Types of Anxiety Part 1

 

What we call anxiety is a set of feelings that can come from many different sources.

A knot the stomach, tightness in chest, shoulder pain or headaches, can all be physical signs that go with ‘Anxiety’.

Worry 
Going back over what’s happened or conversations
Unable to switch off – mind racing
Beating self up over things we feel went wrong
Holding on to upset even years after something happened
Holding back
Avoiding social occasions due to bad feelings
etc. etc. etc.

There are a lot of ways it can show itself.

However, these responses are not necessarily what we think of as ‘Anxiety’.

They are responses we commonly get when the mind and body create a stress response.

Anxiety is one way that this can come about, but we can feel the same sort of things from issues such as trauma, stress, overwhelm, etc.

They all use the same systems to put us on alert, to get us to over-focus on something in case it’s a danger. That’s the real function of most anxiety. It ‘winds us up’ to high alert to make sure we spot anything we feel may harm us, whether it’s really a problem or not.

It’s usually a good system that is stuck ‘switched-on’ and never shuts off.

If we’re falling on ice it’s the system we need. If we’re in danger of being burned it’s exactly what should be happening.

The problem is that for people who have developed what we call anxiety the system is switched on all the time and tries to make us aware of and on alert about everything.

That then looks for ‘what’s wrong now’ and even if there isn’t anything wrong it responds as if something is. A conversation might be overanalysed to where we generate bad feeling about nothing. ‘Did I say the wrong thing’, did I sound stupid’, ‘should I have said hello sooner or left later?’

That feels like stupid stuff that makes no sense begins to make sense when we realise the system behind it.

If everything is put through a filter of ‘I must find what is wrong now’ then everything can be made to feel like a problem.

This is what I see most often in people who suffer anxiety, and what I experienced for over 37 years myself.

In the next post I’ll talk about the ways this can come about and what the other things that feel the same are.

Hope this is of interest. Please feel free to comment or ask a question. I intent to keep going writing on this as time allows over the coming weeks.

All the best,
John

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Worrying, second guessing, and putting off. The huge cost of anxiety.

We often notice worry, panic, nightmares and overwhelm in anxiety, but I think the more overlooked problem of Holding-back is the bigger issue. Here’s why:

With difficulties like fears, social anxiety, stress, IBS, poor sleep and phobias, we’re more likely to notice the problem and do something about it. But holding back has a booby-trap built into it.

By definition, when we shy away from doing things they don’t get done. Dealing with avoidance is (yes you’ve guessed it!) usually avoided.

It really tends to be part of a two-element issue. The first part is the instinctive move to change what we do in order to keep away from what triggers bad feelings, and the second part is that taking this action means our minds automatically look for problems rather than solutions.

That results in us seeing 10 ways for us to fail before we see 1 to succeed, which creates an increase in feeling stuck.

Rather than sit through the negativity that comes with recognising this situation, we get jittery and look for distraction, which just keeps us in the cycle.

One way this makes things worse, is that no matter how crushed we feel we still have hopes or dreams. They might just be comparisons – “look how well my old school friend is doing”, or they might be goals like having our own business, getting a qualification we want or relationships. But the holding back keeps us a long way from achieving those things.

It is when we see this difference between where we feel we are, and where we imagine we’d like to be, that we experience even more bad feeling. Yet we continue to hold back from moving towards success in what we wish for and just feed the fire of bad feeling.

Procrastination, kicking-it-down-the-road, putting-it-on-the-long-finger, call it what you like, is a huge problem. It really means that the thing that can help is deliberately avoided, thus continuing the problem.

Here are examples I’ve seen recently:

One man I know has an amazing business idea, literally something that could go over millions of Euro if handled right. He has an idea and a view that is astounding. He thinks he’s working on it, but three years on, there is almost no progress. Yet he’s always busy, always thinking about it, always avoiding real progress and distracting himself.

One lady with locked-in grief over the loss of a child was avoiding the bad feeling so much that it kept going for over 2 decades. Comments she made included ‘I’ll deal with it when I’m stronger’, and ‘Once it feels a bit better I’ll deal with it’. After over 20 years it was locked in, it was unlikely to get better by itself, but the illusion created by the bad feeling was ‘avoid it and it’ll be better’. We do that so often. Thankfully she did get help eventually.

The frantic activity around the subject which actually avoids the core issue, is common too. A great example of this is the person who wants to get fit but never gets around to it. You probably know someone who bought all the cycling gear: The lycra shorts, the pump and repair kit, the helmet, but who doesn’t actually have a bike.

