What does peace of mind mean to you?
Maybe it’s something you haven’t thought about that much.
To be fair, why would you? It’s not top of our priority lists. We don’t drop our spoons while eating breakfast and suddenly think; I need to up my peace of mind!
I don’t remember it being taught at school – and getting more peace of mind isn’t something that fits into conversation with your mates.
But getting more peace of mind is your key to so many benefits. A lot less anxiety and stress. Enjoying the moment rather than dreading the future. Being able to relax without panic setting in. Feeling less angry and resentful. These are just a few of the benefits peace of mind will give you.
In other words, it’s well worth taking a second to think about how you can get more of it.
What is Peace of Mind?
Going back to my original question, ‘what does peace of mind mean to you?’, I can tell you what it means to me. Peace of mind is not being controlled by anxiety, worry and stress – and not letting these things destroy my life like they used to. It’s being able to enjoy doing things in life (even the basic things) without dreading doing them. At the very basic level, it’s being able to sit and close my mind off to all the BS life throws at us. It’s being able to feel the anger, hate and resentment that builds up in us all at times, but also being able to stop these emotions from destroying my day, week and year.
You might have a different answer. Everyone is different.
But we can all benefit from feeling better. I’m sure we can all agree with that. We can all benefit from less anxiety and stress, and more balance, control and joy.
Although peace of mind isn’t something you get overnight, it is something you can work towards getting more of. And you can start today.
The best time to plant a tree was forty years ago. The second-best time is today.
The reason I say more peace of mind is because, for most of us, absolute peace of mind is pretty difficult to achieve. It’s reserved for the monks and the Buddhists. Most of us have got these things that get in the way of our peace of mind called jobs, money and relationships.
Assuming you’re not planning to ditch these things and take a trip to the Tibetan mountains to rekindle with your inner spirit, here are some other everyday practices you can start implementing to get more peace of mind – available to us all.
Living in the Now
Living in the now (in the present moment) is a skill not to be overlooked.
Our anxiety and stress are caused by worrying about the future (what might happen) and the past (what has already happened). When we learn to live more in the present moment, it cuts the worry about the future and the past and, in turn, breaks the cycle of anxiety and stress. At the very least, it interrupts the anxiety and stress, giving you the break you need to sort your thoughts out.
The best book I’ve read on living in the now is The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. It goes deep into what living in the now means and ways to achieve it. Because of its deep message, it is spiritual and heavy at times. But when you wade through the heavy stuff, the message is clear and profound.
To many, the message is life-changing.
Focus on What You Want
Your focus is everything. What you focus on you get more of.
If you’re dealing with high levels of anxiety and stress, it’s because you’re focusing on it. You might think not focusing on your problems and worry is easier said than done. I more than most hear that and know exactly what you mean.
But it is worth remembering that you have a choice. We always do.
By placing your focus on the things that you can control, rather than on the things that are only going to produce more worry, you’re choosing to at least try to change your state of mind. Your anxiety, stress and worry might not drop instantaneously, but given time, it will continue to fade as you continue to focus on the productive things in your life – the things you can control.
By focusing on these things, your strength and mental energy will grow, and you’ll be ready to start managing all those problems that were causing you all that hassle.
Do the Things You Enjoy
Talking about focus and balance, there is no better way to improve both of these things than by doing the things you enjoy.
It’s the most obvious suggestion from the bunch, but I mention it because we’re all guilty of not doing enough of the things we enjoy. The usual routine for most of us is getting up in the morning, going to work, getting stuck in traffic, scoffing our dinner, watching a bit of TV and going to bed. Where’s the balance?
If you’re dealing with too much of the negative monotonous stuff without balancing it out by doing the stuff you enjoy, you’ll topple over.
So here’s a quick question: What did you do last that you really enjoyed?
Do it again, and don’t stop doing it.
Ditch the Need for Revenge
Here’s a good one you might not have considered.
One of the quickest and easiest routes to more peace of mind is ditching the need to revenge.
We get so caught about he did this, and she did that, we forget about how it makes us feel.
