Often when people talk about anxiety they talk about panic and fear around specific things. The usual obvious components of anxiety I see would include:
Fear of driving on busy or large roads.
Fear of flying
Panic feelings coming up around groups of people (canteen at work, pub, queue in post office or bank, office party, etc.)
Anger, losing your temper.
Stress at work
Obsessional thinking about an issue (relationship, what your boss thinks, taking things too personally)
Taking hours to fall asleep, or poor quality sleep
Unable to give presentations / public speaking
All these things tend to be what we think of as the obvious parts of Anxiety, but are they the big issues? Are they the ways Anxiety holds us back most?
In about 2000 hours of clinical work, years of training, and over three decades living with anxiety, I’ve come to the conclusion that they’re not. The more subtle elements that lie under the obvious are the more damaging. Let me explain:
When I see the above things as part of an anxiety issue, as opposed to where they occur in isolation, there is an underlying feeling of ‘not being good enough’. It’s odd because when we’re anxious, we try to overcompensate so no-one sees our insecurity. We’d deny we’re insecure and often puff ourselves up to look confident, but inside we don’t believe it.
It hits us in ways like not being able to bank a success. We hold on to what goes wrong and forget our successes.
If someone else does a good job we think they’re great, but if we do it there’s a sense of ‘I got away with it’ or there’s a feeling as if we’re waiting to be ‘found out’.
Often huge stress comes with what we have to do. Each step of a task feels like a task in itself. Our to-do list feels like a mountain of stuff we can’t ever get through, and it feels like there is no point in trying.
We feel there is never time, but we spend hours in distraction – playing games, on the internet, watching TV, whatever. We fill our days but never seem to advance our dreams or plans.
Each new task or thing we take on in life can feel as if we just know we can’t succeed and we don’t give it our all.
We see all the ways we can fail and few or none of the ways we can succeed.
These less obvious, but more constant, issues of lack of self-belief – holding back, feeling insecure, etc. change our options and choices every day. They keep us locked into small limited lives where we let our hopes and dreams pass us by.
We beat ourselves up about anything we think may have gone wrong or been a bad choice.
We stay stuck.
That’s the true price of anxiety. It’s not the occasional crisis points, it’s the constant limiting of your life.
I lived that life for over 30 years before I overcame my Anxiety and Depression. It can change.
There is no one way that works for everyone, but I firmly believe there is a way for each of us. You don’t have to know what to do at this point, just notice if you do need a change. Start looking for options. That’s the first step.
Change is easier than you think.