Hey there peeps! So as I’ve already established the reason I’m here is to talk about my life in a way that’s constructive, and hopefully gives a takeaway point. What I want to talk about today is a problem that I’ve been facing on and off for the past few years that’s related to anxiety. Keep in mind that this is just my experience and it cannot be broadly applied to everyone who has to deal with anxiety! But maybe you’ll find yourself doing something similar in other situations.
I don’t know any names to refer to this by, so here I’m going to refer to it as stacking. What this means is that I can experience a situation or thought that brings me anxiety, and instead of going through that anxiety and overcoming it, it sets a new baseline. This means the next time I experience anxiety it gets stacked on top of the last one, which can lead to lots of stress. I’m absolutely certain that other people have experienced something similar at some point in their lives, it’s a ‘the straw that broke the donkey’s back’ kinda situation. Look, I even made some graphs to illustrate it:
- How I’d ideally experience anxiety
- How I experience anxiety when stacking
- How I feel when anxious
So this is something I’m actually going through at the moment. On Monday I was feeling pretty good, but now it’s Friday and I’ve accumulated lots of anxiety over the week. My mind has picked at things and proposed many questions to me. Most of them are along the lines of “Hey you know this thing? What if it doesn’t work out?”, “So this thing you have to do, why aren’t you doing it now?”, and “Oh look at this thing you’re doing, surely you’re not good enough”. Clearly my anxiety has combined with my low self-confidence, and it’s become tailored to what’s going on in my life at the moment. And that’s why it can be so difficult to deal with, it’s personal. Anxiety makes you question your decisions in the most personal ways possible, and it usually has the biggest effects when you’re going through some other feelings/events at the same time. This is why it’s important to take into consideration what other factors could be contributing at any one time. These can sometimes be obvious, for example you might have a big workload, or have just gone through a breakup, but in other cases it can be a bit harder. And when it’s harder to see if there’s an underlying cause/contributor to anxiety, I find that it’s easy to let it sit there and progress into stacking. In order to deal with this, the first step it to actually realise that things are building up, and once you’ve realised that, you can start to look into what’s going on in that big tangle of anxiety. I find it helpful to think about the questions my anxious mind is asking me, and work backwards from there. So I’m actually doing this at the moment, and I’m going to go through my thoughts here and aim for a positive outcome:
- The anxious thought: “You’re never going to get a job in the field, you have no experience and you’re not good enough”. The cause: anxiety around uncertainty after graduating. Can I do something about it? Yes. Action: focus on looking for experience, this is the next step after graduation.
- The anxious thought: “You don’t have any friends, and nobody wants to talk to you”. The cause: anxiety around the thought of being alone, low self-confidence, having gone through a recent break up. Can I do something about it? Yes. Action: reach out and make more friends, talk more to existing friends, focus on doing things that you enjoy you build up your self confidence.
- The anxious thought: “You’re being irresponsible every time you spend money on yourself, you don’t deserve it and you’re only going to get into money troubles”. The cause: having recently spent some money on myself, having grown up with the idea that money is only for the absolute essentials, not keeping a strict budget. Can I do something about it? Yes. Action: re-evaluate my budget and see what extra money is free to spend.
Just doing this right now has given me some instant relief, and I feel like I’m unstacking. Instead of feeling like I’m under a crushing pile of undoable tasks, I have an action plan to work on and I feel more in control of the situation. Feeling generally anxious a lot of the time for me stems from worries, so evaluating the anxiety when certain thoughts come across my mind can help me trail back to the underlying worries. Putting them under pressure makes them fall apart when they don’t hold any ground. I tend to find that my worries are actually quite useful, like above, they can help point me in the right direction. That being said, worrying and feeling anxious still sucks ass. And I know that even though I’ve tackled some of these worries, I will still feel anxious in the future, worried or not. And that’s okay. When that happens, I’m going to try and not criticise myself and give myself a little time to recompose. I find it’s helpful to try and have a positive inner voice (when possible), which gets easier to use with more practice. Next time I feel like someone is staring at me in public, I’m going to try hard to consciously think “Oh hello there! Are you looking at me? Because I bet I can look at you harder, I would totally beat you in a staring contest. Or can you not handle my dashingly good looks?”. This helps me to recover from anxiety faster, or in some lucky cases avoid it altogether! It’s hard work though, and it takes a lot of mental effort. But practicing using a positive inner voice makes it a little easier over time. Personally, I like to give my inner voice a lot of sass. Heck, if you wanted you could have Alan Rickman as an inner voice.
To summarise: don’t beat yourself up, be kind to yourself, and hone your inner voice.