Pride takes hold, and we end up doing things we regret.
Pride is bullshit. Pride will keep you trapped. Ditch it, and quick.
What did getting angry ever do for you? It might make you feel good to hit something or spit your venom for a bit, but what is the feeling of resentment doing for you? It’s normal to blow off a bit of steam, but it’s important that we learn to move on. The alternative is a constant pattern of bitterness that rots us from the inside out.
Content people don’t need to revenge.
Concentrate on being yourself. Don’t allow the actions and words of others to dictate how you want to act and feel. Go about your own business and run your own race.
If someone is acting in a way you don’t like, it doesn’t mean you have to act in the same way. Acting differently is exactly what you want. It’s what allows you to live in a different state of mind to the masses – a more peaceful state of mind.
You’ll always achieve the greatest peace of mind by being true to yourself – by being the good person that you are.
🎙️ Take a listen to the Podcast: Get More Peace of Mind.
(Don’t forget to subscribe and rate.)
I fully respect doctors and the work they do. There is no doubt those guys have a tough job.
Anxiety-related symptoms and disorders make their job ten times harder.
Because anxiety and stress can be related to pretty much any symptom. Headache. Neck ache. Sore throat. Fever. Fatigue. Sleeping problems. An itchy toe. You name it – it’s linked.
I was in and out of the doctor’s surgery.
I didn’t have a clue if I were coming or going – and I don’t think the doctor did either.
The constant need for reassurance was the overriding issue.
If you’re stuck in a cycle of anxiety (fear), it’s likely you’ll be visiting the doctor often. It’s also very likely you’ll be hitting the internet to see Dr Google for answers.
You might stay stuck in the cycle because you’re not finding the answers you’re looking for.
Because I know how deep the need for answers and constant reassurance goes, I want to give you some quick answers to typical anxiety-related symptoms and disorders that you won’t hear from the doctor.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Summed up, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is created because we feel out of control in at least one area of our lives. OCD is a way for us to try and get that control back – even if it means coming up with pointless routines that don’t mean anything. So if you hate your job, for example, and feel like there is nothing you can do about it, you might develop OCD as a way of coping with it. Getting back in control (or at least feel like you’re in control) will stop the need for compulsive behaviour.
In short, panic attacks are bullies that we create when we’re dealing with high anxiety. We become hypersensitive to all our bodily feelings, and when something is off kilter, even slightly, it can cause us to panic (have a panic attack). When you start managing high anxiety better by implementing all the proper lifestyle and mindset changes, panic attacks become a thing of the past.
At its very basic level, social anxiety is the need to avoid other people. When you’re highly anxious and stressed, one of the last things you feel like doing is going to make idle small talk with your mates. When we feel like crap, we prefer to do it in the comfort of our own homes. Longer-term issues with social anxiety arise because avoidance feels good (at first). As time goes by, social anxiety gets worse when we appreciate a reclusive lifestyle isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. When we get comfortable with the fact that EVERYONE deals with the same issues, including high anxiety and stress, we stop feeling so isolated. We also improve relationships with others – and in turn, drop the social anxiety.
Getting straight to the point, health anxiety is the fear of death. If you’re familiar with my DP Rule from Anxiety Rebalance, you’ll know that our two primary fears are Death and People. When you start dealing with these fears, health anxiety becomes much less of an issue.
Constant Worrying Thoughts
In a nutshell, constant worrying thoughts are brought about by the ‘what if’ type thoughts we produce when we’re anxious and stressed. ‘What if this. . . What if that. . .’. One thought leads to the next, and before you know it, a small problem has turned into a monster. Learning to control our thoughts will stop the monster from getting out of control.
Depression (Depressive Thoughts)
Very simplified, depression is a lack of energy and willpower. Being highly anxious and stressed zaps our energy. Energy gives you the get-up-and-go you need for the things you want (and need) to do in life – even the basic everyday things take energy. You can’t do anything without energy. When you’re ready to start working on upping your energy levels through various methods, like good diet and exercise, it helps combat the negative and depressive thoughts.
Planning on building a nest in the mountains?
