Friday, 8 August 2014

Mental Flossing - anxiety

Here's another one I get asked about often, something I deal with occasionally myself as well. 

It’s likely to be one of the great levelers of humanity – no matter who you are or how awesome you are seen to be (or even how you see yourself) – everyone gets this at one time or another.


Questions arise like - How do I deal with it, where does it comes from, why does my heart race like that, and why do I feel sick, so overwhelmed, tired and have such sore muscles? Should I have taken the blue pill instead of the red one?  
Me in the matrix, I would take both. But only to be difficult. I'm an anxiety disorder causer all on my own. But yup, there are a loads of symptoms and causes. 

Anxiety, has lots of questions, but not many answers. Even googling anxiety will give you anxiety. That...or bum cancer.

This topic is unfortunately full of so many difficult questions and minimal answers that it can be a frustrating journey. 

In this post I'm going to give you a few I know have worked for other people.

But first, a disclaimer. Like the inter-web, not all the answers you are looking for will be contained in this post. Like I've said many times; I'm not a counsellor or a therapist by any stretch of the imagination. 
I might (at a push) consider myself more of a “life coach” (as much as I hate the term), or better yet, a “mojo” mentor, a dude who knows some cool stuff that might help you with shit stuff. 

I've been coaching staff, friends and family for more than 20 years, trying to help anyone who has asked. But I am only a catalyst or facilitator to get you to figure out your own stuff all on your own. 

Now before we roll this bitch named Anxiety off the couch and kick her ass to the curb, please know that my approaches have no medical background whatsoever so I cannot be and will not be held responsible for anything contained that you might follow, since all these posts are “my opinion" only. I have had many successes in my often unorthodox approaches, so I hope something in here might work for you too. 
But like opinions and assholes, everyone has one. Take out of this post only what will safely work for you. All that said, let’s kick this off.

Anxiety is one of those things that can be quite debilitating when it arrives. I've seen many people fall under its spell and struggle for days, sometimes weeks and even years to get out of it. Some never get out of the anxiety cloud and they either just learn to live with it, or they sink into depression. 

There are always factors - both large and small - that lead to serious bouts of anxiety, and more often than not, a lot of them have to do with – as I indicated above - depression. The two tend to go hand in hand.

I've had a brief encounter with depression myself and I'll tell you, its not a fun place to visit. I consider myself pretty hardy and self sufficient, but anxiety (which pushed me pretty close into depression) gave me a fierce right upper-cut to the goolies* and I stayed there for a few months. Not long for long term sufferers but enough to give me a picture I didn't like much.  

But that little trip taught me a couple of things.
Firstly, let me dispel a common misnomer right here and right now.

You are not mentally retarded or a loser if you have depression or any other "disorder". Taking doctor prescribed pills to assist you and your serotonin levels is not embarrassing. If you have a headache, do you take aspirin or paracetamol? Of course you do. Same thing.

You are also not mentally retarded if you suffer from severe (and even much lesser forms of) anxiety either. Being nervous is normal. Having anxiety is normal too. It just depends on whether or not you're letting it rule your life.

People who tell you that you are mentally retarded, are ignorant and judgemental idiots. Plain and simple. No one else can live your life and no one else but you knows your story or the journey you've taken to arrive here. 

I've always been quite keen on teaching those "look down your nose" people the errors of their ways, not one to suffer fools too often. 
Below I can offer you a simple yet effective solution. Show them the  following picture and get them to comply. HARD
Sure, it'll be a bit rough on your screen, but I'm sure you will agree, totally worth it.

Both states (anxiety and depression) are simply the results of whatever you have going on within yourself (emotional, chemical, physiological etc.) that you so far haven’t been able to deal with.

So whatever toss-pots** out there in the world want to judge you on is the idiot's of the world’s business, not yours. 

To further illustrate the how to cope, here's another Darren-ism*** for you.

Lets say someone gets in your face and calls your Mom "a whore"
I know - rough question, sorry - but here's how you can deal with it.

After that question gets thrown at you, what is the first question you should then ask yourself?

The answer? 

"Is she?"

What the hell? I know, I know, this seems bad, but keep reading. 
  • Heavens forbid, If she is, the person got it right. Well done them for being so informed! Congratulations. You no longer have any need to be angry, they got it right. Let it go.
  • If she isn't, this person calling her one is ridiculously uninformed and a bit of an idiot, therefore, you can dismiss anything they say from that point on. You no longer have any need to be angry because this person has no idea what they're on about. Let it go.

When it comes to handling judgemental assholes, 
you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by dismissing them completely. 

Yeah, you know I am.

To help a little further with this topic of anxiety and depression, let me ask you a few questions (this time with answers) to paint some more (hopefully helpful) points.

Question 1                Whose opinion are you responsible for?

Answer:                      Yours and yours only. You cannot control what others think, say or spread around about you because you are not them, so let it go. Worrying about what you can’t control is like trying to catch a fly with a space shuttle, or ride a bicycle if you're a fish. It’s a waste of time and will never work.

