition. This is exhausting and potentially damaging physically and mentally if it continues to be ignored. Detecting this anxiety, expressing it and learning what has triggered it are the first steps to overcoming it. Essentially facing the problem head-on.
Changing your reactions to stress, reducing your anxiety and creating new behaviours is a big undertaking and many people see it as a fight. It is not a fight, it is just a question of persuading the subconscious to be on your side. Your subconscious has only one aim in life and that is to find the best strategy for giving you the most happiness. If it believes that you want to change that negative feeling that is causing your anxiety, it will help you to make that change.
If you would like help to overcome anxiety, please get in touch. We offer a free initial consultation which will help you to identify how you can learn to help yourself.