How’s about hunting for small mammals?
Not very useful, everyday stuff. I get that. You’re happy with your cosy bed and prefer your meat when it’s not running away from you.
But there is much more we can learn from the amazing creature that is the eagle.
Eagles operate on another level when it comes to their way of thinking. If we can act on just one of these things, we can start elevating our own lives.
Here are six of the top lessons an eagle can teach us.
(Although I have nothing against pigeons, I’ve used them in my examples to demonstrate the opposite of what an eagle does. It’s got a lot to do with the fact that, if a pigeon crossed an eagle’s path, it wouldn’t be one of its best days.)
1. Eagles fly above the clouds
When there is a storm, birds take shelter in the trees. Eagles take flight and soar above the clouds to avoid the storm altogether. When the pigeons are squabbling, let them squabble. Use your soaring capabilities and fly above it to a place of quiet and tranquillity. The clouds will shelter you from the unnecessary and pointless noise below. The next time you find yourself getting involved, think like an eagle and soar above it.
2. Eagles are loyal
Eagles are monogamous and generally mate for life. Behind every strong man is the love of a good woman, and of course, vice versa. You’ll find pigeons interbreeding and not being too fussy about what back they jump on. In human terms, this means lots of one-night stands that lead to your private bits dropping off. Keep your bits intact and think like an eagle – stay loyal.
3. You don’t see eagles coming
If you’re familiar with the film Avatar, they call it ‘The Last Shadow’. If an eagle’s prey saw a shadow above them, it would be the last shadow they ever saw. Be cautious about putting all your cards on the table. Not everyone needs to know your next move. The element of surprise can be effective.
4. Eagles play the sole game
There is strength in numbers, and it’s said that a wolf’s pack is its true strength. But it’s also worth noting that pigeons flock together and congregate in groups. Eagles hunt and fly alone. Bruce Willis kicked a bunch of bad guys ass in Die Hard all by himself. Don’t be afraid to operate by yourself, just like Bruce and the eagle.
5. An eagle sees things
An eagle’s sight is about five times better than ours – we can’t compete with that. An eagle will see things well in advance of what a pigeon would. But a human operating with an eagle’s foresight might be able to predict the future quicker and therefore act before anyone else. Knowledge is potential power – it only becomes powerful when you take action. When you arm yourself with knowledge and act on it, you will be steps ahead. I bet if an eagle could read you’d see them in libraries all the time.
6. An eagles tears prevent infection
Men in particular need to pay attention to this one - due to the macho demeanour we like to portray and belief that crying equals weakness. Man, woman or beast, having the odd cry is normal and OK. Eagles are so aware of this fact that their tears prevent their eyes from becoming infected. Maybe if we all had a good cry every now and again (men included) and didn’t suppress our shit, we would be less susceptible to infection ourselves?
Be an eagle.
How is your relationship with food?
Over the years, my relationship with food has been an interesting one.
I love food. And what anyone says, food is love.
I regard eating out in a decent restaurant as one of life’s few pleasures.
Because of the above, I’ve never quite cracked the body that I would consider as being ‘toned and athletic’. The machine at my gym says I’m ‘solid’ and ‘borderline obese’. After swearing at it and giving it a swift kick, I come to agree with the fact that I could benefit from losing a few pounds.
But do you not think it’s also important to strike a balance somewhere?
You can sacrifice too much in life - to the point where sacrifice means absolute torture. The thought of not being able to eat out and living off leafy salad every day sends a shiver down my spine. I’d rather tuck into a spaghetti bolognese (a vegetarian one – I’ll come to this in a second) than a garden salad.
With this said, my relationship with food has got better.
A lot of this has to do with the fact that I had to make significant changes in my diet to resolve issues with my high anxiety.
I used to live off takeaways and fast food, and without me realising it, my diet had a profound effect on how I felt, including my levels of anxiety and stress.
It’s only since I’ve sorted my diet out I’ve come to discover that food, drink, and everything else we consume is one the biggest contributors to how we feel, including our mood and well-being.
