Figure out what you need

Through periods of overwhelm it’s easy to feel lost and stuck. When there are 101 problems finding a solution can be challenging.

Often, the best place to start is by figuring out what you need in the moment.

Finish the sentence:

When I feel anxious in a crowded place, I need…

Perhaps you’re in a crowded place feeling anxious, sirens are going off in your mind and part of you just wants to go home this instant.

But all you need is a moment alone in a quiet place to do something soothing like count, a sensory exercise or tapping.

It takes practice to know what you need, practice to know when to apply it and practice to be able to take space to care for yourself.

But practice makes perfect so it’s worth a try.

Anxious

In a recent post I wrote about embracing awkward. Shortly after I realised that what I was referring to was anxiety, specifically social anxiety.

I then got thinking about what being socially anxious looks like. I think when a person becomes aware of their own behaviour, they can end up amplifying it. You’re sitting there doing the thing and instead of catching yourself, stopping and doing something else you just do it more whilst your inner monologue runs wild.

It’s like you’re paralysed unable to do what you know would be helpful. And from the outside you appear awkward like it’s some sort of quirky personality trait which is often easier to accept than anxiety.

Uncertainty is inevitable

We often make the mistake of thinking that the best way to deal with uncertainty is to remove it from our lives.

It makes sense because without all these unknowns there is less risk and you will feel safer.

But the problem with this approach is that you can’t control everything. Uncertainty will always be a part of life.

However, just because you can’t control it doesn’t mean you should let it control you. Think of the uncertainty like a wave in the ocean. There are small waves, little uncertainties like whether the bus will be on time. Then, there are the big waves, the major uncertainties like whether you’ll be made redundant or how long the pandemic will last.

The small waves can be annoying or frustrating but they pass with ease. The big waves on the other hand they have the power to totally consume us. And so we have to embrace the uncertainty and or else you’ll get caught in the wave and wipe out.

The excitement of new beginnings

Who doesn’t love the feeling of a fresh start?

Starting something new can bring up feelings of excitement but also a nervousness. This is normal when doing something you haven’t done before. However, the nerves can turn into anxiety if you focus on them too much and allow yourself to get carried away.

And so instead focus on the exciting possibilities of all the things that you hope will become your reality.

Say it now

If something is bothering you, don’t ignore it. Say it now.

Of course there may be times when you need to process and check in with yourself to ensure you’re not making a mountain out of a molehill but that won’t always be necessary.

Often, the reason we ignore things and don’t speak up in the moment is because we don’t want to rock the boat, we’re afraid of what the outcome will be, we’re worried about coming across as confrontational and sometimes we fear we’ll be dismissed.

It sometimes feels easier to say nothing and push the feeling aside. But then time goes by and that feeling grows and often ends up bothering you more than it did initially.

Putting things off also tends to cause anxiety and tension in your body as you’re quite literally holding onto you’re words.

And when you finally do decide to say something you’re reaction is totally out of proportion.

There’s not much use in putting it off, you might as well just say it now and get it over with.

Bored of anxieties

It’s been said that reassurance is something that we can’t get enough of. It’s strange to think about how we seek reassurance to keep our fears at bay but each time we get it we crave more and more often finding ourselves feeling stuck without it.

When you sit and watch a persons anxieties and fears play out in front of you, your immediate response is probably to console them with reassurance. You’ll find yourself saying things like ‘It’ll be alright’, it’s not necessarily because you believe it but instead because you don’t want them to feel low.

But reassurance is never enough so when the person continues on you might find yourself bored of the anxieties. It’s not that you don’t care but instead that you’ve accepted no amount of reassurance will change this persons mind so there’s no point in trying.

The lesson in all this is that sometimes people just want to vent, be heard and feel supported. Often that will work better to ease the anxieties rather than trying to use reassurance to make it go away.

Rewriting the memory

When we have negative experiences associated with certain events we tend to avoid those experiences moving forward. I think that’s a totally normal reaction because of course you don’t want to keep having bad experiences.

However, what can end up happening is that you limit yourself in the future. You avoid things that will help you grow and develop as a person.

Let’s say growing up you had a bad experience with public speaking. You didn’t feel confident, stumbled over your words, forgot what you wanted you say and ended up feeling really embarrassed. Based on that experience you decided that you’d never do public speaking again. You now associate it with feeling uncomfortable and you don’t think it’s something you could ever be good at so you actively avoid it.

It’s gotten to the point that now just the thought of speaking in public is enough to fill you with anxiety.

A whole decade could have passed by yet you’re still deeply impacted by the feelings associated with a past memory.

In this situation, I think the only way to overcome it is to do the thing that scares you. Of course it might not go swimmingly but being embarrassed or forgetting your words isn’t the worst possible thing that could happen you . It’s not good but it could be so much worse. I think changing the way you think about a situation not turning out perfectly is so important.

Focus on just being able to do it and get through it without all the extra pressure of being perfect. Try, try and try again even if it means feeling a bit uncomfortable and being a little awkward.

In time, you go from associating public speaking with being fear and embarrassment to it being a way to express yourself.

Doing this allows you to eventually rewrite the memory associated with that experience.

There is no right decision

Many people feel a lot of anxiety when it comes to making decisions.

I’ve written quite a few posts about the anxiety that can be felt around making decisions, choosing pathways and picking between different options.

One of my beliefs when it comes to making decisions that I created a few years ago is that, either way things will turn out fine. It’s not a case of there being a good and bad option but instead choosing a path or experience.

That’s something I would say to anyone picking between two options but I also like to remind myself of that when I have to make choices.

There are some situations where it might seem like there is a clear good option, let’s say for example it is the choice to spend the day at home or have a day out in in a new city.

Your initial thought may be that staying home is boring and going out is the obvious choice. However, maybe when you stay home you end up doing a bunch of things that you’ve been putting off for weeks or months. You end up decluttering your space, tidying up and just refreshing your space so that feels a little more vibrant and a little more you.

Perhaps if you choose to go out, you’ll end up seeing some cool places, spend time with friends and eat some good food. So, either way you still have a good day.

The idea of things turning out fine no matter which option you choose came from the fact that making choices can often be difficult and I wanted to find a way to make it easier. My fear was always making the wrong decision and so I’ve worked to find a way to eliminate that and suddenly making around decisions isn’t as difficult as it used to be.

Minimising uncertainty

One of the triggers for anxiety is uncertainty.

It’s fair to say that uncertainty is a part of life. However, there are plenty of times in life where you can seek clarity to help fill in the gaps.

This can be done by asking more questions.

Questions like:

When would you like me to complete this?

What time do you want to meet?

How do you feel about this situation?

You don’t have to play the guessing game, you don’t have to wait for someone else to initiate the conversation and you don’t have to live life on someone else’s terms.

Asking questions might also make you feel anxious but maybe that bit of discomfort is worth it now if it means you won’t feel anxious later.

Updating your comfort zone

Every once in a while you may be forced to come out of your comfort zone.

The idea that what you resist persists is true, some things just can’t be avoided.

You’ve probably been resistant and stuck in your comfort zone because you’re scared, the uncertainty is overwhelming and you’ve become comfortable with what you know.

Sometimes those are good enough reasons to stick with what you know. You don’t need to force yourself to do things that you don’t want to do.

But maybe you feel like you’re holding yourself back or feel are unhappy with the limitations you have placed on yourself.

If that’s the case, embrace the new and get out of your comfort zone.

Of course things that are new and unfamiliar might feel uncomfortable to begin with but over time that feeling will reduce. And maybe in a few weeks, months or even a year those things that once felt uncomfortable will become part of your comfort zone (or at least much less uncomfortable).