Sorry for the neglect <3

I can’t believe it has been two weeks?!

How are you dear reader? I hope you are doing good.

I’ve been so busy getting as much freelance as I can on the run up to Christmas. I’ve hardly had time to think about anxiety which I suppose has been a blessing.

Once I was told “There’s a thin line between anxiety and excitement, so why not choose excitement?” which sometimes is a nice way to break yourself out of things. And I’m one of those annoying people that LOVE Christmas so I can’t help but get excited at this time of the year.

giphy 1

I think another reason I am feeling okay at the moment is actually being too busy to get caught up in the news. What a massive neg-party it has been this year. If they aren’t reporting on Covid, they’re reporting on another business going bust, or the impending doom of Brexit. So I find it helps to turn off the news for a few days and detox from all that doom casting.

Anyway, I promise not to leave it so long until my next post. Speak soon!

Anxiety is like an episode of Eastenders.

giphy 1

This is one of those posts where I comment on anxiety, not from the perspective of a learned student of psychology, but more from personal experience.

If you’ve ever watched Eastenders, or any stormy soap opera for that matter, you’ll be aware that the writers of the show like playing with you, like someone with a ball of yarn plays with their cat (yes I realise this is an analogy within an analogy, deal with it!).

You are constantly made to jump from good things that happen to bad things that happen. It’s like a rollercoaster sometimes, where they are all celebrating in the Queen Vic pub in one scene and you just know (oh shit…) that there’s something terrible about to happen around the corner.

When you are experiencing anxiety, this is all too familiar a feeling.

You are in a group of friends, and are having the time of your life. And yet something is at the back of your mind, almost an inner killjoy that says “Well, things are going real well. But we know life, don’t we. And you better be ready because something is going to spoil the party.”

I hate that voice. It’s the stupid endlessly chattering money voice I mentioned in another post. It’s our job to tell it to shut the f*ck up sometimes.

Because we’re not Grant Michell, living in an episode of Eastenders. We’re a normal human being.

There are no writers behind your life. (Well, unless you live in the Truman Show) You don’t have to be so afraid. Things CAN GO WELL sometimes. And like a wise woman once told me, there’s a fine line between anxiety, and actually being excited about life.

So go on, be excited. It’s all good. And if it’s not, it will be. Because writers have to write good scenes too.

Turn off Anxiety’s Background Refresh

If your mind was the operating system of a phone, your anxiety would be like the worst app ever. Constantly draining its battery with annoying notifications, using up valuable processing power, and distracting your mind from more important tasks. 

giphy

To continue this probably painful analogy, if you’re an anxiety sufferer you have to remember to go back to your settings and turn off your anxiety background app refresh setting.

“Oh, but that’s easier said than done Matt”, I hear you say.

Well, let’s look at the alternative. You ignore this particularly shit background refresh, and it doesn’t go away. In fact, it just gets more insistent, until it really ruins all your other app functions.

The app for concentrating on work.
The app for being present with your family.
The app for remembering to call your dry cleaner.
The app for getting all those little extra things done like walking the hound.

All the while, the app for bloody anxiety is nudging in, taking up much needed battery.

So check in with yourself. Acknowledge your anxiety. Then move on. You may not solve it while you are busy, but just being aware that it is running in the background, is enough to give it less power.

Aaaaarrrrghhhh do something!!!!!

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.

giphy 2

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.

What The F*** Was That Dream About?

giphy 1

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.

The Endlessly Chattering Monkey Voice

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.

giphy

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!

It’s F**king World Mental Health Day!!!

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!

👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻

No Filter on Anxiety

I was listening to No Filter podcast the other day and they had a very interesting episode on anxiety.

No Filter Podcast
No Filter Podcast

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.

Check it out at: https://www.mamamia.com.au/podcasts/no-filter/do-i-have-anxiety/

Ps. If you imagine the voice of a trained, very calm mental health professional with an Australian accent, Dr Jodie is basically that voice.

Calm your tentacles

octopus psychology

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.

Just something to ponder on.

Anxiety is a Bully

giphy 1 1

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a strictly no tolerance policy on bullying.

I remember one of my first jobs in a call centre. It was fricking horrible and I’ve never worked in such a toxic, cluster-fuck-of-a-place since – not even in my career in advertising!

Anyway, there was this supervisor who had way too much BDE and acted like he was our overlord (which in call centre terms, he kind of was). If you wanted to get off the dirty data entry desk and onto the much sexier call operator desk (where you would get your own cool headphones), you had to play his game. However playing his game meant sucking up to him and being his bitch, which he rewarded by stamping on your ego with constant snide jokes and remarks in front of your colleagues, on a daily basis.

This bullying continued for a while until staff complained about his tactics, and he got quietly ‘moved on’, which was good, because we all know that bullying will continue if no one does anything about it.

Which is why being a bully, is the perfect metaphor for anxiety.

It can put you down and make you feel like you’re not good enough. It finds your weak spots and prods at them, on a daily basis. Many people stay quiet and suffer its attentions in silence … and arguably that just means anxiety’s bullying continues and gets worse.

Which brings me to my point: you have to call out your bully.

Because if anxiety was a real person, constantly pushing you around, controlling you and telling you that you were a failure, why would you tolerate them?

The answer is you wouldn’t. You’d find some way of dealing with them, for self preservation.

I know it’s not that easy, you can’t exactly punch anxiety in the face, or run away from it.

But you can face it. Talk about it’s shitty attitude to a colleague or a friend. And take steps to give yourself a break and some much-needed self care.

Ultimately, bullies are cowards. They hate it when someone calls them out.