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 :)

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 :) Yet 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.

Change is easier than you think.

Wishing you an amazing life,

JohnHow Long can we ignore Anxiet

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Building success in 2016

I’m keen to put a lot of ideas, tips, and advice that might help people out there into the world. To help me do so I’ve set up a new Facebook page to help. This way I can talk about general life improvement in a broader way and keep on track on my Therapy page with the advice being mostly about anxiety, depression, and trauma & how to deal better without them smile :)

Happy New Year to you all. Make it a good one.
It’s in your hands more than anyone else.

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How to spot and help, if someone you care about has anxiety.

Can't talkLet me start by saying if you have a loved one who may suffer anxiety, don’t start being pushy about it. Anxiety will make them defensive and pushing can make them less likely to help themselves. You need to be supportive and to help them to learn more for themselves so they can recognise it. Shock tactics rarely work and often make things worse.

One thing we do when anxious is we hide it. Think about it. Anxiety makes us overly sensitive to criticism, if we felt like that, wouldn’t we work very hard to hide something that we fear might make people judge us and that would make us stand out?

Anxiety sufferers are usually overly concerned with other people’s opinions. As such they hide their anxiety. I hid mine for decades. Few people could spot it.

They will usually be more likely to be stressed and unhappy with work and relationships. Some people are driven to success by anxiety but it’s much more common for it to hold us back.

So, given that it’s hidden what can we spot? There are a number of common factors. If several are present it might be a clue. They include:

· Are they always busy at parties – always helping, in the kitchen working – but not mixing at social gatherings, never seem to sit still?

· When they are involved in a group or society are they always happier to be holding an office, doing a job, or volunteering than just being a regular participant?

· Do they promise the world but seem very poor at delivering?

· Do they seem tired a lot? They can go great for short periods but then seem fatigued most of the time?

· Are they overly defensive? Do they seem to hold on to small slights and stay upset about them?

· Do they over explain things even when it’s not necessary?

· Do they have to be seen to be right all the time?

· Are they touchy about small things?

· Do they seem to always have to be giving advice but do not take it from anyone else? Is their opinion being given a lot?

· Do they micro manage? Do they point out a traffic light has changed before you can react or similar?

· Are they the person to whom others go for advice or a shoulder to cry on, but never seem to need (or be able to take advantage of) help themselves?

· Did they perform worse than expected in school/college/further education?

· Do they work in a job that keeps them from having to deal with many people?

· Do they tend to avoid many social situations – always busy, unavailable, other excuses?

· Always busy but rarely seen to get good results?

· Are they putting things off a lot? Do they seem to be unable to get small things done, does it take ages to get around to simple tasks? Do things usually get done at the last minute?

· Are they always talking about what they will do, or what is coming down the tracks, rather than living in the now?

These are all examples of behaviour that is common to people with anxiety. None of the points, by themselves, mean a person is anxious, but if a person does many of these things then it might indicate that they are anxious. Remember anxiety will make them take things overly personally, worry about other people’s judgement of them, keep them from risking failure, and so on. Can you see how this can be the case in the examples above? If so then you can get a sense of how to spot anxiety.

If you’re seeing people acting like these examples, hopefully some insight into what they might be feeling will make it easier to be patient with them and less likely to argue back or get upset yourself.

Be gentle with anxious people and offer support or information if you can. Don’t push or give out to them, it only makes things worse. Help them move towards a better understanding of what they are feeling and how to reduce those unpleasant feelings.

I’ll post more tips to help deal with anxiety and some advice on how to help someone who is suffering with it in the coming weeks.

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Tips to deal with Anxiety Part 2

Aim to winTip 2

This one is a short one: Take a 30 minute walk five days a week.
An analysis of many studies and pieces of research on anxiety showed exercise could reduce anxiety by 48%.