We often trick ourselves with this: “I’ll get all the gear first, then I’ll start”. We can do this with anything in life. Finding one more reason not to start just yet, is easier when we’re spending money, getting things, feeling involved. That’s still a long way from taking real action. We can hold back expertly when we have activity around the issue that achieves nothing useful.

Feeling a bit uncomfortable reading this? Well done for still being here. A lot of people have clicked away already.

Noticing what it is that we want to accomplish and being aware of the distraction that’s getting between us and our dream, is huge.

Focus on the feeling. That’s what’s driving this. What is that feeling? A nervous tension, pressure on the bladder, knot in the stomach, tight or weight on the chest, lump in the throat? These are the feelings to address and resolve to succeed. A better plan, idea, getting more organised etc., are illusions to keep us busy and don’t address the real issue – the feeling that holds us back!

Tackle these and start to build real success. I can’t count the number of people I’ve seen who’s lives just took off once they began to break past the holding-back!

I’m always happy to chat with people about how to break through the holding-back, so feel free to comment, mail, or call.

Change is easier than you think.

Every best wish for success in starting to build your dreams into a reality.

All the best,
John

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Why do Anxiety & Stress feel so alike?

I recently wrote a piece on stress identifying 25 symptoms. They are all also symptoms of anxiety! So, what’s the difference?

Whether we feel overwhelmed, take things personally, beat ourselves up when something goes wrong, or worry and fret, it’s all the one system that creates these symptoms. Why we create them is where the difference lies.

Anxiety is that function in the brain that looks for something to worry about and makes a bigger feeling out of it than needed. It activates the mind/body stress systems as the way to create attention and push behaviour. Those same systems can be activated by work pressures, relationship issues, too much going on in life, and similar ‘stressors’ without anxiety being present, but the same systems of body and mind are activated in both situations.

Here are those symptoms I mentioned, at the end I’ll give a few tips on now to distinguish if it might be stress or anxiety that is at the root of them:

1. Feeling overwhelmed – Often like there’s no point to trying because there’s too much to do.

2. Feeling frustrated & Irritable. Snapping at colleagues or family, exploding into anger.

3. Tension or pain in head, back, and shoulders. Sometimes dizzy spells, sharp pain, or constant tension.

4. Difficulty concentrating. Easily distracted, flipping between things, hard to stay on task.

5. Low confidence. Feeling unsure of self, particularly in situations involving people.

6. Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Pain, frequent bathroom visits, constipation, churning, or bloating.

7. Second guessing self. Decisions becomes harder, take longer to make, & poor follow through.

8. Over-analysing things. We go back over things a lot, re-examining them, and get slowed down.

9. Heartburn. Getting more acid reflux is quite common.

10. Lower Immune System. We catch more colds & infections and take longer to get over them.

11. Palpatations, rapid pulse, chest pain. Can also make catching our breath harder.

12. Diminished Libido. Sexual interest can drop, creating relationship problems.

13. Change in appetite. Can lose interest in food or fall into comfort eating when not hungry.

14. Feelings of Panic. Perhaps even ‘heart attack’ like panic attacks and overwhelming dread.

15. Poor sleep. Taking a long time to fall asleep, early waking, or interrupted sleep can occur.

16. Sweating or blushing. When under pressure we are more likely to react physically.

17. Mouth going dry, difficulty speaking. Feeling ‘on the spot’ can bring these on more easily.

18. More worry and anxiety. Feeling nervous, being twitchy, tapping feet etc. to relieve tension.

19. Poor concentration. Difficulty learning new things, staying focussed in a meeting, confusion, etc.

20. Depression. Feeling down, feeling worthless, feeling undervalued, & low self esteem can occur.

21. Defensive and suspicious feelings making the workplace harder. More conflict & arguments.

22. Isolation. Avoiding people and social events, feeling unable to face colleagues.

23. Constant tiredness. Low energy, fatigue, exhaustion, dragging self through the day.

24. Far less productivity. A decline in getting things done/finished often accompanies stress.

25. Dreading work. Spend Sunday nights being a ball of worry about Monday morning and so on.

We won’t all have this many symptoms and we will all have different signs of stress/anxiety but the above are some of the most common ones.

The big difference between anxiety (the mind always on alert looking for something to worry about) and stress, are the presence of obvious causes.

We are great at ignoring signs that we’re getting wound-up or feeling off, but when we do notice them, we can look at when they started and this tells us a lot.

At the beginning was there any obvious extra pressure in life? Was there a lot of stress at work? Was there a breakup? An ill family member? Something else that put a lot of strain on things?

If so, the odds are more likely that stress is the cause of the symptoms rather than anxiety.

