Sometimes you just gotta stop and do things differently to beat anxiety and overwhelm
“You don’t seem yourself”, your best friend says to you. “What’s the matter? You’ve not been yourself for a while. You’ve lost your sparkle”.
You stop. For a moment you feel teary because you know they’re right but you don’t know what’s wrong. You don’t know where your sparkle has gone and you don’t know when it left. What you do know is that something isn’t right. You don’t feel happy although in theory have nothing to be unhappy about. You chastise yourself daily (if not hourly!) saying in a stern tone “come on, focus on the positive and try harder”. You might be telling yourself to try harder in your work – you used to love it but now it feels like a hamster wheel; you might tell yourself to try harder in your relationships – you are always short tempered and just need to lighten up. Whatever it is in that moment you’re convinced you just need to be more positive and try harder.
The problem with that approach is that often it can feel like you’re going into battle within yourself – one voice trying hard to let you know they’re not happy. Something is wrong. Listen to me and make it right again. The other part is getting angry and telling you stop whinging and to try harder. That critical voice jumps in all too readily which means we never really hear the tiny voice saying I’m not happy and I need you to hear me. Instead we carry on, every day saying try harder, be positive, what’s wrong with you …. So of course, nothing changes.
Nothing changes because what we are acknowledging is only the tip of the iceberg. Underneath there is a lot going on. First, there are a whole set of thoughts and feelings that we are denying. Something isn’t right; that’s a fact. We may feel overwhelmed at the idea of facing some of these feelings and whatever it is that isn’t right or we may feel overwhelmed and scared by the fact we have no idea what’s wrong. If we have no idea then how do we start to even make it right? That’s scary because it suggests there is no end to it and that the black cloud that follows us around will continue to steal our joy. All of these emotions can overwhelm and lead to anxiety and panic attacks which leaves us flooded with cortisol, irritable, living on our nerves and struggling to sleep. So what do we do? Maybe shout louder at ourselves to pull ourselves together. So again, nothing changes.
At Wellbeing4Life we say please stop.
Re-set and begin a new approach that might serve you better. Begin to listen to your mind but also to your body. You’re likely to also be experiencing a lack of energy, maybe eating more comfort food and perhaps gaining or losing weight. Your skin may look dull and your eyes flat. You may feel bloated and you may have a permanent knot or churn in the stomach or in the chest. You may have no energy and yet can’t settle and be still. Our mind and body are inextricably linked and if we stop and look and listen long enough we find that our body will speak to us. That’s the beginning of the journey back to wellbeing: self-awareness.
So how to re-start, quieten that critical voice and approach this differently?
How about trying the following approach instead?
- Notice your thoughts and feelings and name them – don’t deny them or hide from them. Writing them down instantly gives you more clarity as the process of writing takes you from child ego to adult ego and with that comes a sense of control.
- Consider why you may feel that way or have those thoughts and recognise legitimate reasons. Acknowledge that critical voice as trying to protect you but then re-frame with a new compassionate voice For example, instead of “what an idiot I am for getting impatient with my partner today” try “It’s normal and understandable that I would be impatient today given the pressure I am feeling under. I’ll discuss this with my partner which will also help me to get some perspective and help”
- Practice self-care to connect with joy, increase self-awareness and practice compassion
- Connect with others – even when you don’t feel like it. Call a friend or better still meet in person for a coffee away from your normal home environment. Laugh, cry and share and you’ll see things with a fresh perspective.
- Get moving – take a walk outdoors every day no matter what the weather. As you walk practice mindfulness by noticing your surroundings, the sights, sounds and smells. This will help to take you from focusing on your internal thoughts and give you some inner peace.
- Journal daily. Include 3 things you are grateful for today and periodically read your journal to spot patterns in your thinking. You can then choose to take action and to feel back in control.
- Write a list of things that you are doing that don’t add to your wellbeing, things that drain you or threaten your sparkle. Alongside the list write down things that you could do differently. There may be things that you just can’t change. This list will help you to regain control of the areas you can change and this exercise encourages you to think creatively about what you could do differently to get out of the rut and to experiment.
We know it isn’t easy to combat anxiety and overwhelm alone, which is why we have launched our health Improvement Programme (HIP) with our first 6 week course themed around anxiety and overwhelm. So don’t be alone. Come and join us or contact us to have a chat about how it could help you take control back and move forward.