5 Questions for Your Anxiety

Trying to get rid of all your worries is like a game of whack-a-mole. Even when you bash one down, more will pop up. Therefore, to live well with anxiety, you need a strategy other than convincing yourself that bad things won’t happen. To help you find that, here are five questions to think about and reflect on.

If you find it difficult to think of an answer immediately, revisit the question periodically until you do. You can also ask someone who knows you well if they can think of any examples from your life.

1. What are bad things that have happened to you that weren’t catastrophes?

For example:

  • A car accident in which no one was hurt.
  • A time when someone was mildly annoyed with you but they didn’t lose all respect for you or sever the relationship.
  • A dream that didn’t come true but you found a new dream, and you don’t feel daily regret or loss about the old dream.

This exercise will help you recognize that most things that go wrong aren’t catastrophes. They might be annoying, frustrating, create extra to-dos, or hurt, but they’re not catastrophes.

2. When have you worried about a million different things, yet when something went wrong, it wasn’t something you had anticipated?

Worriers make a big effort to anticipate every possible thing that could go wrong. Yet, when things do actually go wrong, exactly what happens is often completely out of left field and unexpected. You can anticipate dozens of scenarios, yet still be surprised by a problem you hadn’t foreseen.

Try to see the funny side of this. You can use self-talk like this: “Oh brain, you spent all that time and energy worrying about X, Y, Z, and then this stupid thing happens. All that wasted anxiety! Oh, well, let’s move on and make the best of it. I can get good at rolling with the punches, if I practice it.”

3. When have you coped well with a problem you didn’t anticipate?

Sometimes anxious people hold the belief that when something goes wrong, they’ll cope better if they’ve anticipated it. However, in general, we cope just as well with problems we hadn’t anticipated.

What’s an example of when this has been true for you? Your examples from Question #2 may overlap with this one here!

4. How can you still make good decisions when your cognition is not in tip-top shape?

There are some expected scenarios when it’s hard to think at 100%. For example, if you’re arriving in a foreign country after a very long flight. Or, if you’re at the doctor’s and feeling very flustered. How can you still make good decisions in these situations?

Once you’ve thought through a few of these scenarios, you’ll probably have some good general strategies.

Examples: bringing a support person, reviewing information twice, pausing to gather your thoughts, having some water and a snack to help you think more clearly, etc. You can even write yourself a list of these strategies. In fact, it’s a good idea to do that.

Once you have a big enough basket of strategies for when your thinking is somewhat knocked off, there should be at least one in your basket that will help you in virtually any situation. You then don’t have to think through every possible situation. You’ll already have it covered.

5. Think of one of your frequent fears. If that were true, what would you still do today?

Identify the Venn diagram between what you’re doing today, and what you would do today if your fear were already true. Include the big and the small, such as going for short walks or eating your favourite food. This can help you visualize how you would cope and reassure yourself that if your fear happened, you would still be you. This exercise doesn’t work well for all fears, but it does for many.

People with anxiety ask themselves the same questions repeatedly. For example, “why do I keep repeating my mistakes, what aren’t I as amazing as so-and-so, why do I suck, how can I remove all uncertainty from life?”

When you ask yourself different questions, it can shake up your thinking, and break the stranglehold of anxiety. Give it a try and see if it works, at least a little, for you.

Supporting Grief

Approximately 5 percent of children lose a parent early on in life, making it rare amongst their peers and, thus, socially challenging. Children with early parental loss are more likely to experience a variety of problems, including a greater risk for depression and anxiety, difficulty with self-regulation with food, alcohol, and substances, and problems within their relationships. Early loss is a major adverse childhood event and may be associated with both post-traumatic reactions and resilient responses.

Loss becomes more and more common as we get older. The same coping responses that serve us well at one time—disengaging from emotion, focusing on moving forward—may later lead to struggle as those adaptations characteristically pose barriers to self-awareness and connection with others. Healthy grieving requires not only drawing upon personal resources but also receiving appropriate support from those around us.

One common problem is pubic stigma and discomfort towards people experiencing grief, especially severe grief. Severe grief may become a clinical concern, called Prolonged Grief Disorder — Which recognises that certain individuals experience strong and continuous reactions to loss, which interferes with their lives. Prolonged Grief Disorder affects about 1 in 10 people who experience a significant loss, and in many ways, it parallels PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).