I’m no nutritionist, health expert or health freak. I won’t pretend to be an expert when it comes to diet. I can only go on my personal experience and the knowledge I’ve picked up from others. Here, I’m sharing some of this knowledge about a few of our biggest consumptions, including the things that, when addressed, can change your life significantly.
My intention with this blog is simple: To get you thinking about what you’re putting in your mouth – because you are what you eat, drink and consume.
Just by changing a few habits, whether about food, drink, or anything else that goes between your lips, it can make a serious impact on your life.
Processed Food & Sugar
‘Fat-free’ advertising is massively misleading.
What do you think when you see ‘fat-free’? You think: That must be healthy, right?
The reason it’s so misleading is the sugar content. A product, like fat-free yoghurt, might well be fat-free, but it’s crammed full of sugar – which is just as bad for you!
When food is processed and refined, like white sugar, it goes through a process that takes it from being natural to very unnatural. That’s why all the white stuff, like white sugar, white bread and white rice are so bad for us. By the time they come out of the other end, they are transformed into something that we need to think twice about consuming.
Just look at it like this: What were our ancestors eating?
It depends how far you want to go back to answer this question.
If we go back about 10,000 years, we were eating plants, meat, eggs and fish – straight off the land. It’s only been in about the last 100 years (1910’s) that we’ve started eating processed foods. In other words, our bodies aren’t designed to deal with as much processed food as we tank into them.
Our bodies have naturally evolved to have more of a varied diet, but it wasn’t designed to healthily consume things like humanmade trans fat – the type of fat you find in cakes and biscuits that increase its shelf life – commonly linked with obesity, heart attacks, high cholesterol, diabetes and strokes.
If you’ve read the news recently, you’ll also see processed foods being linked to cancer.
And where did processed food come from?
Like most other things that are bad for us, it comes about from the need for profit – the need for companies to make money. Putting food through a series of processing makes producing large quantities of food cheaper and makes the company more profitable.
The solution and conclusion?
Eat as much raw, unprocessed and organic foods as you can.
My relationship with meat, like with food in general, has been mixed.
The longest time I spent not eating meat was about six months. I have to say; it felt pretty good – to the point I’m not entirely sure why I ate meat again.
At the time of writing this, I’ve been off meat again for about two months, and this time I plan to make it stick.
One of the biggest influences in my decision was when I watched the documentary What the Health. If you haven’t seen it, the documentary explores the meat industry and tells us why a vegan-based diet is best for us.
The documentary, like so many others within its genre, has come under fire for supporting weak data. I’m not really bothered about that. For me, the message was strong enough to support my existing concerns about the meat industry.
Whether you’re into animal welfare or not, meat is one of the biggest subjects we need to address when it comes to our diet and how we feel. Why? Just take a second to think about how much meat you consume (if you’re a meat-eater). It’s a ton of the stuff.
In today’s culture, a meal isn’t complete unless there is a bit of meat on the plate. For me, that meant I ate meat every day. Now you have an idea of volume, think about these other few things.
- You are eating what the animals eat.
- Do you know what is going into the meat to preserve it (both when the animal is alive and dead)?
- How many animals are being killed daily to feed you and the world’s population?
- The thing you see on the plate is very different to the living creature grazing happily on the field.
I’m not preaching here. I certainly don’t want to make you feel like eating meat is a bad thing, and you are a bad person for doing it. Based on the thirty plus years I ate meat, that would make me a hypocrite. I’m not the type of semi-vegetarian who will slap it in your face. If you love meat, I will cook it for you.
As I mentioned, this isn’t a blog about me telling you what you should and shouldn’t eat. I’m just letting you know that, based on the facts, I decided to stop eating meat. While this decision feels right, I’ll continue with it.
When you get more educated about meat (if you choose to), you’ll come up with your own conclusions. Whether you decide not to change a thing, stop eating it, cut it down or eat meat from sources you can trace, that decision is yours to make.
If you do want to know more, I recommend watching the documentary What the Health. That, I’m sure, will lead you to other documentaries and sources that will interest you.