There’s always the possibility of both, but here’s what anxiety more often looks like:

Typically signs such as being shy as a kid, having memories of worry a lot as a kid, and then any of the above symptoms that seem to have ‘always’ been there, are good indications that anxiety might be the root cause.

A long period of overwhelm does seem able to create an anxiety reaction that can run by itself, as can severe trauma, but it’s more common for us to have been ‘worriers’ as long as we can remember.

The function of both issues is to set us on edge, make us alert, and push our behaviour in a way that makes us avoid whatever is causing the bad feeling. If we are being chased by a bear, these are useful feelings, but in day to day life they just hold us back.

There is a lot you can do to reduce the feelings in both cases. Being aware of what is happening is a vital first step. From there it’s easier to find solutions. Mindfulness, Yoga, Therapy, and more can all help, but do something if you are feeling bad. It makes a huge difference in life to get control over anxiety and stress.

Wishing you a great week,
John

www.JohnPrendergast.ie
085 13 13 700

John Prendergast Anxiety & Psycho-Trauma Therapist's photo.
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10 Most annoying things about living with anxiety, #7 crushed me.

This week in clinic I was struck by how many people had lived with anxiety for years and simply accepted it, just like I did before overcoming it. They get used to behaviour such as avoiding groups of people, holding back from speaking up, being fearful of travel, constant second-guessing of every thing and seeing the worst case scenario all the time. These things, and more, mean they are just avoiding parts of life and pretending it’s not a problem.

When I was in a really bad state with anxiety, I engineered life to avoid the things that made me feel bad. That felt like a win, but the reality was that I was just putting more and more of life out of reach as I went.

I can’t count the number of people who avoid what makes them feel bad rather than break that cycle, even when it really holds life back.

If we look at public speaking as an example of something which so many people fear, it’s easy to see the problem. I keep meeting people who avoid jobs that would require them to make presentations, in order to prevent the bad feeling. One person had dodged like this for years until they were offered a raise of €30,000 which they couldn’t bring themselves to accept as it was linked to making presentations at work. Isn’t it crazy that it takes something of that magnitude for us to realise what we’re doing? It’s easy to lie to ourselves and say ‘it’s not a problem’ until something throws the issue into our face.

Here’s a list of 10 things that I tried to avoid when I was at my worst with anxiety and depression:

1. Phone calls. I just hated making calls and always put it off. Great strategies like deciding I could only call them about 7pm so as not to disturb them at dinner or when they had started into something for the evening, meant I only had to miss that hour to decide ‘it’s too late now, so I’ll leave it until tomorrow’.

2. Frustration at not succeeding. Anxiety makes us hold back and avoid so many opportunities, but it doesn’t make that feel any better. Seeing all the things I wanted to do going unfinished, built huge frustration and reinforced the feeling of not being able to succeed and being a failure.

3. IBS. Not a pleasant one this. Pressure to go to the bathroom when stressed, hits a lot of people. Some also get constipated or experience a sick feeling when pressured.

4. My mind never shut off. I was over-thinking everything and kept having stuff go round and round my head for ages. Everything was over-analysed and second-guessed to death.

5. Insomnia. From the ages of about 14 to 36 it took me an average of 2-3 hours to fall asleep each night. I lived in a constant state of tiredness. Often running on adrenaline for a day or two of frantic activity but then crashing and being completely wiped.

6. Comparing myself to others. With so much to bring me down, it became easy to feel bad about every aspect of life and to compare myself negatively to friends who had ‘done well’. I could never feel good about any success because my mind was looking for what should have been better or which part hadn’t worked. It didn’t matter what I did. I never could bank a good feeling or hold on to success. A 99% achievement would be a failure with that mindset, as the 1% that went wrong would occupy all the space in my mind.

7. Classrooms. I simply couldn’t handle classrooms. My concentration was poor due to the distraction of anxiety, but there was something about a room full of people in a classroom session that was terrifying. I booked (and even paid) for so many courses yet, more often than not, panic would well up before I went and I mostly simply skipped them. This held me back so much in life. It wasn’t until I returned to studying in my mid 30’s that this changed. All the while up to then, I was feeling left behind, stupid, and frustrated. Even though all the anxiety issues have now gone away in my life, this is the most surprising one for me. I could never have imagined this change, but I’ve gone from not being able to sit in a room as a participant, to where I love being at the front of the room speaking. This September I’ll even be speaking as part of Camexpo in London’s Olympia, and I can’t wait. You have no idea how weird it is for this to feel so good smile emoticon

8. Social situations were a real challenge. Even though I’d enjoy time with friends when I was out, I’d dread it for days before hand. The knot and churning in my stomach would get worse and worse and often I’d just avoid going. I could ruin a month in my head just by having a big social occasion at the end of it.