Coming Home to Yourself

All of us go through times of transition, challenges, and difficulties. We may have faced or will face times of loss, confusion, or heartbreak, when we realise we cannot control the way our life is unfolding, whether in our personal lives or in the world around us. With mindfulness, we can learn to move through these intense, challenging times in ways that don’t add to the suffering and difficulty that are already there. We can even learn to open our hearts to the richness and wisdom these times of immense disruption can bring us.

A key step that can help us begin to settle ourselves when we are profoundly unsettled is to come home, to ourselves, in this moment, whatever is happening. This is one way of speaking about mindfulness, or being present: coming home to ourselves. When we bring our mind back to our body we come home. We could consider this state as our true home. This home inside of us is a home no one can take away from us, and it cannot be damaged or destroyed. No matter what happens around us, if we can find this home inside of us, we are always safe.

When we touch this experience of coming home, it is like we have finally arrived home after a long journey. We experience a sense of peace and even freedom, no matter how confining the outer circumstances. Coming home to ourselves feels like belonging; it is a state that holds us and enables us to hold others.

This is so important because we can live our whole lives estranged from this home within ourselves.

We can experience encountering this spacious and free place of our true home in unexpected moments as we spend more time tuning in to what is happening inside us and around us.

We can’t find what we need to meet tomorrow or a month from now because we can’t control or exactly know the future, but we will find what we need for right now.

If we’re not aware of what is happening in the moment because we are caught up in our thoughts or reveries, or in the grip of worry or other strong emotions, it’s like we have left our house. If we stay away for a long time, dust accumulates and unwanted visitors may take up residence in our home. Things like stress and tension accumulate in our bodies and minds, and over time, if we don’t tend to them, they can lead to physical or psychological illness.

But the beauty of awareness is that we can always return home to ourselves. Our home is always there, waiting for us to come back. There are numerous ways we can go home to ourselves: by being aware of our breath, by being aware of body sensations or bodily movements, and by connecting with the reality around us, like the sounds in our environment. And when we come back home in these ways, we are able to take stock and survey the territory of our being, seeing clearly what parts of our inner landscape need more support, where we need to pay more attention.

It is especially tempting in times of transition and challenge to abandon our homes, to leave our territory, in search of answers, perhaps by worrying about what will happen in the future. This is precisely the moment when we need to return to the present moment, feel our bodies, and take good care of ourselves now. Because the future is made of this moment. If we take good care of this moment, even if it is very difficult, we are taking good care of the future.

It may also be hard to come home if we sense that unresolved pain has accumulated and we don’t want to face it. We may get into the habit of avoiding our home completely. We don’t want to be with those raw, unprocessed parts of our experience that are painful and may be quite scary.

If this is our situation, it is important to have compassion for ourselves for not wanting to return home to face these places inside of us. And yet the only way we can heal them, move through them, and make our home a more cozy place is to turn toward them. As the teaching goes: “The only way out is in.” Or through.

How do we do this? One of the ways is to stay with what is here and now, on the platform of the train station so to speak, watching the trains of our thoughts and plans come and go, rather than jumping on a thought-train that is heading into the future, or another thought-train that takes us into the past.

Those plans, worries, and anxieties will surely arise in our mind, but we can learn to notice them and take good care of them rather than feed them and get pulled away by them. Bringing our attention to our breath or to the sensations in our body helps us to stay on the platform of the now. The past and future are not the place where we can come home to ourselves and resource ourselves with the elements we need to move through our difficulties. We can only come home to ourselves in the present moment, in the here and now.

We can spend lots of our time and energy trying to predict or control what the future will bring. This doesn’t usually serve us. In truth, we don’t need to know what the future will bring. We just need to be right in this moment, and if we touch it deeply, mind and body united, we will find we have all that we need to meet the present. We can’t find what we need to meet tomorrow or a month from now because we can’t control or exactly know the future, but we will find what we need for right now.

Cultivating Intimacy in Relationships

The Oxford English Dictionary defines intimacy as the “inmost thoughts or feelings; proceeding from, concerning, or affecting one’s inmost self: closely personal.” While intimacy can undoubtedly exist outside of romantic relationships, it most commonly associated with romance.

