When I was staring down the barrel of redundancy for the first time in my career, I experienced anxiety and stress big time. The trigger for my anxiety was a combination of intrusive, negative, distressing thoughts and images. Thoughts like:
‘I’ll never work again’.
‘No one will respect me now.’
‘Everyone is going to judge me badly.’
‘I’m a failure.’
What I didn’t realise at the time was that unwanted, negative thoughts like these are a normal and extremely common symptom of anxiety. They are a consequence of our overactive mind doing its best to alert us to a real or imagined threat. These thoughts don’t usually amount to anything but, at the time, I didn’t realise that.
Instead I devoted a great deal of time and energy trying to erase, or push away, the distressing thoughts and images, all to no effect. It seemed the harder I tried the more fuel I was pouring onto the fire.
One of the ways I tried to push the thoughts away was through distraction. There are healthy ways and unhealthy ways to distract ourselves. Healthy ways include: reading, watching movies, listening to music, socialising with friends. Unhealthy ways include: drinking more, smoking more, using recreational drugs. I went for an unhealthy option – I upped my alcohol consumption to dull the discomfort. Red wine became my new best friend. I soon discovered that distraction only offers temporary relief. I couldn’t distract myself 24/7 and when I stopped the thoughts quickly returned to taunt me.
With a head full of distressing thoughts, thinking clearly and concentrating on my work became increasingly difficult. I became more and more on edge and jumpy. At night the distressing thoughts kept me awake for hours and if I awoke during the night the thoughts would be there, waiting in the dark, ready to pounce on me again.
My thoughts created more anxiety and that anxiety triggered more thoughts. I was caught in an anxiety producing spiral that was continuously pumping up my anxiety level.
I went through the whole redundancy experience without anyone explaining to me why I felt like I did. No one, including my doctor, told me I was experiencing anxiety. Knowing what I know now about anxiety and stress I could have easily avoided all of that needless suffering.
The best way to gain relief from distressing, negative thoughts is to accept them. Allow them their space by NOT trying to force them away. When we try to resist something it tends to push back with greater force and this is true of negative, distressing thoughts. The more we “try” to push them away, the longer they linger and the stronger their impact. When we welcome and give room to them, they soon lose their significance and their power quickly diminishes.
It’s really important to keep reminding yourself these thoughts are just figments of your imagination. They can do you no harm; they carry no weight whatsoever no matter how loud they scream and shout. The key is to not react to them. Accept them for what they are – just thoughts, exaggerated because of the situation you are in and the way you feel. Accept them. Don’t engage with them. Just let them go.
To help you let go of a particularly troubling thought, challenge its validity. Ask yourself what’s the worst thing that could happen?
Then ask yourself if it is really going to happen? Is this thought rational in any way?
When you do this, you will begin to see the thought for the fraud it really is and, this will help you to let go of it.
If you are:
* experiencing intrusive, negative, distressing thoughts and images
* worrying when there’s nothing to worry about
* trapped in an anxiety spiral
… then I strongly recommend you sign up for a free 1 on 1, 60 minute Anxiety Mastery consultation with me. You’ll gain a better understanding of your anxiety and very often when we come to understand something, the fear is taken out of it. You’ll also leave the consultation with some simple, effective techniques to help you to begin to gain mastery over those invasive, anxiety fuelling thoughts. Places are limited so be in quick to secure your session. Just click here and complete the contact form and I’ll get back to you within one working day.
This week I thought I’d sign off with one of my favourite anxiety related quotes:
“Start thinking of your anxiety as your ‘airbag’ to protect you on your journey through life.”
~ Caroline Cavanagh
Until next week