Appropriate anxiety is a natural & normal feeling for most people, especially when things like –
- Sporting pressures
- Threatening situations & the like
All these situations produce stress hormones which create the feeling of nervousness, being on edge & a heightened alertness. This is self-protective.
Anxiety becomes abnormal when it occurs on a regular basis, but without real cause. This is why we have a chronic release of flight/fight hormones which over time create not only mental angst, but also physical symptoms.
There are a number of different forms of anxiety, including the most common one called generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), which itself affects up to 10% of the population at any given time. This is where there is a persistent worry that is excessive or unrealistic.
It can be about almost anything for example – money, work, health, relationships or being harmed, or combinations of these.
Symptoms of anxiety, not limited to just GAD, include:
- persistent worry, unease, agitation or irritability;
- being “highly strung”, feeling on edge;
- difficulty relaxing, concentrating or sleeping;
- chronic tiredness
- headaches & muscle tension, especially in the neck & shoulder-blades;
- Tingling, light-headedness & absent mindedness;
- a feeling of overwhelm, faster breathing & increased sweating;
Why is anxiety, unhappiness & stress overload so common?
If you have not already noticed, we are living in a mad world. We expect our bodies & our minds to function normally despite the abuse we heap on them. We routinely “soldier-on” throughout the day. We become “perpetual motion battery operated toys”, keeping up a frenetic pace with our many commitments, often taking pain killers & anti-inflammatory drugs to enable us to keep pace & soldier on.
All this is often after insufficient sleep!
Feeling chronically tired, we regularly pour stimulants into our bodies daily in the form of caffeine, chocolate and sugar.
These stimulants force the body to detoxify them which gives a short bust or jolt of energy, but which is quickly followed by a drop in energy. They are really “energy thieves” or what we call nerve leaks. Many people then habitually turn to alcohol to “wind down”, which after the initial relaxant effect becomes another stimulant, interfering with our deep sleep.
This scenario is exacerbated by the inferior fuel (nutrition) we feed our bodies, which is all too often fast, processed & nutrient-deficient.
If we put an orang-utan through that day after day, they would also suffer anxiety, chronic tiredness & depression, & the host of chronic illnesses mankind is experiencing.
Once again, I have to point out…………..we are living in a mad world.
Reversing this Invisible Decline as Anxiety is reversible.
By adopting the following measures for 2 weeks (this is a very achievable goal) & experience the transformation. Then decide whether or not it’s worth staying on.
Physical Nerve Leaks:
1) Stop the Caffeine & Alcohol
For 2 weeks have no tea (not even green tea, but herbal tea is fine), coffee (not even decaffeinated), chocolate, cacao, coke & pepsi. Go 2 weeks alcohol-free. The greatest results come from complete elimination, not just a reduction. The difference is that noticeable. With refined sugar & its products (lollies, cakes, biscuits, soft-drinks etc) do your best to limit them. Their complete elimination is not as critical as caffeine & alcohol, but if you can manage it, all the better.
2) Don’t habitually “soldier-on”
Become more mindful of your energy levels and what your body can take. If possible, have a “siesta” or at least a few minutes where you can sit down & relax. Understand that energy is NOT an infinite resource. It is exhaustible. Anxiety is made much worse when we become chronically tired, & then the tiredness exacerbates the anxiety, becoming a vicious cycle.
Soldiering on has become a modern day nerve leak of epidemic proportions. Be aware of multi-tasking & over committing. Soldiering-on is generally aided & abetted by stimulants like caffeine, alcohol, sugar & medication. Many people have no real idea how tired they really are. Their nervous systems become exhausted, setting the stage for anxiety, depression, a host of chronic diseases & even suicide.
Soldiering on kills more people than soldiering!
3) Stop Intense Exercise
With those suffering anxiety & even depression, intense exercise taxes an already depleted system beyond its ability to fully repair itself. It is a common mistake to think that intense exercise taxes only the muscles, joints & your heart. It deeply taxes our central nervous system as well. What was once handled easily when we had more energy reserves, now becomes an energy assassin.
If your energy is not completely exhausted & your anxiety not too severe, more gentle exercise is beneficial. Some examples would be low intensity walking, swimming, gardening, yoga & tennis. The more intense the anxiety then indeed the same applies to any health condition, the more damage intense exercise does, & the more urgent the need to avoid it. There will be time in the near future for more vigorous exercise as anxiety reduces, energy picks up & the mind becomes more settled.
4) Get Adequate Sleep
Today the average person sleeps 2 hours less per day than was averaged 50 years ago! The problem with this is that our biology hasn’t changed. Sleep deficiency has been linked in the scientific literature over the past few years to conditions such as obesity, diabetes, accidents, addictions, poor memory, CFS & mental illness.
Mental/ Emotional Nerve Leaks
We waste huge amounts of nervous energy worrying over things we cannot control, or over imagined events which never happen. Such worry is futile & health-destroying.
Our minds can be our best friends or our worst enemies. The following states of mind, which Buddhism calls delusions, all drain our nervous energy & create unhappiness in our lives.
1) Trying to change other people
Be very clear on this: the only person you can change is you, & this is difficult enough.
You can influence people who are open to be influenced, but you do not & cannot change them. They change themselves, if & when they are ready.
“A man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still”, so very true.
2) Worrying over events outside your control
Concern yourself with only things which you have some actual control over. Put your actions & efforts into these areas, not areas that no matter how much you worry or concern yourself with, are not going to change.
Remember: efforts in futility feed frustration, & frustration feeds anxiety.
3) Avoid perfectionism
Making sure everything is perfect is a one way ticket to burn out, and many perfectionists do. Over the years we have seen a correlation between this delusion & chronic fatigue syndrome, poly-myalgia rheumatica, fibromyalgia, anxiety & depression. Become more mindful of your tendencies in this area.
Never compare yourself to anyone else. This is another delusion which adds to our unhappiness. Accept & love yourself. Self-acceptance is fundamental to sound mental health. Self- awareness, self- acceptance & self- responsibility are the 3 cornerstones of a happy & healthy life.
5) Do not be too concerned with what others think of you
For many people this is the hardest obstacle to overcome. Continually trying to impress or please people is a chronic nerve leak. You can never please everybody. When you think well of yourself, which is by the way earned, this is the most important thing. People will make their own judgements, so leave that to them. Do the right thing, live with integrity, honesty & purpose, & enjoy this journey called life.
The Native American Indians had a saying: “a quiet conscience sleeps in thunder”.
Remember: What others think of you is none of your business!
6) Negative emotions
Jealousy, anger, envy, guilt, free-floating hostility, stinginess, arrogance, cynicism & hate never serve us well. Be on guard over them. We all slip into some of these states at times but we have to be mindful of them & evict them, just as we would evict a bad tenant. For most of us these states of mind, or delusions, will sometimes appear. It’s important to become self-aware & not to entertain them. Recognise them, observe them & evict them!
Better an empty house than a bad tenant.
For long-term inner peace & calm, daily meditation is vitally important. Study after study shows that regular meditation not only improves cognition, but also helps reverse many physical conditions.