It is expected that even two 15 minute walks a day can give the same results. If you find it hard to find time to exercise try and combine it with something that is already scheduled. For example; if you drive to work can you park 15 minutes walk from the entrance? That way there is less planning, making time, and getting ready etc. You just add the bare 15 minutes needed each way and you don’t have to make the time elsewhere.

Tip 3

In most cases anxiety builds gradually. (If it came on suddenly it’s probably related to an upsetting or traumatic event, in that case get appropriate therapy for the trauma and it will help the anxiety. There are four or five proven methods to resolve trauma).

You can de-construct it gradually too. Too often we think in on/off terms or black and white in life. The way to win is to view things as a bit-by-bit process. Can you set yourself a small challenge and succeed, and then set a slightly bigger one and overcome that too?

So, if we find that things we want to do are also things that make us anxious – something that we find makes our gut tighten when we think ‘Will it work” or fear looking foolish for trying’ or similar, then can we find a small part of the task and get familiar and comfortable with that size of risk? Use the mindfulness tip in the last post to help you do so. Train your mind that a small part is ok, and then, part by part, succeed with the project. Grow your confidence as you do so and bit by bit erode the conditioning of the anxiety.

Thanks again for all the positive comments and feedback on the posts. It’s huge to see so many people sharing and liking this. I really hope it serves you or someone close to you and helps. Remember, things really can change. When crippled with anxiety and depression even the good times were dark. That’s no longer the case in my life. Whoever it is that you know with anxiety, help them have hope. Build it. It’s the one thing that brings us to where we can succeed.

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Tips to deal with Anxiety Part 1

Anxiety changeOnce anxiety is active, the body and mind are being signaled to create a fear reaction to protect us from whatever is making us anxious. Our stress hormone levels increase, our mind processes faster (thoughts can race, reactions become faster, we feel more full of nervous energy etc.).

At this point the mind has switched on areas of the brain that are looking for danger, risk, or how things can fail. All to help us avoid them.

Because it wants us to be safe, our mind starts to imagine problems. For example if we’re not looking forward to seeing the boss and are stressed about that, the mind will create thoughts of the meeting going badly, seeing the worst case scenarios and so on. The mind is looking for what can go wrong and is running possible outcomes to see if it can find a solution. If we’re being mugged our mind will spot any escape route and have us running like we never knew we could, but sadly in most stressful situations there is no actual clear solution. The things that make us anxious are usually not real dangers so there is no immediate action to be taken, and so the mind just keeps going over it, looking to help us but actually torturing us, making us keep feeling bad, running over and over the unpleasant thoughts, upping our stress levels and so on.

So, understanding this, here’s one very good way to interrupt that and lower stress levels:

The mind has to keep thinking into the future to worry, to construct the possibilities and images that keep us stressed. Each time our mind jumps into that future thinking, just notice it and bring it back to the here and now. It’s fine that it jumps, that’s normal, don’t beat yourself up over that, just keep taking control of it and bring it back to the now.

Noticing when its winding us up and then bringing our consciousness back to the present each time, will help break the cycle. The less time it runs the torturous scenarios, the less stress hormone is released, the easier it is to relax and get on with life.
Its estimated that the average person spends 47% of the waking day daydreaming of future events in this way. When feeling worried, stressed or anxious, just bring the mind back to the present.

Notice how it physically feels in the here and now. This focuses the mind on the now, and keeps it from worrying. It also trains the mind to be more under conscious control, and to worry less.

Focus on breathing – really noticing the physical act, and return your mind to noticing the breath any time it wonders. Feel each part, really notice the motion and airflow involved in breathing. It’s a form of Mindfulness.

Spending 3 minutes, four times a day being mindful like this it has been shown to have a huge positive effect over time. Even reducing depression in 50% of cases. But using it even for a few seconds whenever we worry can help big time.

Try it. I’ll post a few more tips in the coming weeks.

Thanks for all the positive comments and feedback on the posts. I’m delighted and blown away by the response. Keep building your better life one step at a time. Make tomorrow a bit better, do that every day for a year and look how big a change that is!

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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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