I'm Matt, creative, writer and illustrator of the book "Tell Your Negative Thoughts to STFU". This is an anxiety blog where you'll find my ramblings on mental health, with various book recommendations and some chill music thrown in.
Recently I’ve been thinking about how great anxiety is at ruining a potentially peaceful state of mind and making you feel like shit, and why that is.
I think in part, it’s down to anxiety being linked with a ‘fight or flight’ response.
Think about it. If you’re in a fight or flight situation, your brain is dealing in absolutes. It is latching onto anything that might be a threat, that it then has to get away from. It’s ACTIVELY looking for threats… or in daily life, potential negative events.
While that is happening, the other part of your brain …. your true, more logical self … has to deal with all its focus being shoved towards the ‘what ifs’ … the stuff that your fight or flight part of the brain is shouting about.
You need to break the loop.
If you force yourself, even for a few minutes, to step away and realise what your brain is doing, you can stop the fight or flight automatic response in its tracks.
The way I do it is to think about something nice that I can reward myself with later on in the day. Like a Netflix special, or maybe a super indulgent snack.
Suddenly it’s like my brain says “oh yeah, that stuff I was worrying about is silly” because I’ve ignored it.
Meditation is also good. Visualise a stream with all those worries and problems floating down it. Then just let them go.
However you do it, you need to zig when your anxiety is telling you to zag.
Two nights ago I dreamt that I had a second wife, who looked identical to my real wife, only she was an alien. Somehow I was disturbingly living the life of an interplanetary bigamist. Also, we had kids that looked like little squid people. I had to carry them around in a bucket and unfortunately left one of them on the beach.
Other than indicating that I watch far too much sci fi and am possibly worried about being a good enough parent, this dream might have been my brain’s way of telling me about the state of my emotions and my anxieties.
Dreams have long interested psychologists, and are often penned as the ‘window to our subconscious’. Dreams occur during our REM (rapid eye movement) sleep cycle during which your brain is undergoing a high amount of activity. It is thought that they not only tell us our deepest anxieties and desires, they also contain clues to our personality (like me being a massive sci fi nerd).
Freud himself developed a guide for interpreting dreams, which I’ll link to below. There are some really interesting interpretations. For instance, did you know that men and women dream differently? Men dream about other men twice as much as women and women dream about both sexes equally. And that’s just one of the differences between our dreams.
But a very interesting aspect to dreams are studies that suggest they are responsible for problem-solving, memory formation, or that they occur simply due to random brain activation.
I’m a firm believer in ‘sleeping on it’ when you have a problem to solve. It’s part of the reason that I keep a little notepad or my phone near the bed, because I often wake up with ideas.
So remember to try and sleep at regular times, to allow your brain to enter REM and solve problems. It may be more beneficial to your state of mind that you think.
One of the topics covered by a book I’m reading at the moment (see my last post) is something related to mindfulness.
Essentially it talks about the premise that every person has a ‘continuous chattering voice’ that has always been there, and is constantly commenting on their current situation or life, often negatively.
It won’t shut up, and is invariably wild in its musings. It might comment that someone doesn’t like you, or you’ll never get to the end of your run because you are tired, or that you are going to screw up your school play.
However there is another layer to your being. The quiet observer. And it’s this real you that so often goes unobserved.
If you think about it, you’ll realise that this quiet observer is actually your ‘true’ self. And the endlessly chattering monkey voice isn’t.
Let me give you an example.
Today I was sat at home, trying to handle all my life admin. And I was getting stressed.
At some point I thought “hang on, I need to listen to what’s going on here” and all at once, I realise my chattering monkey voice had been telling me that I wasn’t going to handle my admin stuff and that it was all too much. But as soon as I noticed it (and the fact that I had been reacting to it), it was like I had shone a torch on my naughty anxiety voice. And all at once, it died down. I literally felt my body relax.
So just be aware, and mindful, of the fact that there is this chattering monkey voice inside you, and sometimes it really isn’t in your best interests to listen!
I almost forgot to post, on one of the most relevant days of the year for this blog. I’ve focused today on telling all my negative thoughts to shut the fuck up, and I hope you have too :).
I’ve also started reading a new book called The Untethered Soul by Michael A Singer. it’s a really interesting book about getting to know your inner self. I know that sounds wanky, but I actually think it’s a quite special read … and forces you to think about how misguided your little internal anxiety voice is.
I’ll be posting more about it soon. But for now my friends, I hope you’ve had a great World Mental Health Day!
I was listening to No Filter podcast the other day and they had a very interesting episode on anxiety.
Mia Freedman who runs the podcast is herself a sufferer, and actually begins by talking about her own struggles and also the fact that she takes medication for her anxiety.
She then goes on to interview Dr Jodie Lowinger, the psychologist who founded the Sydney Anxiety Clinic. Jodie goes onto share some great insights about ways people can cope with anxiety, including one of my favourite methods: exercise! But she does point out that different people have different ways to approach it.
Octopuses have been studied extensively for their intelligence. They are said to have the smarts of a golden retriever, which is pretty impressive.
In studies scientists have found that individual octopuses display different personalities. Some octopuses were shier than others (!) Even more interesting – the personality traits seem to be inherited by their offspring.
It’s not hard then to imagine that humans inherit certain personality traits from their parents. And if these traits include a propensity for introspection, or dwelling on their situation, someone’s genealogy could affect certain psychological traits, and aspects of their mental health.