Q: I feel tired all the time. I don’t have the energy to go out, see friends or family, or do anything. I just want to sleep all day. My friend asked me if I wanted to go to Spain with her for a long weekend. I’d love to, but I just don’t feel like I have the energy to do it. As well as feeling tired I feel anxious and stressed all the time, which is really getting me down. If I sleep more it just makes me more tired. Why does anxiety make me feel so tired?
A: Dealing with high anxiety is exhausting. It’s like having a full-time permanent job on top of the things life already throws at you daily. Even if you don’t recognise it, being anxious and stressed burns a lot of your energy. Anxiety and stress make you constantly overthink, which causes excessive apprehension and worry - dealing with these thoughts and emotions is a serious drain on your batteries.
If you try and combat the lack of energy with more sleep, and you’re not being as active as you can be, your bodily functions (including your blood flow and oxygen intake) go into ‘slow mode’, which will only result in you feeling more tired. In other words: sleeping more won’t help!
Feeling as tired as you are, I know it sounds like the last thing you probably want to do, but you have to stay active. You have to keep your body moving and your mind working. Exercise is the obvious choice to achieve both physical and mental stimulation. Exercise is also a perfect outlay for built up tension, which is another drain on your batteries. That’s why it’s so important to be able to combine a good level of exercise (staying active) with relaxation (lessening your tension).
I’ll be sharing some relaxation and tension busting techniques shortly, but in the meantime, I recommend researching and exploring these techniques in more detail:
· Deep Breathing
· Progressive Muscle Relaxation
All these techniques are proven to release tension caused by stress and anxiety, and aid a stronger sleep pattern.
Action for Change
Go for a spontaneous walk, run, or cycle (physical wellbeing permitting). If exercise isn’t already part of your routine, aim to do at least 30mins a day for the next week. Look into the above techniques and start them today to help you achieve a healthy level of relaxation. With a bit of time and practice, Spain will be a much more realistic prospect.
Q: I’ve not been able to leave my house for about two weeks now. Whenever I get close to the front door I have a panic attack and turn back. Because of my anxiety I just don’t feel like I can face the outside world. I’m scared time will keep going on and I won’t ever be able to leave my house again.
A: I was agoraphobic for over 3 months, and like you, I had a fear of leaving my house that induced a panic attack whenever I tried.
What helped me get over the fear was discovering exactly what the fear was. For a long time, I thought leaving my house was my fear, but I was wrong. Using my ‘WHY?’ technique, I discovered that my actual fear was having a panic attack and feeling trapped away from my home (my safe place), and what the panic attack would do to me if I did leave my home. I felt like I could cope with a panic attack at home, but what would happen if I had a panic attack somewhere I wasn’t familiar with? What if I had one in front of people? What would they think? Would I be able to cope? Would I be able to escape? These fears were enough to keep me housebound.
If you keep telling yourself that your fear is ‘leaving your house’ it’s too big a problem to deal with, so you won’t deal with it. It’s too ambiguous – there is nothing specific to overcome. If, however, like me, you break your fear down and discover it’s based on you having a panic attack and feeling trapped if you leave your home, you’ll be able to do something about it and deal with it. You’ll have something to work on, and you can set your goal based on overcoming that fear.
I found using a set-by-step process worked best for me. The first day I decided I would sit outside in my garden. The next day I would walk down my street a little. If I completed each step I would move onto the next until I reached my goal (my goal was to go to my local convenience store within 7 days). By building my momentum, confidence, and self-belief, I was able to complete my goal within six days. It wasn’t easy, and there were wobbly moments, but you can’t expect real change to happen without a bit of time and practice.
It will also take you a little time and practice, but by setting your goal, you’ll be making your first step to overcoming the fear of leaving your home.
Q: I used to have panic attacks about 2 years ago. I thought I’d got over them and they stopped, but they’ve come back worse than they were before. My life hasn’t really changed, so I can’t understand why they’ve started again. Why after 2 years have they suddenly come back into my life?
A: It might not be obvious, but there will be a reason why panic attacks have come back into your life. They wouldn’t be there if there wasn’t a form of high anxiety somewhere in your life.
Are you currently dealing with extra pressure and stress from somewhere – with work, or with family? It will be worthwhile sitting down and having a good think about where the extra stress might be coming from because that’s likely to be the cause of your high anxiety and panic. If you follow my DP Rule, it’s likely to come back to a fear related to other people.
If you’re really struggling, speak to friends and family, and get their opinion. If that’s not an option, speak to a professional, like a counsellor – a good counsellor is trained to help you get to the root cause of your fear. Once you’ve established what the cause is, you can do something about it and go to the next stage – facing the fear and dealing with it. When you’re able to do that, it will stop your panic attacks, and if you do it effectively, they won’t ever return.
Q: I’m getting tired of trying to fight my anxiety. It’s literally wearing me out. I’m exhausted and genuinely don’t know where to turn. I’m not sure how long I can keep up the fight. Nothing has worked so far. Am I doing something wrong?
A: High anxiety can be brutal at times, so the natural reaction is to fight against it. It’s actually the last thing you want to do because it’s a fight you’ll never win. How can we win a fight against something that’s perfectly natural, and part of who we are?
The only way you should be fighting anxiety is with a ‘get up and go’ attitude, rather than actually trying to fight it. You have to have plenty of spirit and energy to overcome high anxiety, and this sort of attitude will help you. It will start to become counterproductive when you think you have to fight the natural feelings that come with anxiety.
Instead, you have to let the feelings that come with anxiety exist, accept them, and STOP fighting them. If you try and fight them it won’t work – you’ll just keep getting frustrated. Let them pass through you, because eventually they’ll go. When you reduce your high anxiety by achieving balance, it won’t affect you like it does now.
Q: I’ve suffered with anxiety for about 5 years now and some days I don’t feel like I’m in my own body. It feels like my mind is detached from my body, like an out of body experience. It happens to me a lot when I’m around other people. I put it down to my social anxiety, but it keeps getting more extreme. It’s really scaring me and I’ve not left my house for over a month because of it. I’ve done a bit of research on depersonalisation and the symptoms match my experience. Have you had experience with depersonalisation and does it sound similar?
A: I completely understand what you’re going through, and yes, I’ve personally experienced depersonalisation. I had varying spells of it throughout my anxiety, with a particularly bad episode when I was away from home in a hotel. Like you, I found it affected me the most in a social environment, which is very common.
I know it’s one of the most frightening symptoms of anxiety you can experience, but the key thing to remember about depersonalisation is that it’s nothing to be afraid of, and it’s not going to do you any harm. It’s just your body’s defence mechanism for dealing with things you find distressing (in your case, being around people). Your brain uses the option of shutting down to protect you, which is why it feels like your mind is detached from your body. The reality is, it’s not detached – it’s just your brain doing its best to protect you.
Like all the other anxiety related symptoms, depersonalisation stopped when my anxiety was reduced and balanced. My brain stopped thinking it needed to protect me, so over the weeks and months of my revival, depersonalisation became a distant memory. The same thing will happen to you.
I lived with social anxiety (social phobia) for most of the 15 years I had anxiety and depression. It was one of the most debilitating and horrible anxiety disorders I went through. Socialising was a dirty word and people intimidated the hell out of me, which is why I avoided social opportunities like the plague! Weddings, parties, events (and all the other fun stuff) were completely non-existent. If I were invited I’d worry about it for days. By the time it came to the event it was too late - I was exhausted from the worry, and too ill to go.
When you overcome social anxiety like I did, your life will completely change. You’ll realise that people aren’t the source of intimidation and torture you thought they were. Together, you’ll make things happen, and your life will be much richer for it.
Here are the top five reasons why I had social anxiety, and why you do too.
