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.

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.

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.


Triggers Should Be Handled With Caution

In the realms of psychology, the word trigger refers to something that elicits a cognitive event. Or put in layman’s terms, something that has an affect on the way you look at the world.

Triggers can be anything, and depend on the individual in question. They can be a social circumstance (shit, I said something dumb and now I’m going to be chucked out of the tribe!), a smell, something the person has consumed like alcohol or a certain drug.
The list goes on.

A fellow student at my old University had a fairly unusual trigger. Every time she saw an image of Rolf Harris, she’d have a nightmare. Okay so we didn’t know at the time, but her subconscious thoughts were scarily on the money.

Personally, if I drink too much beer after a heavy work week (which in advertising was pretty much an occupational hazard on a Friday night) I wake up very anxious the next day. For me, alcohol and work-related fatigue don’t mix well, but that’s not necessarily a rule of thumb for anyone else.

When it comes to being aware of your own ‘triggers’, the ones that cause you anxiety or otherwise, you have to be your own detective. A good detective sticks to the facts, and tries not to be too emotionally-led (difficult when you’re actually in the throws of an anxiety attack), by analytically and systematically compiling evidence. I know this because I’ve watched shitloads of detective programmes.

Think about the days that surround your most anxiety-ridden moments.
Was there a specific type of stressor? Work deadline? Did you eat before you went out drinking? Did someone say something that pushed specific kind of buttons? Did you get a sense of deja vu? Did you compound several things together (eg. being naked + on a busy bus + in the middle of Trafalgar Square)?

In the end, you’ll hopefully work out your triggers then adjust your lifestyle to avoid them.

Failing that, remember these sage words….

main qimg ea59ec45075cc458a07075043e611b3c

Your Mind is a Muscle

Everyone knows that working out keeps you in shape, and not working out means getting all flabby and untoned.

The same goes for your mind. If you just go on automatic all the time and never apply any thinking, never push yourself creatively or intellectually (like learning a new language or doing a sudoko) your mind gets…. rusty.

Edward De Bono is an author and philosopher, and pretty much a solid thinker. I’ve seen him talk and read a few of his books that focus on ways of thinking that are a pure pleasure to read. I think if you suffer from anxiety you more than likely are an overthinker, so to divert your attention to a different, constructive way of thinking has got to be beneficial, instead of just turning your wheels.

q? encoding=UTF8&MarketPlace=GB&ASIN=B073RW3RPJ&ServiceVersion=20070822&ID=AsinImage&WS=1&Format= SL250 &tag=stfuanxiety 21ir?t=stfuanxiety 21&l=am2&o=2&a=B073RW3RPJ

The above book got me into De Bono. It covers a pretty cool way of thinking that helps construct everyday thinking tasks into a cast-iron process. It entails splitting up thought processes into different ‘hat colours’ – from emotional, to factual, to critical thinking and up to seven different thinking types.

It forensically examines the way the west and east differ in their corporate thinking – from western meeting where everyone shouts their opinion in a group discussion, to eastern meetings in Japan where each person around the table has their facts and the conclusion is reached after everyone has said their piece. Neither are wrong perhaps, just different ways to think.

Anyway, my point is that exercising the mind takes many forms. But just like physical exercise, you need to change your routine sometimes, and do something new.

Reruns Suck

Here’s something I recently thought about (recently as in 20 minutes ago at 4am in the morning, whilst removing myself from the bedroom so as not to keep my poor wife awake, so she can be a functioning teaching assistant and adult tomorrow at her school).

giphy
Reruns suck

It’s about a classic (I think) symptom of anxiety. Something that many sufferers will recognise in themselves.

I find myself replaying things I have said or talked about with others in my head. Mostly at 3 to 4am at night, when I become my own kangaroo court, going over the evidence why I’m a weirdo or bullshitter or mentally deficient because I’d waffled in a job interview and gone off on a tangent or said something dumb to a friend or uttered some micro conversational infringement that many ‘normal’ people would shrug off as just a quirk of their character but an anxiety sufferer will hold over their own head, perhaps repeatedly.

If there was a manifesto for anxious insomniacs I imagine it would start something like:

“We, the anxious people of the small hours who keep our partners from getting a full night’s sleep and who haunt our own lounges in the dim light of the moment that joins not-morning with not-night o’clock. We, the hidden wrestlers of our own perceived shortcomings. We, the tireless thinkers who are held hostage by the product of our own musings.”

There is no stone left unturned in the dodgy Cinemax replay of the last 24 hours projected inside my head, where I am forced to watch, an unwilling audience member until the show ends or the judge and jury stop their deliberations and I can stop sweating what I said or what I could of said or what I didn’t say but should of said.

But you can break the pattern.

You can have more control of your anxiety, even at 3am. There are ways to flip the switch, tell the projector to fuck off, stop the endless cross examination and go and join the sleeping again.

Here’s some methods I’ve used:
• Force yourself to count to 10 as you breathe deeply on each count. If you find yourself thinking of something else, return back to 1. Repeat until you fall asleep.
• Imagine something really boring like broccoli, or a potato. Now concentrate on that and that alone. It gets so boring you fall asleep.
• Visualise your anxiety as a twitching, amorphous thing. Say to it “I SEE YOU”(I refer to my earlier post “I see you Mara“) and just focus on it. In the end even your anxiety will get bored of being watched and fall asleep.
• Get up. Go downstairs and lie on sofa. Write or read. Then fall asleep.

Regardless of whether you try the above techniques and find they help, if you see yourself in these words above, I’m with you.

Let’s try and be a little easier on ourselves because we’re only people, fallible and complicated and all beautiful in some way. Let’s give ourselves a break sometimes.

Just know that you’re not alone.

The Great Disparity

The wealth of the rich is growing at a much faster rate than that of the poor.

But what does this mean?

It means that the wealth disparity between the haves and have nots is at an all time high.

And with the arrival of the pandemic and millions of people losing their jobs, often blue collar jobs, this disparity is going to grow even more.

When you consider that socioeconomic factors such as unemployment and poverty are correlated with a risk of mental illness, it’s truly concerning.

So what are the government doing to handle the mental health? I don’t think they are doing enough. In fact this article details a sad lack of meetings between the Health Minister and mental health organisations during the Covid crisis.

Sorry to write such an annoyed post, but this is an area I think that we as a society need to be doing better in.

And I’m going to think about all the things I can do personally to push the government to act.

Fight or Flight

giphy
Fight or flight has been around for a while

When we were cavemen and women ages ago, our brains learnt to react to perceived threats. At least, the brains of those who survived getting mauled by things did, because they ran away.

The response is called the ‘acute stress response’ (remember that for later) or ‘fight or flight’. It’s when sympathetic nervous systems stimulate the adrenal glands triggering the release of catecholamines like adrenaline and noradrenaline.

All this leads to various physiological effects like a rise in blood pressure, rapid heartbeat and an increase in breathing rate to get more oxygen to the muscles that will help you run like shit-off-a-shovel away from a woolly mammoth or punch the crap out of a shark.

Now, back to the ‘acute stress’ bit.

If you suffer from anxiety, your body is experiencing this same fight or flight response, only over longer periods of time, to perceived threats that are buried somewhere either in your conscious or unconscious mind.

Which is like a perceived threat hanging around, stressing the hell out of you all the time. Making everything seem extra difficult to cope with.

So the next time you feel anxious and get a stomach ache, headache or feel your blood pressure rise, it should be no surprise that your anxiety’s fight or flight effect is causing your body to react.

There’s even evidence to suggest that constant fight or flight response can cause changes to the brain*.

And that is nature’s little reminder to slow down, and give yourself some self care.

* Understanding the stress response on Harvard Health site