Intimacy allows people to bond with each other on many levels. Therefore, it is a necessary component of healthy relationships.

Types of Intimacy in Relationships

When thinking about intimacy, the most common thought that pops in our head is physical intimacy. However, other forms of intimacy are just as important, especially when it comes to romantic relationships.

Photo by Asad Photo Maldives on Pexels.com

Physical Intimacy

While a hug or holding a hand are both examples of physical intimacy, this type is most commonly used in reference to sex. And while sex is important in relationships, you can also demonstrate physical intimacy through kissing, holding hands, cuddling, and skin-to-skin touching.

While these small physical shows of affection may seem mundane, they can help you and your partner cultivate a feeling of closeness, particularly when done regularly.

In reference to sex, a part of intimacy is feeling safe enough with your partner to share your likes and dislikes. Make sure that you are asking for the same information from your partner. This way, you can facilitate a safe environment where you both feel comfortable sharing your deepest thoughts and desires.

Emotional

Emotional intimacy can be one of the most important factors of a relationship. To cultivate emotional intimacy, take time to listen to and share with your partner each day. Also, make notes of special moments or things that remind you of your partner so that you can let them know you’re thinking about them.

A way to make intimacy stronger is through self-disclosure.  A big part of intimacy is sharing your thoughts and feelings honestly, and listening to your partner when they do the same.

Spiritual

While this can be referring to religious ideas and beliefs, it can also mean something more profound, like sharing actual beliefs and values. Your values and beliefs can align with religion or even health and wellness. Regardless, it’s important to share these important aspects of your life with your partner.

This can also be a chance for you and your partner to talk about what role you want spirituality to play in your lives if you have a family.

Intellectual

You don’t have to watch Jeopardy together every single night, but it can be fun to have intellectual conversations with your partner, primarily if you work in different fields. Find new topics to talk about; simple Google searches pull up hundreds of conversation starters.

If you put effort into having conversations outside of the everyday monotony, it can keep things fresh in your relationship.

Experiential

While couples don’t have to be joined at the hip, shared experiences are important in healthy relationships. They’re also often the way that relationships begin, so experiences can even add an element of nostalgia for long-term partners.

If you’re looking to deepen your experiential intimacy, this is an excellent time to book a trip or try out a fun new date spot or activity in your city. Attempt to learn something new about your partner.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

How to Build Intimacy in Relationships

No matter how long you have been together, it’s always important to build your intimacy levels. Here are some easy, practical ways to strengthen your levels of intimacy in your relationship:

  • If you’re too tired for sex or even talking, cuddle on the couch in silence.
  • Plan a trip to a place neither of you has been. It’s fun to experience new things for the first time.
  • Put down the electronics, even if it’s just during a meal or while you and your spouse watch a show together. Indeed, make sure to do this if your partner is talking to you about their day or an experience.
  • Speaking of listening to your partner, make yourself emotionally available to them. If you absolutely can’t manage to do this when they’re talking to you, calmly explain why and then set aside time in the future to listen to what they have to say.
  • Send each other articles so that you have something fun and new to talk about. This also helps build on intellectual intimacy, and it can give you a much-needed mental break if you have kids or are a caregiver to another loved one.

Tick-Tock

Time management can be one of the biggest struggles which many people do face. The question keeps emerging: how do I keep up with my life, and all the things I have to do?

So what can we do, to use our time properly and wisely?

  1. Know your goals – What do you want to do in your life? And what do you need to do to achieve that? what do you need to do? These include your short-term and long-term goals.
  2. Prioritise – Are you hosting a party in a few days, and need to do the grocery shopping for that? Have an assignment deadline coming up? Notice what is urgent, and what is important. Some things can be urgent, but not that important, and so less time can be dedicated to them, or better yet, delegate this job to others if possible; others are important but not urgent, so one can allocate more time to them, but at a later stage.
  3. Say no – be comfortable to refuse projects or activities which do not serve your short-term, nor long-term goals.
  4. Plan ahead – Allocate some time every day, either first thing in the morning, or last thing before going to bed, in order to plan the next day. See your prioritised to-do list, and clear your desk and prepare it for the day to come.
  5. Eliminate distractions – do you spend too much time on social media just scrolling, or do you answer texts too quickly? If there’s an action which doesn’t serve you, such as by fuelling your creativity, or encourage you to work more productively, then eliminate it from your life. Put your phone on silent, and install extensions in your web browser which will limit your social media time.
  6. Delegate – This cannot be repeated enough. Delgate, delegate, delegate. If there’s an action which doesn’t necessarily have to be done by you, then try see who can do it instead of you. Are you always the one who has to find a restaurant for when your group of friends hangs out, but then you realise that you waste hours trying to find the perfect restaurant which suits everyone? Give that task to someone else for a change.
  7. Take care of yourself – Sleep, exercise, practice a hobby, be mindful. All of these actions will help you be more alert for your work, and also will help you relax and relieve stress. And when we relieve stress and anxiety, we can automatically work better on our tasks.