DISPELLING A MEAT MYTH
One of the reasons I kept eating meat was the belief I would be physically weaker if I didn’t eat it. That is rubbish. Some of the most powerful animals in nature, including gorillas and elephants, are vegetarian. And if that doesn’t convince you, go to YouTube and type ‘Vegan Bodybuilder’.
And in regards to energy – one of the most energy-zapping things we do is digesting food. Red meats, in particular, are very hard to digest and take up a lot of our energy. How do you feel after you’ve eaten a big steak dinner compared to a light salad? You need energy to cope with anxiety and stress, so it’s worthwhile having a good think about your diet and how it might be making you feel. Is what you’re eating slowing you down and zapping your energy, or is it boosting it?
*PARTY POOPER ALERT!
If you don’t wish to be party-poopered (if there is such a term), end your read. Thank you for coming this far – see you in the next blog. If you don’t mind a little more lecturing, read on . . .
At the height of my high anxiety, I would happily consume a bottle of wine every evening. One glass would quickly (and way too easily) lead to the fourth.
It was an incredibly short-term solution to a long-term issue – which was only being fuelled more by the consumption of copious alcohol.
Yes – alcohol helped me relax and took my cares away for a few wee hours.
But no – alcohol didn’t help me sleep, and I felt like absolute shit the next day. I’d wake up most mornings feeling like a zombie with anxiety hitting me instantly.
Alcohol (ethanol) is poison – quite literally – hence the term: Alcohol Poisoning.
When you drink alcohol, you are poisoning your body.
This very true fact hasn’t stopped me from drinking the stuff. And why should it? The stuff is legal and easily obtainable.
I still enjoy a glass of red - but with one big difference – I do it in moderation.
And like most things in life, when you do it in moderation using your common sense, it should be absolutely fine.
Small steps lead onto big things.
And it’s true - you don’t need to jump in with both feet to get the result you want.
This said I’ve not always operated in this way.
We’ve all heard the stories of the Dad who throws his kid (the kid who can’t swim) straight into the deep end. The kid either swims or sinks.
This method makes the Dad an arsehole, but it also makes the kid a very fast learner.
I got to a stage in my life where I got tired of allowing anxiety, fear, or whatever you want to call it, a dominant force in my life.
Maybe you’re at this stage yourself right now?
Small steps towards change were no doubt helping me move towards where I wanted to be. But it was the big jolters – the throwing myself in the deep end when I couldn’t swim – that really did the trick.
When I had a lifelong fear of heights, I got in a small plane, flew 8000 feet and piloted it. When I was agoraphobic, I got on a plane and flew 5000 miles to Vegas. When I was a private person apprehensive about sharing my experience, I wrote a book and shared it with the world.
In these experiences, was I crapping my panties? Of course I was. Did they work out perfectly? Nope. Was every part of me telling me to turn back, with my thoughts convincing me that I didn’t have to do them? Yep.
These things weren’t life or death, so you could say I didn’t have to do them.
But I told myself that I had to.
I had to because I knew I had a choice.
Behind Door #1: Keep allowing anxiety (fear) to dictate my life and continue complaining about how bad my life is and how nothing changes.
Behind Door #2: Crap my pants, but do it anyway. Expand the comfort zone I’d got myself trapped in, and grow beyond the fear.
YOU HAVE THE SAME CHOICE
Nothing will be as bad as the fear you produce within yourself.
Most of this fear is an illusion.
In other words, those ‘what if’ thoughts that you produce are as bad as it will ever get.
Think of the times you were scared to do something, but you did it anyway. Maybe you were forced to do it because you had to? Was it unpleasant? If it meant you were growing, it’s likely it was.
Compare this to a time when you were scared to do something and avoided it. Maybe you’re still avoiding it? Where has it got you? Usually, it’s an emergency trip to the dentist in agony with an abscess that could have been avoided months ago (at a lot less cost).
Choosing door #2 will allow you to look at your fear(s) differently, whatever they may be.
- The bully boss will think twice about bullying you.
- Indecision and lack of direction won’t plague you.
- The pigeon who thinks they can take advantage of you will get a sharp lesson in dealing with an eagle.
