The feeling of anxiety is physiologically almost the same feeling as the feeling of excitement. Both feelings can make your heart race and give you butterflies in your stomach. Both may make you sweat. Your body is getting ready for action, but the key difference is the emotion behind the feelings. When you are excited you're connected to the feeling of joy, whereas anxiety comes from a different emotion - fear. It is important to distinguish them because when we operate our life from fear, we are operating from a place of survival rather than a place where we can take advantage of opportunities and possibilities, such as when we are excited.
So because the physiological response to the two feelings is so similar, it can help to relabel what is happening. Rather than trying to combat anxiety head on, a better approach could be to turn that feeling into excitement.
In a recent study conducted by Alison Wood Brooks, a Harvard professor, people who tried to turn their anxiety into excitement performed better than those who didn't. The study asked people to speak out loud before having to perform or speak in public, saying either they were anxious, excited or say nothing at all. Those who said they were excited performed better than the others. Thus, positive self talk is good for us. By changing the way we think, we can change the way we feel.
So to take practical steps, take a moment to think about your situation and determine what would be more useful for you, anxiety or excitement. Some situations can be appropriate for relabelling such as a job interview. You can think of it as an opportunity to demonstrate your skills, show what you know and to have the opportunity for good things to happen. If you focus on this, the result can be that your anxiety is quieted while your excitement allows you to perform well and come across as enthusiastic.
I have had so many emails and phone calls over the past week showing that like me, most of you are living with the mix of fear and sorrows that appropriately come with a global pandemic. In the face of real danger and the tragedy of loss, it is important that we pause and acknowledge these feelings.
Many of us are maintaining social distance, staying at home in self isolation. It is useful to consider this as a chance to take the time to pause, to be kind and love those you’re with, or connect online or by phone with wider circles of loved ones.
A few things that may be helpful include:
Stay connected with people. Make plans to video chat with friends and family. Make phone calls, send messages and connect with people.
Create a routine:
It can really help to plan how to spend your time, split the day up into time to exercise, time to work, time to do something creative, or fun.
If you are able to go out, then get as much sunlight and fresh air as possible. Spending time outdoors in the fresh air can be so beneficial to both your mental and physical well being, improving mood and reducing stress and anxiety.
If you are having to stay at home then try to get out into your garden if you have one, or open windows and get as much natural light as you are able. Build physical activity into your day as much as possible. It could be an online workout, or just dancing to music, even cleaning your house.
Looking after children or young people at home:
Don’t feel bad about being more lenient with your children’s social media and mobile phone use during their time away from school. They are used to being around their friends and might find it difficult not to be around them.
Find out from their school what homework or digital learning is available to them, keeping some sort of routine as much as possible, with time allocated for work, breaks, exercise and fresh air if you can, and time for fun.
If you’re feeling anxious:
Think about access to media and social media
It is easy to get caught up in the never ending cycle of news, but this can cause some people to become paralysed with anxiety in which case it may be useful to completely stop interacting with the news. But for other people, it is important to know what is going on, not knowing makes it worse.
If you find that your levels of anxiety are spiralling, it may be helpful to limit how much time you spend on social media, or reading, listening or watching the news.
Remember, what focus on you amplify, so if you are finding that you are getting anxious, spending time focusing on something else, doing something you enjoy, can be hugely beneficial to your mental well being.
Don’t ignore your anxiety
It’s very normal to feel scared about something like this, so acknowledge your feelings and take a moment to give yourself permission to feel this way.
A counsellor or psychotherapist can help you do this. If you are not able or would prefer not to meet face to face, then online sessions are an option. However it is essential that whomever you consult is qualified to do so. It is not just a matter of setting up a camera as although many of the skills are similar, there are other important considerations.
Do something you can control
It can help to express your anxiety by writing a journal, or keeping a diary. Once you’ve written it down, you can practice symbolically letting it go. So allow the worry, write it down and then put it away, let it go.
Bring it back to the here and now
With anxiety, it’s often like you’re 10 steps ahead, so bring things back to the present. It’s easy to get carried away on all the ‘what if’s’, so bring it back to what you actually know, to what is happening right now
Make sure you are looking after yourself, doing what you can to help get a good night’s sleep, eating well and doing exercise.
“I always talk to my clients about a wellbeing check. Sleeping, eating, exercising. If we manage our health like this, it can help make us more robust against anxiety.”
So often I see people who suffer from extremely low feelings of self-worth. The dictionary defines self-worth as "the sense of one's own value or worth as a person". It is about who you are, not what you do. So often in our society we are encouraged to measure ourselves against others rather than paying attention to our intrinsic value. It is so important to develop and enhance feelings of self-worth coming from within rather than from external sources. To feel an intrinsic sense of self-worth, is to be powerful. If your value comes from within, it is truly yours. If you look externally for validation, it can be taken away and is not within your control.
So if you do just one thing - stop comparing yourself to others, it is a losing battle! Challenge your critical inner voice and practice a bit of self compassion. Treat yourself with the same kindness and respect you would a friend. And add meaning to your life by taking part in activities that are important to you. By challenging your critical inner voice and stopping comparing yourself to others, you can begin to get a feeling of your own self-worth. By pursuing activities that are meaningful and in line with your personal beliefs, you can develop your sense of yourself as a worthwhile person.
Did you know that March 20 is the International Day of Happiness? Celebrated all over the globe on March 20th, International Day of Happiness is a day that recognizes the importance of happiness to human beings and is also a day in which people are encouraged to do those things that make them happy.
Action for Happiness have put together 10 keys to happier living, their GREAT DREAM.
Giving - do things for others
Relating - connect with people
Exercising - take care of your body
Awareness - live life mindfully
Trying out - keep learning new things
Direction - have goals to look forward to
Resilience - find ways to bounce back
Emotions - look for what's good
Acceptance - be comfortable with who you are
Meaning - be part of something bigger
So think about what makes you happy? Go on, smile, share and think positively. Spend some time with friends and family, spend some time alone, be mindful, dream, listen to music, say thank you and mean it....do what makes you happy!
What do you focus on? So often we focus on what's wrong, or what bothers us, why people upset us, or get caught up in negative thoughts that spin round and round in our heads generating anxiety. That is why it's so important to develop the skill of focusing our thoughts, because it is so true that what we focus on we amplify. The ability to direct our own focus using hypnosis, visualisation or mindfulness can have a profound influence on us. Learning how to focus on positive possibilities...what's right...and what we want. So if you want to develop a new skill...try developing the skill of focus, and begin focusing on your strengths and amplify them!
Have you got an internal critic? I'm betting the answer is yes because most of us have that inner voice, the one that will happily give a running commentary on our lives, making negative comments and generally giving us a hard time.
The interesting thing is not whether or not we have that inner critic, but whether we choose to listen to it or not. Have you ever stopped to wonder whether it is actually worth listening to? How do you know whether to pay attention or not?
When I talk to clients and ask them whether they consider themselves to have high self-esteem or not, I have discovered that the ones who do have high self-esteem have something in common - they have learnt that their internal critic is not always worth listening to and have strategies for ignoring it. Some clients describe how they pretend they have a volume control and can turn down the volume on the negative voice. Others imagine another more positive voice coming from their other shoulder. Others just simply imagine turning their backs on the critic or walking on by ignoring it.
The interesting thing is not whether you have that internal critic or not, but whether you accept it and listen to it without question, or whether you have ways of filtering it out. So the next time you're aware of that negative internal voice, just stop and wonder whether you should take it seriously, or whether you can come up with your own ways of ignoring it. This is an important skill that you can develop and will lead to you being much happier in the long run!