Am I Too Old To Change Jobs?

Many people think about changing their careers, even after a considerable amount of time in the same job or sector. It is never too late to change careers. Career transitions offer an opportunity, a challenge and financial rewards, but at the same time might offer stress, and even financial difficulties.

Common beliefs about jobs include that you keep working in the same career until you retire. This is actually not true. People change, industries change and sometimes certain careers even actually disappear. Just like our life’s journey, our career journey is multifaceted and transitional.

The important thing is to reflect on where you have arrived and where you want to go. Unfortunately, many do not really know themselves, so this is an exercise in self-reflection. Your job and life experiences are very valuable as they present your talents and skills in different scenarios.

Start working towards the next step. Find different ways of updating yourself, with for example different part-time/online courses. Networking is also very essential at this stage, as you never know enough people in the world of work. Try expanding your horizons beyond those acquaintances you know. In addition, your online presence is critical at this point in time as it will get many to take notice of you and what you are capable of.

Take your decisions carefully and trust yourself while making them. Take things one step at a time, until you know your plan and are ready to make the move. Resilience and adaptability are vital factors to manage challenges in one’s career development. It is, therefore, crucial to be mentally prepared. It may take some time to sort your thoughts and the tasks you need to do in order to change your career, but don’t panic.

Go after career satisfaction and fulfilment. Making a career change is not an easy decision, but if you prepare yourself for this change, it will pay off into a successful career and a well-lived life. Hold on to what is working for you, let go of what is not, take on new learning opportunities and move on towards new experiences. 

Letting Go…of Anger

Anger is an emotion, same as happiness and sadness. And this means that anger in itself is not a problem, but rather what we can do when we are angry. This is the same as happiness and sadness… after all, if I get so happy that I start spending all my money, then that’s an issue as well.

Anger can be channeled in a constructive way which supports your goals in life, rather than hinders them. Here are some things you can do to let go of your anger:

  1. Take deep breaths – and practice meditation.
  2. Recite a mantra which supports you, such as “everything is going to be ok” or “I’m ok”. Say this slowly repeatedly.
  3. Try a visualisation where you’re taken to a place which calms you and makes you happy.
  4. Express your frustration – find a trusted friend or loved one and allow yourself to express your frustration in a safe and supportive environment. Expressing frustration allows the anger to dissipate rather than remain bubbling inside.
  5. Defuse anger with humour – Finding the funny aspect of a situation can help defuse a tense situation. We’re not laughing away problems, but rather being more lighthearted about them. So imagine your situation from an outsider’s point of view… what would be funny for them?

Exam Season – ready for this?

Exams are one of the main stressors for young people, and this stress can really affect our productivity. Here are some tips and ideas which can help you this exam season.

Create the right working environment

  1. Have comfortable furniture to sit on. Get a larger desk, giving you more comfort when spreading out notes and books.
  2. Declutter your space.
  3. Buy fun and nice stationary – make studying fun with colourful pens and notepads.

Eliminate Distractions

  1. Find some quiet – if you have noisy siblings or constnat activity at home that can make it hard to focus on studying. Consider going to a library or cafe. Or have a talk with your family to stop entering your room when you’re studying.
  2. Use music – this isn’t for everyone, but many people express that music helps their concentration. Find your own “concentration music” (this can be repeating sounds, or songs you love).
  3. Put your phone on do not disturb
  4. Stay away from social media

Time Management

  1. Set study times – these are specific times in a day when you will focus on studying.
  2. Be realistic with your study goals – you probably wont finish your entire study unit/subject in a couple of hours.