1. You don’t have anything to say
Anxiety will keep you locked away and insulated in it’s tiny little world, and the more your comfort zone shrinks, the less likely it is you want to see other people. Small talk (or any talk) is impossible when you don’t have anything to talk about. If you don’t have anything to talk about, the last thing you want to do is talk to other people. That’s why it’s so important to get yourself out there and do things you enjoy, like hobbies and classes. They give you things to talk about with people that share your interests. They also boost your self-esteem, giving you the confidence to get involved, chat, and express what’s on your mind.
2. People intimidate you
Public speaking is consistently our number one fear, which means that other people frighten us. What other people think about us is everything, and we’ll do anything to get approval. If you don’t think this is accurate, try going to the supermarket in just your underwear! For me, I was particularly frightened about having a panic attack and embarrassing myself in front of others. The fear was so overwhelming I isolated myself. When I realised people were the source of so much happiness, joy, excitement, and comfort, I started to see them in a different light. They no longer intimidated me, and I could build relationships built on trust. When you’re able to see people in the same light, your relationship with them will change too.
3. You feel helpless
When you’re socially anxious you feel completely helpless. You look at everybody else chatting and having fun and believe that you’re the only person struggling. ‘Why can’t I strike up a conversation, but everybody else can?’ The reality is that’s far from the truth. Unless you’re a networking genius (and very few are), most other people are as intimidated as you are – they just hide it better or have practised socialising a little more than you. You’re not helpless; you’re just like most other people. All you need to do is practice socialising more and remember that it’s completely up to you how others make you feel. When I realised I possessed this power, I could either take something somebody said with a pinch of salt, or use his/her words to inspire me to take action.
4. You have low self-esteem
I didn’t think people would be interested in what I had to say, so I didn’t say anything. I was always the quiet one keeping my distance in case somebody asked me a question. ‘What me; you want to know what I think? Oh…well…I’m not sure…’ My cheeks go as red as ripe apples, and I stutter my words. Part of getting past this feeling of embarrassment is being confident in the knowledge that you have a lot of great things to say, and people do want to hear it. You are unique and special, and there will be things you know and say that others will find fascinating. When you break through the feeling of inadequacy there will be no stopping you.
5. You get comfort from staying at home
When a socialising opportunity was cancelled I got an immediate sense of relief, almost as though a massive weight had been lifted off my shoulders. This short-term relief kept me in the belief that I was doing the right thing by avoiding socialising completely. In reality, all it was doing was keeping me locked away and isolated, until I became too afraid to leave my house (I was agoraphobic for over 3 months). Breaking through the fear of social anxiety is absolutely worth it – believe me, it will change your life. Don’t be fooled by the short-term comfort you receive from using avoidance. Very soon, there won’t be anything left to avoid.
Q: I’ve worked for my company for about 3 years now, and a new manager has just taken over our team. He’s horrible and comes into the office every morning angry. As soon as I see him he puts me on edge and I worry that I’m not doing my work properly and that he’ll make a scene in the office. He’s belittled me in front of my colleagues on more than one occasion and doesn’t have any respect for me. He’s doubled my workload, which I’m struggling to cope with. I’m feeling anxious when I go home, and I worry about going to work the next day. My job is quite specialist so there's not a lot of other roles available. When other jobs do come up, they normally require me to relocate, which I can’t do because of my family. My anxiety and stress levels are really getting out of control, and I’m not sure what to do. Can you help?
A: If you work full-time you’ll be spending most of your time at work, and based on how your boss treats you, it’s unsurprising that he’s the cause of most of your anxiety and stress. You’re certainly not alone in this – unfortunately, there’s enough bad managers to go around the equator, twice. First and foremost, don’t take it personally. It’s highly likely that your boss acts the way he does because of his own anxiety and stress. That’s, of course, no excuse to treat you the way he does, but it helps if you can also see it from his perspective – that it’s nothing personal, and his way of dealing with it.
