There are wise words from Aesop which I love ‘a crust of bread eaten in peace is far superior to a banquet eaten in anxiety’.
Although anxiety is around as long as humans are, there is some evidence that personal levels of anxiety are increasing. Neuroscience tells us that humans have an average of 60,00 thoughts a day. Our thoughts create our world and if we are caught up in a loop of negative thinking this will directly impact on mood and behaviour. In counselling, we build awareness of how we talk to ourselves and widen our perspectives which is essential to making sustainable and positive change.
• Rumination: You dwell on an endless cycle of stuff that worries you while failing to act. Chronic worry is often described as akin to sitting in a rocking chair. There is endless movement but you are not actually getting anywhere. The view stays the same.
• Overgeneralisation: you experience a negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.
• Jumping to Conclusions; believing people are reacting negatively to you when there is no concrete evidence for this.
• Shoulds and Musts: you use these absolutes with yourself and others, failing to see that in the vast majority of situations we have a choice in what we do or fail to do.
• Labelling; you punish yourself forever for making a mistake thinking ‘I’m stupid’, ‘I’m hopeless, ‘I’ll never get out of this rut’
• Magnification; you lose perspective and constantly sweat the small stuff.
• Personalisation; you take on blame for things that are the responsibility of others.
Change is always possible and the most important step is to hold onto a sense of hope. What we have learnt that is unhealthy we can also, with patience and commitment, re-learn to find more productive ways of dealing with anxiety.
Write it down; keeping a journal can be useful in helping us to understand our patterns. We gain clarity from seeing things written down. If anxiety keeps you awake at night, try a process of externalising them. Write them down, park them until warning and commit to allowing yourself a good night’s sleep.
Switch off-It is very important we set boundaries around work and personal time. Having an evening ritual that helps you do this such as changing clothes, having a bath soak and turning off phones and devices is crucial.
Build resilience-find an activity you enjoy and do it regularly. When we do something we love we tend to worry less. Contact Aine Egan, accredited counsellor, if you feel your anxiety is impacting on your potential and relationships. Appointments in Arklow, Co.Wicklow.