Question 2               Do you have the ability to “influence” others opinions?

Answer:                      Yes – everyone does. But a better question is “should you?” Are you willing to put in the time and effort to change someone’s mind about you when their opinion isn't your responsibility? I’m betting most of you will say yes. Especially when the someone is a person whose opinions really matter to you. But all you can do in these cases is “try” if you decide you have to. Be prepared though, you could fail to change their minds. If that happens, return to question 1.

Question 3               How do you view yourself?

Answer:                      If you like or love yourself, then well done you! I’m genuinely happy for you. Odds are you have less issues with the world around you as you have become comfortable in your own skin. High five! However, if you don't like yourself - maybe even hate yourself – I have to ask, doesn't that seem weird and purely illogical? The world has plenty of people willing to cut you down at the knees due to their own issues, why help them?
Thing is - You are YOU. You are the only YOU alive. There is no other YOU anywhere. Whatever you don’t like about yourself, doesn't it stand to reason that since you are YOU, that you could change it in a positive fashion if you tried? Or even come to terms with whatever it might be? Got a big nose? So what. Blind in one eye? Ok, that bites but can you change it? No? Then accept it and look for more positives of being you.
YOU are the only YOU there is - be proud to be YOU!

Question 4               When you are feeling anxious, what coping mechanisms do you use to lessen it?

Answer:                     The most common ones that work the best are;  
·       Challenge your negative thoughts - write down your worries. Keep a pad and pencil on you, or type on a laptop, smartphone, or tablet. Writing down is harder work than simply thinking them, so your negative thoughts are likely to disappear sooner. This trick can work. It’s the same as if you don’t want to cry – you can try explaining the physiological symptoms in detail what is happening to you – not the emotions. E.g. My face is getting hotter, around 4 degrees more than it was etc. The detail and having to explain it will combat the negativity.
·        Accept uncertainty. Unfortunately, worrying about all the things that could go wrong doesn't make life any more predictable—it only keeps you from enjoying the good things happening in the present. Learn to accept any uncertainty and try not to require immediate solutions to life’s problems.
·       Practice relaxation techniques. When practiced regularly, relaxation techniques such as meditation, dynamic tension relaxation, and deep breathing can reduce anxiety symptoms and increase feelings of relaxation and emotional well-being.
·       Adopt healthy eating habits. Start the day right with breakfast, and continue with frequent small meals throughout the day. I suck at this one. Going too long without eating leads to low blood sugar, which can make you feel more anxious.
·       Reduce alcohol, caffeine and nicotine. These three lead to more anxiety, not less. None of them can hold you up, all three will bring you down. Fast.
·       Exercise regularly. Ahhh yes. This old nugget. I’m with you on this one. I’ve been fit all my life but then I stopped, needed a break. Problem is now, I am struggling to go back. Super fit athletes all have this issue. If you stop, it’s more than tough to go back. But exercise is a natural stress buster and anxiety reliever. To achieve the maximum benefit, aim for at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise on most days.
·       Get enough sleep. A lack of sleep can make anxious thoughts and feelings worse, so try to get 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep a night.

So, these are the best ones I’ve found so far.

It seems that both anxiety and depression come from the same family of "feelings" which are often caused by self-doubt, lack of confidence in certain fields, still-to-be-learned skills, chemical imbalances in the brain and even the environment in which you grew up, now reside, or even past relationship baggage.
To stop these feelings, you simply couldn’t have had the life you’ve led. It’s kind of like a tail wagging a dog.
But in every single case, you should seek help and not be ashamed of any of it.
Counselling, prescribed medication, whatever it is that you need to feel better (and no, I’m not talking about alcohol or illegal drugs) you should do it.

If you break your arm, what do you do?
Go to the Doctor and get a cast put on, allow it to set and heal.

If you cut yourself, what do you do?
Get a band-aid and cover the cut.

If you have anxiety or you are feeling depressed all the time, what should you do?
Get help. All in, no shame, rock’n’roll baby I’m going in type attitude. 

None of the reasons for how you are feeling should be dwelled on as soul-crushing negatives, no matter how hideous any of it was. You can stand tall at this very moment as you made it. Here YOU are.

You always have options, you can choose to no longer be a victim, and choose to be the survivor you are. Take a positive action and get some help. Doing nothing is the same as taking a negative step. Get up and move.

You are YOU, and you have the right to feel good about yourself, the right to be happy, the right to laugh out loud and the right to be free from anxiety.

YOU are a survivor, not a victim.

After all, with everything you’ve been through, you’re still here, right?

Damn right you are.

 Now take out of all this what you need, believe the above and go out and prove it to yourself.
Take that positive step and get some help if you need it.

YOU know you can do it.

...And don't forget to have a laugh along the way.

*Goolies = testicles/nuts/family jewels/balls
** Toss-pots = a narrow minded wanker
***Darren-ism = see post entitled "A Darren-ism - good luck googling this one"