Asking questions and eliminating uncertainty

I’ve often found that the feeling of anxiety grows and becomes more heightened when questions go unasked.

When we have uncertainty it creates a gap. And for those that are prone to anxiety that gap gets filled with pessimistic possibilities. Often once the feeling of anxiety has started to grow, asking questions feels too difficult or overwhelming. And so the anxiety grows further.

You can attempt to manage the unease until the situation occurs or you can push through the discomfort and ask the questions you have. A helpful reminder to go back to is that you don’t have to feel the way you feel and that you’re worth speaking up for.

From the outside it may seem strange that a person wouldn’t just ask a question if they knew it would ease their anxieties, yet from the inside it’s not so easy.

But anxiety doesn’t have to leave you paralysed. It’s possible and incredibly helpful in the long term to feel anxious and take action in spite of it.

What is the most loving thing that you can do?

Imagine bearing the weight of all that is difficult and challenging in your life on your shoulders all at once. Then, imagine having to go out into the world with that load and pretend that everything is fine.

After a while the load becomes too much to bear and you reach a point where you need to step back, to withdraw and retreat.

That is the most loving thing that you can do for yourself.

When you don’t feel okay and you don’t feel well (as in your overall wellbeing is in poor condition), you need to take care of yourself.

Being in situations where you can’t fully honour and accept where you’re at only makes things worse.

When you’re burdened by challenges you need to replenish and care for yourself rather than constantly be in situations that require you to put on an act and pretend you’re okay.

That can be a a difficult lesson to learn when you struggle with being vulnerable or want to be seen as someone who always has it together.

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.

If you don’t think you’re good enough

If you don’t think you’re good enough that belief will have a major impact on how you experience life.

You’ll have a hard time identifying when you’re being treated poorly because you have such low standards for yourself. This could be with a friend, romantic partner, family member, colleague or even a stranger.

Perhaps someone is unkind to you and instead of speaking up you sit and internalise it. You find yourself almost justifying it with things like ‘it’s not that bad’, ‘they probably didn’t mean anything by it’ or ‘at least they didn’t…’. Your sense of self is so low that you’re willing to accept below the bare minimum.

This can be an awful thing to experience and can result in mental health problems like anxiety or depression. However, it can also serve as a catalyst for change. You’ll reach a point where you can no longer accept the way that you’re being treated because it feels like a betrayal. When you realise that you shouldn’t be okay with people doing things like ignore you, lie to you and overlook you, you’ll be much less willing to accept it.

Suddenly, the awareness you’ve gained has given you the opprtunity to live a very different life that you didn’t even know was available to you.

It could mean ending friendships, resigning from your job, having conversations that feel difficult, settling firm boundaries, saying no and learning to stand up for yourself.

That might seem daunting but if you focus on the fact that life will be a easier to navigate when you think better of yourself, that should at least give you the motivation to get started.

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.

The recovery net

After a difficult or challenging life experience whether mental or physical, you end up in a recovery period.

For example, imagine you fall off your bike and break your leg. Your recovery period would be the cast and crutches but eventually you’re walking again. Another example is a breakup, it could take a few weeks or even months to emotionally recover from a relationship ending.

The recovery net is where you end up when you’re not willing to let go of the comfort/safety of being in recovery.

If we go back to the bike story. Imagine, you’re at the point where your leg has healed and you no longer need the crutches but you can’t seem to let them go.

You’re physically ready to ride again but you keep making excuses because you need them when the truth is you’re scared without them. You’re scared of falling.

And with a relationship ending your recovery net might be never committing to one person so that when one situation ends you’ll always have someone else.

The recovery net is the method that we use to protect ourselves from things that brought us some form of harm/pain. Not because we’re in any danger but because the idea of the potential danger scares us so much that we aren’t really ready to make the true leap and risk being hurt again.

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.

Talking when it’s easy

It’s easy to talk about the weather, your favourite TV show, what you had for dinner and what you got up to at the weekend.

But often when it comes to topics like mental health, fears and struggles suddenly talking becomes difficult.

Part of why it’s so difficult is because we don’t do it enough. What if having difficult conversations could be made easier with practice?

Talking when it’s difficult often requires you to venture out into new territory even if it is with someone you’re familiar with. But what you gain from having difficult conversations is what makes it worth doing.

Procrastination and relying on stress

Anyone who regularly procrastinates will tell you that they want to do the thing but they just keep putting it off. Often when we procrastinate we justify it to ourselves by prioriting things with low urgency that still give us that good feeling of that comes from getting things done.

We tell ourselves we’ll start later or tomorrow and we convince ourselves that that we still have enough time to get it done.

But what tends to happen is we just continue to put things off more and more. We do this until our stress levels start to increase and we reach the point where if we don’t start now we’ll miss the deadline.

And so you finally begin.

I had a recent experience with procrastination and once the work was complete I ended up reflecting on my behaviour.

When you get into the habit of choosing to procrastinate until the last possible moment, you train yourself to rely on stress to get things done. And so the next time you have a deadline you’re unable to find the motivation because you’re waiting for the adrenaline to kick in.

I think there are 2 main ways to stop procrastinating.

The first way is to experience things going wrong as a result of your procrastination. When our habits have negative implications this encourages a change in behaviour. It might start with you giving yourself 5 days for something instead of two and slowly build up until you become someone who always makes sure they have enough time.

The second is to just start straight away next time. We tell ourselves it’s difficult to start and just decide that it’s true when it’s not at all. Starting takes a little effort and commitment but it’s not as challenging as you tell yourself.

It’ll probably help to remind yourself of the benefits of starting straight away like being able to work at a steady pace instead of having to cram everything into a short period of time.

If you’re someone with a habit of procrastinating, it might not seem easy to change but it’s definitely possible.

Don’t just talk to anyone

I think I’ve used the phrase talking helps at least half a dozen times on this site (turns out I was exactly spot on as shown below).

Talking helps

Making a breakthrough

Worth seeking advice from

Managing stress and deadlines

When you don’t have anyone to talk to

Unexpected but needed

I say it because that’s what has works for me and like everything I share here it comes from my experience. If this was around 3 or 4 years ago things would have been very different. Back then, I wasn’t talking about the challenges that I was facing or things that I struggled with because I didn’t know how.

Plus, at the time I didn’t think that talking would help.

But I also think a lot of people forget to mention that it’s more than just talking to anyone.

For example, the person that is feeling suicidal might not to find much solace in talking to their friends. Their friends aren’t equipped or trained to help in that kind of situation.  Friends not knowing what to say doesn’t make them bad people.

Instead they might find it more helpful to talk to a professional, someone with training or someone who can relate to their experience.

Further to that, think about you want the outcome from talking to be. Of course there’s no magic fix but if you just want someone to listen and leave you feeling hopeful, talking to the person that will just dismiss your issues probably isn’t the best idea.

And if you don’t have anyone to talk to, that’s okay too.

If you live in the UK or Ireland call Samaritans on 116 123.

For anyone else the country you live in probably has a helpline you can call too.