The only thing to fear is fear itself, and anxiety, and poison spiders of course, but today we’ll focus on anxiety. First though, definitions and quotations, then the main segment talk about anxiety and what to do about it, and we’ll finish off with a Disgruntled Nugget – a little piece of wisdom you can take with you, or not, I don’t care. Also thx to Audionautix and Partners In Rhyme for the music and sound effects.Support the show
Welcome to season two of the Disgruntled Life Coach. I’m glad you’re back and I’m glad to be back. This season I’ll be serving up some brand new ideas in the same format, but I will be inviting some guests starting in early summer, so look for that. But to kick things off, this episode is about anxiety, something we can all relate to going into another year of learning the fucking Greek alphabet the hard way! Let’s dive right in.
First, as always, let's take a look at the definition of anxiety so that we can see what we're dealing with in this episode. According to the American Psychological Association, anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure. Since anxiety can lead to panic attacks in some individuals some of the time, let's define panic as a sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety, often causing wildly unthinking behaviour. Even though we talk about panic as something that introduces poorly organized thoughts, it's important to know that anxiety can also change your perceptions and thought patterns. This , in turn, can and allow for poor decision making based on those patterns, like thinking your Purple football team is much better than their 8 wins/9-loss record - hint: they're not. But hey, let's look a few quotations to help us get a sense of what anxiety can do.
Our first quote is by Cornelia Arnolda Johanna ten Boom, known affectionately as "Corrie", who was a Dutch watchmaker and later a writer and public speaker, who worked with her father and sister to help many Jewish people escape from the Nazis during the Holocaust by hiding them in her home. Although caught and sent to a concentration camp, she was released early b y accident and went on to write her seminal work The Hiding Place before dying at age 91 in 1983, all the while still assisting mentally handicapped people live better lives. She is quoted as saying: “Worrying is carrying tomorrow's load with today's strength- carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn't empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” And she knows a thing or two about worrying, strength and sorrow.
Our next quotation is from Arthur Somers Roche who was an American lawyer who turned to writing novels, short stories and plays. Although he died young at age 51 during the Great Depression, he left a huge body of work comprised mostly thriller and detective novels. His contribution to the quote-fest states: “Anxiety is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.” It's important to recognize the erosion of mind through anxiety that Roche saw so clearly, we'll talk about that later. No, really, it’s in the script, Wendy!
The last quotation comes to use from a familiar source, Khalil Gibran, a Lebanese-American writer, poet, artist and philosopher. He left an impressive body of work in many forms that is still influential today almost a century after his death. He said, “Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future, but from wanting to control it.” This really is key to much of what we feel as anxiety: that lack of control and fear of the unknown. But even in these difficult times, there are things you can do to live a less anxious life. Let's talk about that now.
Anxiety - just the word makes people anxious, but we've always had anxiety as a species. Fear triggers our fight or flight reactions, but it's anxiety that comes in as a precursor to fear, that feeling that we should be more aware, that something dangerous may be close. Anxiety should just appear, help us evaluate the landscape, and then leave when we're safe. But it doesn't always work that way, and that’s when we encounter problems.
In fact, anxiety helps you perform better, according to David H. Barlow, an American psychologist and Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Psychiatry at Boston University. “The anxiety is something that motivates you to plan your approach to these challenges in such a way that you feel you're prepared,” Barlow said. But it’s not always so straightforward. High levels of ongoing anxiety can lead to panic attacks as well. According to an article published by Anxiety Canada, “Panic attacks are fairly common, but having one does not mean that you have panic disorder.” they continue to say “Panic attacks only become a problem if you are regularly worried about having more attacks, or if you are afraid that something bad will happen because of a panic attack.” So it's a self-perpetuating problem, with only some of the roots in anxiety. But we're seeing more and more anxiety in today's society, so we have to ask why that is.
Dr. Graham Davey is Professor of Psychology at the University of Sussex and anxiety expert. In an article titled “Is There An Anxiety Epidemic?” says “it would be irresponsible of me to claim that all is doom and gloom on the anxiety epidemic front. Roughly 1 in 5 people regularly suffer distressingly high levels of anxiety but there’s no significant evidence that this ratio has increased over the years.” He bases this partially on another paper titled “Challenging the myth of an “epidemic” of common mental health disorders: Trends in the global prevalence of anxiety and depression between 1990 and 2010” published in the journal Depression & Anxiety. So if there’s not an epidemic of anxiety, why are so many of us anxious?