9. Being hard on myself and beating myself up. I can’t count how many people have said they shared this one. When something went wrong it wasn’t just a thing of the moment. That over-analysing mind would combine with bad feeling to keep things going round and round for days. A small thing like a question that threw me would turn into ‘do they think I’m an idiot for not knowing the answer’, ‘I should have said something else’, ‘why am I always getting it wrong’, ‘It’s always like this’, and so it would continue, and continue…

10. Always seeing how something could fail and never how it could succeed. When we’re looking for what could go wrong (which is what anxiety does) we’ll always find problems, and what’s the point of trying if you ‘know’ it will fail before you start, right? This ate my life. We often don’t notice this so much as it just seems ‘how it is’, but the opportunities we miss with this mindset are huge. It is also usually very frustrating for those around us to always be met with what they see as negativity, when it is actually the only we can see in that moment.

Believe it or not, even with all this going on I wasn’t aware I had anxiety! For me it was just life. It was the only life I knew, and so it was ‘normal’ for me. I thought I was lazy, stupid, lesser than everyone else. I hid from life. I let a lot of happiness pass me by.

Only a complete collapse of my health forced me to notice what was really happening. Then I had to stop avoiding and start changing. That was a lot easier than I expected, but of course I thought it wasn’t possible and that I’d fail, so it wouldn’t have been hard to have an easier time than I expected smile emoticonYet that’s what most anxious people expect – ‘I can’t change’. Most of the feelings anxiety gives us are false – ‘I’m not good enough’, ‘everyone else seems better’, etc. are just as false as this one.

Whatever you’re avoiding, trust me, that is the thing that can open up life for you. Challenge it, you don’t have to have the answers at the start, you just have to be willing to look for them.

I’m always happy to chat about how life can improve. Feel free to get in touch.

Change is easier than you think.

Wishing you an amazing life,
John

wwwJohnPrendergast.ie
085 1313700
Athlone & Tullamore

John Prendergast Anxiety & Psycho-Trauma Therapist's photo.
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This is a big year for me. I’m celebrating 5 years depression and anxiety free this year!

Life changesMy life is totally changed. I went from a knot in my gut holding me back in many areas of life to enjoying work and home life. From taking 2-3 hours to fall asleep at night to sleeping well. From panic about classrooms and speaking to leading seminars, speaking to public groups, to speaking at the Olympia in London this coming September, and I’m loving it.

Things can change for most of us, but only if we go looking for a solution. It won’t be the same solution for each of us. But one thing is certain, until we acknowledge the issue we can’t resolve it. We have to try for better to have this chance.

There’s a lot we can do to live better with a problem, but try for living better without the problem first!

I know it can be terrifying to begin but I also know it isn’t as hard as we imagine for most of us. When we’re in a bad place everything seems very difficult and usually that’s where we shy away from trying, which just keeps us in that dark place.

I hope you’ll take a step in the right direction this year. Please think of it this way, can you make things 2% better in the next week by starting to tackle it? If you could do that, just 2% improvement a week then the problem can be solved in a year.

Change is not on/off, it’s one step in the right direction at a time. It might have the odd step back, but as long as there are more in the right direction the you are solving the problem, making progress, and making your life better.

Every best wish for success,
John

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Helping with Anxiety, Panic, Nightmares, Poor Sleep, Stress, Anger, Trauma, Grief, and related issues.

When we worry all the time our minds are making a bigger deal out of things than is needed. We often know this, but how do you stop it? That 'always-on-alert' feeling, the racing mind, poor sleep, frustration or explosions of anger and other signs show us that we need to do something.

After decades of Anxiety & Depression John is determined to make up for lost time, Since overcoming those issues in his own life he has trained internationally with leaders in the field of personal change including Paul McKenna, and Dr. Richard Bandler, co-creator of NLP.

Now with over three and a half thousand hours of clinical experience, and qualifications in both complementary and evidence-based therapies, he has helped hundreds of people from all walks of life to create the lives they want. He is a licensed Trainer of NLP, an EMDR Institute trained Psycho-Trauma therapist and a qualified Hypnotherapist.

His personal experience of depression and anxiety, including too many nights waking in panic and fear and failing to get back to sleep gave John both the insight and motivation to help others who experience similar.

Understanding the way life can become empty when anxiety makes us hold back and avoid so much of life, John is very happy now to be helping people overcome such problems. Those years of waking, dreading the day ahead mean that John now savours each day free of anxiety and lives life to the max. John is always happy to talk to those suffering about how you can change your life for the better.

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