Like any fear (in your case, the fear of your boss), the first thing you need to do is confront it; otherwise it will continue to cause you excessive anxiety and stress that will affect both your home and work life. Ask to speak to your manager privately, and calmly and assertively tell him your concerns. Write them down and practice them, so you feel confident about what you’re going to say when you talk to him. Highlight why you’re unhappy about the way he talks to you, and how it makes you feel. Include the fact that you want to work to your full capability for him and the team, but don’t feel you’re able to do your best work under these circumstances. Don’t be afraid to be honest, and be specific. For example, when you mention that your workload is excessive, tell him why based on your previous work, and use facts to back up your case. With a strong enough fact-based case, a rational boss (good or bad) won’t have any other choice but to cut your workload, especially if they want to keep a good employee. Confrontation isn’t easy, I know, but it’s no harder than going home at night feeling anxious and stressed, dreading the prospect of going to work the next day.
The meeting is likely to go one of two ways:
1. Your boss will respect you for being brave enough to confront him, and he’ll start to show you the respect you deserve. In this instance, your working life will completely change. You’ll be given a fair workload, and the abuse will stop.
2. If your boss doesn’t change his attitude towards you, it shows his true character. He’s a guy you don’t want to work for, and he’ll never change. In this circumstance you have two options: you can either go above his head by speaking to his manager, or you will have to look for another job. I know the latter isn’t fair on you, but unfortunately, you have to accept that you get good and bad characters in the workplace – he’s one of the bad ones, so move on. Look for a new job sensibly, and research it well (so you don’t go from the frying pan into the fire). Be as professional as you can be whilst you’re still working for him.
Whatever happens, remember, you’re the bigger person. It’s up to you whether or not his words and actions cause you stress and anxiety, or whether you decide to take them with a pinch of salt. You’re in control, and there’s nothing you can’t deal with or change.
FoMo (Fear of missing out) has been a hot topic recently. Studies have shown that Social Media is causing us more and more anxiety, and although it’s teens that are being hit the hardest, it’s affecting us all.
It’s unsurprising. Nowadays, if you avoid social media, you’re likely to be an outcast. Where will the invite to the party come from if I’m not on Facebook? How will I keep up with what the celebrities are saying if I’m not on Twitter?
The constant fear and stress of having to check our messages is causing us anxiety, and if we’re not keeping an eye on what’s happening, even for a few minutes, we’re potentially missing out. (Hence the term FoMo.) Social Media has picked up on this, which is why we’re bombarded with tons of email reminding us of birthdays, events, and status updates on why Sarah is feeling so sad today – all sent to make us feel like we’re missing out on something.
Whether or not you check your messages and tweets instantly, they will be there waiting for you when you finish work/school. Good friends will always be there, no matter your status or social media activity. Don’t allow social media to take your eyes off the prize – living life. Otherwise, it will be living that you’re actually missing out on.
Let’s have a look at two of the main causes of FoMo – Facebook & Twitter.
The Facebook Like
For me, the saddest thing about the Facebook Like is that people are actually doing things in life just to get a like on Facebook. What happened to the enjoyment of doing something without it having to be plastered over Facebook? It’s nice to share experiences with friends and family (and other people in your list of friends you’ve never met), but when you’re obsessed with putting a picture on Facebook rather than enjoying the moment, there’s an issue. It comes back to our need to seek approval from others. We’re anxious about what other people think about us, so we want everybody to know how great our lives are. For most people, this is far from the truth (no matter how great your life looks on Facebook). If we focused more on enjoying the moment rather than pleasing others, I’m sure we would lead happier lives.
Tweeting & Retweeting
I was surprised to hear there’s etiquette when it comes to retweeting. I’m not entirely sure what happens if you break these Twitter laws – maybe the Social Media Police come to arrest you? I jest, but that’s because social media is meant to be fun, and a means of communicating and connecting with others. The pressure we’re putting on ourselves is not only causing us excessive anxiety – it’s taking the fun and enjoyment away from the experience. See Twitter for what it really is – a great tool for connecting. Some people will like your Tweets, others won’t. Some might read them, plenty won’t. Twitter will be much more fun and less anxiety-inducing when you accept this reality.
ABOUT CARL VERNON
Carl Vernon is a best-selling author & speaker, talking and writing about all things anxiety, stress & well-being.