There’s a huge problem we’re all facing right now, and it has to do with our current pandemic situation. A disaster can have far-reaching consequences on mental health and this, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, is a disaster. They classify disaster as “a sudden, catastrophic event that severely disrupts the functioning of a community or society, causing human, material, economic, or environmental losses.” And, according to research, a disaster may precipitate PTSD, anxiety, and depression among the population. The Chief of Behavioral Health at Reliant Medical Group, Dr. Samuel Nordberg, says, “The danger is that some people have been so worried about getting COVID-19 for so long that it could spark symptoms of agoraphobia and other anxiety disorders”. He continues by stating, “Although most people are eager to get back to their routines, that won’t be true of everybody – some people will need help readjusting.” In a paper titled “The COVID-19 anxiety syndrome scale: Development and psychometric properties” professors Nikčević and Spada outline the characteristics of COVID-19 anxiety syndrome, listing avoidance, compulsive symptom-checking, worrying, and threat monitoring as factors. This syndrome manifests as the inability to leave the house because of COVID-19 fears, frequent checking for symptoms despite not being in a high-risk scenario, and avoiding social situations or people.
So, can we fix this anxiety problem, covid-related or not? Can make strides to, at the very least, alleviate these anxiety issues both in this current short-term pandemic era and for the longer term? The answer is complicated because if you have actual pathological anxiety disorders like social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder or any other clinically diagnosable disorders that negatively affect your day-to-day life, then a pretend life coach won't do it for you: you’ll need to seek professional assistance. But if you are functioning pretty well, generally, but anxiety is just getting in your way and wrecking your sleep patterns, there are things you can do, and things you should stop doing, so let's talk about that now.
The first thing you should do is recognize that you have anxiety and you can see what it actually does to you. Be honest with yourself and challenge negative core beliefs. Linda Esposito, a psychotherapist in Pasadena specializing in anxiety says, “Remember that thoughts precede feelings. Negative thoughts lead to negative emotions, which lead to negative behaviors.” This is a difficult concept, no question, but naming your anxiety, knowing why it's there, and then accepting that you can change its direction is a powerful tool, and you should use it. Not as powerful as, say, a sledgehammer, but far less invasive.
On a more pragmatic note, Dr. Uma Naidoo, a nutritional psychiatrist who serves as the director of nutritional and lifestyle psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, says: “In addition to taking guidance from your doctor about options for treating anxiety, you should augment that treatment by paying attention to how and what you eat.” This is absolutely correct. I know you get tired of professionals, and maybe your mother, telling you to eat your vegetables, but eat your fucking vegetables! Also, decrease sugar, alcohol and processed foods, but eat more fruits, vegetables and foods high in nutrients like omega-3. It's not really that complicated, and google is your friend here. Find a good source and learn how to eat properly – it can help you with more than just anxiety. And, really, who doesn’t like good food?
Finally, do a thing that feeds your inner you. It will different for everyone, but just take time for yourself. Get back to nature if that's what works, play some music, take ballroom dancing, whatever it is. Don't think about whether you have time or not, it's your life, you have time to live your life. We all have pursuits, hobbies or interests that we enjoy doing – just do more of that. Do the things that will make you feel better about yourself and the world around you. We all win, except if you’re the Vikings, then you only win half the time. I’m kidding – it’s less than half the time.
That's it for this episode. Please remember to follow me on Twitter, and, as always, please go ahead and ask for some stickers - I have lots. As well, I would really like to hear from you about what you want me top talk about this season – email email@example.com or DM me on twitter @Lifedisgruntled, I’d be thrilled to hear from you, and I’m not even joking here. Also, if you like what you've heard today, tell your friends. If you think this is ridiculous, still, tell your friends, I mean how hard is that?
Plato once said “Nothing in the affairs of men is worthy of great anxiety.” Yet 20th Century painter Walter Anderson said, “Nothing diminishes anxiety faster than action.” To make things murkier, Eckhart Tolle said, “Sometimes letting things go is an act of far greater power than defending or hanging on.” Therefore, we should not be important enough to have anxiety, that we can alleviate with action once we are anxious, but we should also let go of the affairs of men because defending is hanging on, or something, I don't know, whatever...
Again, thanks for listening, and thanks also to Audionautix and Partners in Rhyme for music and sound FX, thanks again to Neatnik for visuals, and thanks for your patience - see you in two weeks, or not, whatever...