Triggers to AvoidanceAn easy way to spot if you have anxiety is to notice what your gut is telling you. A sensation of churning or tightness in you gut is a very common part of anxiety. It usually appears when you start to worry about something. That could be sudden, such as when someone says something that upsets you, or it might be a growing dread of a social situation, having to speak in public, or some other part of life that you dislike.

It’s amazing how we can live with something so powerful and so physical and yet not really be aware of it. I avoided and postponed so much as I just felt bad about it, never really spotting that each time I wimped out there was that strong sensation in my gut pushing my behaviour. I’d see how things could change and ended up thinking that life was simply that tough and beating myself up over not changing and not achieving what I wanted. In fact when I went to train as a therapist I was sweating and feeling really shaky and almost didn’t make it in. I went up the stairs and found 6 people waiting in a corridor. I was nervous but managed to hang in there since there were just seven of us. We waited about 15 minutes and I gradually settled down a bit, thinking ‘if it’s only us I can do this.’ Then the tutor came up and asked if we were the new crop of therapists. I’d assumed the door was locked but he just walked in and I found myself in a room of over thirty people. If I had come straight in I’d have straight back out. But, having settled a little I made it through and things began to get better.

Thanks to help I got things really changed. I now enjoy life much more and even love speaking in front of large groups of people. So many of us worry and hold back, avoiding doing anything useful to change. It doesn’t have to be that way. It’s not just me that can change. Here’s what T S, a former anxiety client of mine has said too “When I first consulted with John I could not make eye contact or even be confident in what I thought I was suffering from; anxiety and even panic attacks. I have a little girl who was being affected by my issues as I isolated us and begin to withdraw from activities with my child… …At last I can be in control of myself in crowds, enjoy a night out, and spend quality time with my baby girl and I can finally enjoy my precious girl and acknowledge the emotions I feel.”

If you are trying to improve your life here’s what I recommend. Look for those times when you find yourself trying to do something but then shy away from it and distract yourself. If playing games, watching TV, or some other activity seems to win even when you want to use that time for something useful, then notice if you’re feeling anxious, a knot in your stomach, or tense when you give up. If so, seek out ways to change that feeling because that is what is holding you back. Fix that and you can do so much so easily.

Change is easier than you think.