We all have times when we get anxious. It’s often temporary, born out of something that has happened that has thrown us out of kilter, but what happens when it doesn’t pass, when it isn’t temporary, when it becomes the normal status quo? Anxiety happens for many reasons, and ‘reasons’ is the key here. We are analytical critters, looking for answers and understanding in our behaviour, and judging ourselves harshly when we can’t seem to find a good enough reason for our anxiety. It’s all well and good if we can figure it out; if we can judge and decide that there is a good enough reason – we’ve just lost our job; we’re moving house; we’ve just started a new relationship (wonderful, but scary as hell!); we’ve just ended a relationship (or had it ended for us!); someone close to us has gone, died, left, is sick, or we are sick; financially we’re in the mire, etc., etc., etc.!
But, what happens when there doesn’t seem to be a reason, or it doesn’t pass when the reason ends? … ‘What’s wrong with me?’ ‘Why do I feel like this?’ … Fear and panic set in, followed quickly by the criticisms…’Get a grip!’ you say to yourself, ‘Pull yourself together!’ And we try, we try very hard to ‘pull ourselves together!’ But what happens when we can’t? Well, then the judgement and self-criticism go into overdrive; we get anxious about being anxious! We add to our anxiety daily by putting pressure on ourselves to ‘be strong’ and ‘deal with it!’ Confusion adds to the anxiety, because there doesn’t seem to a cause that makes sense. Helplessness sets in, and before we know it, we have just seemed to grow into a person who is constantly anxious. Like a fungus, it grows and spreads, tainting every part of us and everything around us. We become anxious about the smallest things, or the strangest things; things that didn’t used to bother us before, suddenly become a mountain to climb! It begins to affect our sleep, which makes us more anxious as we get increasingly more tired. Oftentimes it effects our eating patterns, leading to comfort or emotional eating, skipping meals, or overeating. Other times it effects our confidence, and we stop doing the things we used to do. We can begin to withdraw, staying in more. It can lead to panic attacks, obsessive compulsive behaviour, migraines, nausea, IBS and so much more.
So, what can you do about it? The first thing is to understand… understanding is the key! Understanding removes judgement, it removes panic and it reduces the anxiety.
Long term anxiety is rarely ‘caused’ by one event. It is usually cumulative. Layer upon layer, upon layer, of stress, worry, pressure go in, and in, and in; building like a little volcano inside us, until it begins to leak out. I describe these as individual emotional little bags of energy, going into a well inside us, gradually filling it up. Any one of them on their own would not be a problem, but we have so many, built over years and years, that they get to the point where they become unmanageable. The well is full, there is no more room. It’s full of stress, pressure, worry and pain. The next time the smallest bit of stress comes along, and we try to push it down into the well, we find there is nowhere for it to go, so we push harder, and harder, until the whole well starts to come spilling up and out.
We have a wonderful ability, us humans, to suppress, repress, push down, ignore, avoid, dismiss, reduce and negate the things that are actually bothering us. So the first thing to do, is to accept. Yes, accept! Accept them all, without judgement, without any criticism, and instead, be kind. ‘Kind’ is a word that is hugely underused and underestimated! Ask yourself, “If this was my best friend, my child, my lover, suffering like this, stressing like this, would I be criticising, telling off, putting them down? Would I be telling them to ‘get a grip’, sort yourself out, pull yourself together?” No? Didn’t think so! It’s much more likely that you would be kind, loving, supportive and extremely helpful!
So, when I work with a client with any kind of anxiety, the first thing I get them to do, is to accept. To build self-love, self-acceptance, self-kindness, and slowly, the anxiety reduces. In addition to this, we work on each and every occasion that build that little (or lot) bit of anxiety, by acknowledging it fully, without judgement, enabling it to be realised and released. We validate every worry, every panic and every bit of fear that has built over the years; after all, every one of them was born out of a situation that created it, and at the time, in that moment, that was the appropriate response. The trouble is that the body doesn’t have a sell by date for these past emotions. They store them up and hold them there, deep in the well, until we acknowledge, validate and release them. As we do this, gently, safely, kindly, gradually they leave, neutralise, dissolve, and the ‘well’ inside empties. In its place is self-love, self-acceptance, kindness, and ultimately, peace.
If you need some help to empty your ‘well,’ contact me through my website or fb.
Julie Poole is a clinical hypnotherapist with 15 years’ experience specialising in anxiety based disorders. She works with clients from all across the world via skype. Julie is also the author of 3 fiction novels, and is currently completing a degree in Sociology.