I was open to a bit more calmness and relaxation at times, and in certain ways, but I still wanted to live an exciting life, pushing myself, overcoming challenges and enjoying the thrill of achieving great things. But I had no idea whether I could keep that lifestyle while also overcoming anxiety & stress.
Legendary psychiatrist Carl Jung said: “Nothing inhibits feeling like thinking.”
I and many other people who’ve had anxiety and stress-based problems tend to do a lot of thinking. Thinking is great – but it should be balanced with enough feeling in life, too.
If we spend too much time thinking – too much time ‘in our head’ – we inadvertently become disconnected with our own emotions. Not being connected with our emotions is a big root cause behind a myriad of anxiety and stress-related symptoms.
I hope you’ve been doing alright in lockdown so far.
I wanted to share that I’ve been feeling more anxious and stressed during the coronavirus lockdown compared to before lockdown began. I’m fortunate in that I know how to keep it to low levels – but it’s been challenging.
For many of us, lockdown means uncertainty, feeling restricted, personal and business problems, more anxiety and stress, and worsened mental and physical health issues.
If it’s been tough for you, I feel it too.
And these circumstances raise an important question: If anxiety and stress seem to be higher in lockdown, does that mean we’re stuck with anxiety and stress until lockdown ends? Does it mean there’s no point in trying to overcome anxiety until lockdown finishes?
What we focus on or pay attention to is a key determinant of how anxious, or how calm, we are in any situation – from job interviews to coronaviruses.
If you tend to focus on things you do not control, you’ll feel more anxious in general, because the brain evolved to dislike uncertainty.
But if you develop a habit of finding and focusing on the things you can control, you will feel more certainty, calmness and clarity in any given situation. There are always things you can control in any situation – although sometimes you may need to look harder to find them.
I’ll show you how it works using a model from Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
One of the challenges of being human is that our mind sometimes avoids uncomfortable truths by reducing our consciousness around those truths.
For example, a deadline is close and we know we should be working – but instead we open YouTube and start watching videos (perhaps almost automatically). Our mind just moved our consciousness onto YouTube, reducing our consciousness around our work. But deep down we know we should be working, and that manifests as a vague feeling of anxiousness and a churning stomach.
From time to time, we all find ourselves thinking about something that isn’t helpful to think about, or isn’t useful for us to think about – and this is often a common part of anxiety and related challenges. I know how annoying that can be!
So I made a quick video to explain how to stop thinking about ‘it’, whatever ‘it’ is for you. Watch now
Whether you want to overcome anxiety, stress, panic & related issues, or any other big challenges in life, Acceptance is the crucial first step before you can achieve positive change and growth. But acceptance is something many people misunderstand at first.
There’s a lot to say about acceptance but I’ll give you my best ‘101’ explanation.
Acceptance is the opposite of denial. To accept something does not mean we like, enjoy or condone it; it just means instead of denying it, we accept its existence and the reality of that.
I’d like to help you feel better generally, and protect your emotional state from the inevitable ups and downs in life; to ‘hedge’ how you feel. I’ve found this to be a simple but powerful concept that’s helped me countless times.
1. Let’s imagine you have only one major pursuit in life, such as your job. All jobs have their ups and downs, so when the job’s going better, you’ll generally feel better; when it’s more difficult or boring or otherwise negative, you feel worse. Here you’re not protected or hedged in any way: You’re riding the unpredictable ups and downs of your job and generally, this leads to ups and downs in how you feel.
Our mind generates emotions to incentivise our behaviour; emotion is how the mind motivates us to take action.
That’s important because in my experience, one of the biggest ‘missing pieces’ when my people are lacking drive to get things done, or struggling to beat procrastination, is not harnessing their emotions for their productivity.
You might know you need to complete that piece of work, but you might not have engaged with much emotional incentive to do so. The result is a lack of drive to do the work, even though you know you should.
If that sounds like you, the key is often in tapping into whatever gives you an emotional desire – or emotional kick up the backside – to take that action.
Most people express anger in ways that harms their health: Suppression, repression, or rage.
Read on to learn about those three unhealthy practices, and what you can do instead to release anger healthily (which I believe can be used for other emotions, too).
I first learned about this in Gabor Maté’s When the Body Says No, chapter 19.
Most people harm their health with ‘abnormal’ expression of anger
Gabor Maté and many other practitioners (e.g. the late medical doctor John Sarno) have found that abnormal expression of emotion, especially anger, can contribute to bad health and illness. Maté describes two ‘abnormal’ ways of expressing anger: