Being home so much adds to the pressure for many.
There’s too much time to think. The mind goes back over every little thing and finds how we got it wrong, what people must have thought, how stupid we must seem, and so on.
I used to be able to ruin a week by saying hello to you when I was still anxious. For decades I’d over analyse everything.
Even a conversation could become a thing of misery afterwards. “Did I talk to long, or too little, did I sound stupid, should I have asked about your dog, should I have shook hands or if I did shake hands was that too formal?” There was no winning. Everything could be interpreted in the negative.
That’s anxiety. The mind trying to keep us safe reads danger into everything and keeps us wound-up and overwhelmed.
There’s no question stress is up for most people. Whether it’s the loneliness on one hard or the being cooped up with people for too long on the other, it’s a big issue, but just the quiet time when the mind can race and overthink is massive.
It’s harder to pretend everything is alright now for those with less activity to distract them.
That can add a lot more stress and worry too.
Here are 5 ways we often make ourselves feel worse. Look out for them and call yourself on them if you find yourself doing them.
1. Feeling bad for feeling bad.
Thoughts like: “What’s wrong with me that I’m feeling the way”, “I must be mad”, I’m such a looser because of this” are so destructive. I never realised I had anxiety when it was devouring me. I was just “lazy, stupid, a failure” and so on in my mind.
That unquestioned and largely unnoticed thinking spun round and round my mind and dragged me down more and more.
Take yourself of the hook. Lots of people feel anxiety. I endured over three decades of severe anxiety. I wasn’t going mad and I wasn’t wrong, broken, etc. I was just doing anxiety because my mind was trying to keep me on alert the whole time. That can change.
2. Fighting the feeling.
Something we can be consumed with fighting the feeling. All our thought is given to feelings of “I must get away from it now”, “I have to be less panicky now”, “I have to solve this now” and on it persists.
Rather than focusing on the bad feeling and trying to fight it, move towards a better feeling independent of it. For example, it’s difficult to feel as bad after exercise. It’s easier to get a good feeling by building one, rather than by fighting a bad feeling.
Mindfulness, yoga, stress reduction skills, good company, laughter and more all substitute a better feeling and are more successful than focusing all energy on the bad feeling.
3. Black and white thinking.
Anytime we’re stressed, overwhelmed, etc. our thinking goes black and white. However, life isn’t that simple. Things are rarely simply on or off, black or white, yes or no, but it seems that way when we’re stressed or overwhelmed.
Most things have a mix of good and bad in them. Taking a minute to ask ourselves if it’s really true that it’s all one way or the other can help, especially if we also ask what evidence might contradict our initial thinking.
4. Mind reading.
“They think I’m stupid, they don’t like me, I can’t ask because they will say no.” We all do this at times. When stressed or anxious we can play entire conversations through in our head before we do anything.
Often, we take those imaginings as reality and assume we know the outcome of everything.
Here’s the catch, it’s always negative when we’re anxious. Everything is a no, or a bad outcome.
That’s not realistic. Again, questioning if there could be another outcome can help
Also ask if it’s a good way to live our lives when we make our decisions based on purely imagining the negative.
This can help break down this negativity which adds to our misery.
5. Always seeing the worst-case scenario.
This is very much like the mind reading but just assuming things won’t work out. It’s similar in that it will always be the negative that we expect to result.
“I can’t do it, it won’t work, I’m not ale to do that, I’m not good enough,” and so on goes the internal litany. When its not questioned it simply runs and runs and again drags us down.
Question it. Have things ever turned out OK? Is it likely? Hold it up to reality. It’s not all 100% bad all the time.
If these thoughts and feeling run unnoticed, they drag our mood down a lot.
When we become aware of them, they lose power. It gradually degrades the bad feelings and allows us more control of where we give energy in our thoughts.
Awareness, even by itself, is a huge tool to make change.
Keep looking after your emotional health in this bizarre time.
Change is easier than you think.
If you feel you’d like more direct assistance feel free to get in touch. Thankfully the therapies I use work very well over video calls. I’ve a couple of slots open in the coming weeks. I’m always happy to chat about what help might be of use and I now hundreds of therapists so can usually recommend someone right for you.
All the best,