Overcoming Anxiety & Unhappiness

Stopping the Nerve Leaks

Appropriate anxiety is a natural & normal feeling. Exams, sporting pressures, threatening situations & the like all 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 regularly, but without real cause. Hence 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- 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?

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 -bunnies”, keeping up a frenetic pace with our many commitments, often taking pain killers & anti-inflammatories to enable us to keep pace & soldier on. And all this often after insufficient sleep. Feeling chronically tired, we regularly pour stimulants into our bodies daily in the form of caffeine, chocolate, 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 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.

I repeat, we are living in a mad world.

Reversing this Invisible Decline

Anxiety is reversible.

Adopt the following measures for 2 weeks ( this is an 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 decaff), chocolate (you can do it), 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. (see link: “The Effects of Caffeine”)http://www.healthforlife.com.au/healthy-eating/deadly-dietary-mistakes/the-effects-of-caffeine/

2) Don’t habitually “soldier-on”

Become more mindful of your energy levels. If possible, have a “nanna nap” 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 (mindful) of multi-tasking & overcommitting. Soldiering-on is generally aided & abetted by stimulants ( caffeine, alcohol & sugar) & medication (plenty pain-plenty panadol). 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!

To keep the military metaphor going,  arrest the “soldiering-on” habit.

And Ignore the codral ad!

 3) Stop Intense Exercise

With those suffering anxiety & even depression, intense exercise taxes an already depleted system beyond its ability to fully repair itself. Energy bankruptcy ensues. It is a mistake to think that intense exercise taxes only the muscles, joints & heart. It deeply taxes our central nervous system. 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, & 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. (see link: “Tired People Never Lose Weight”)http://www.healthforlife.com.au/weight-loss/ If you are sleepy throughout the day, get more sleep. As the great bard ( Shakespeare) said hundreds of years ago: “sleep is nature’s healing balm”.

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.

We become Prisoners of Worry (POW).

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”

2) Worrying over events outside your control

Concern yourself with only those things over which you have some control. Put your actions & efforts into these areas, not areas that no matter how much you fret, 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. Over the years  I 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.

4) Comparisonitis Never compare yourself to anyone else. This is another delusion which adds to our unhappiness. Accept & love yourself. Self-acceptance is foundational 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 etc 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.

Meditation

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.

 

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