And these are just a few everyday examples of the benefits of dealing with fear head-on, rather than using avoidance to hide. Think of the possibilities.
We all have the capability to face our fear and push through it.
So let me ask you this question: What are you afraid of?
By all means, keep taking those small steps towards where you want to be.
But if you want quicker results, and you’re scared of the sea, go and swim with the sharks.
If you don’t buy the happy-clappy BS that typically comes with positive thinking and being more positive, I don’t blame you.
I've never been one for jumping high-fives, affirmations, and all the other stereotypes when it comes to positive thinking and being more positive.
(Give me a break.)
But (and there is a big BUT) while we're trying to lower our anxiety, we have to make an effort to become more positive with our thinking and attitude – whether or not we believe thinking more positively is a pile of bollocks.
When you’re feeling anxious, it doesn’t take negative thoughts much effort to take over, right?
One negative thought leads to the next, and before you know it, you hate the world and every mo fo who lives on it.
Life is shit, everything is shit, and nothing will ever change.
I get it.
But if we don’t try and counteract these shitty negative thoughts with better ones, you’ll stay trapped in a cycle that takes you deeper into an anxious and a stress-filled hole.
Assuming you don’t want to stay in this hole, you gotta start thinking different.
Because I don’t buy into the whole positive thinking stuff myself, I prefer to think of it as being more optimistic.
Be More Optimistic
When you're anxious, your glass of milk is always half empty. (Actually, it's more like completely empty!)
We always believe the worst and expect the worst to happen.
This attitude is not only fuelling our misery and anxiety, but it's also attracting some serious negative energy into our lives.
Anxiety will have you believing all sorts.
Most of it is rubbish, and you'll know to dismiss it. Most anxiety-induced negative thoughts shouldn't concern you.
The thought that we're going to focus on here is the one that relates to us believing that our lives will never change. The one that convinces us that we're destined to live an anxiety-ridden life and nothing will ever change.
It goes a little like this:
'My life will never change. This f'ing anxiety just won't budge. I had an alright day yesterday. I don't understand why today is so bad again. My life is a f*ing mess. Nothing will ever change.'
(Or something similar to that.)
You're going to have good and challenging days.
The challenging days will become fewer and far between when we stop allowing anxiety to trick us into believing that our lives will never change. These statements and ways of thinking only serve to fuel the negativity and anxiety further.
It's time for some more optimism.
Emotions are Temporary
You have every right to be more optimistic.
I mean, you're one of the few that have been clever enough to come across my blog – that puts you close to genius!
I'm not naive to believe that the challenging days aren't the most difficult. Everyone has challenging days, including me. But they affect me a lot less than previous because I remember one vital piece of information.
A bad day is just that - one bad day.
Tomorrow is a new day.
We've all had those days when we've felt like we could kick a wall down in anger. Or when we've been in a spiral of anxiety that doesn't seem to end. But it did end - didn't it? It always does.
That's because our emotions are temporary, including feeling anxious and stressed.
That piece of information alone should be enough to get you on the path of more optimism.
Do you remember a time when you felt terrible, but felt completely different the next day?
Maybe you felt different because something positive happened, or you decided that feeling like crap just wasn't worth it.
Sometimes changing how we feel requires time, but the better you get at remembering all emotions are temporary, the quicker you can change your state of mind - including having more optimism and less anxiety.
The next time anxiety starts to bite, remember that it is temporary.
The next time you have a challenging day, remember that is also temporary.
The same goes for any situation or period of time.
It's as temporary as you make it.
It’s true what they say – life does begin at the end of your comfort zone.
The more you suffer from high anxiety, the more it will take a chunk out of your comfort zone.
Anxiety will chip away at your confidence, and every day your comfort zone will get smaller and smaller until your confidence is completely gone.
THIS IS A BIG DEAL. Why? Because the smaller your comfort zone is, the more anxiety will take over your life and the harder you’ll find it to cope.
To get back in control and stop the high anxiety from taking over, we have to stop our comfort zone from shrinking by doing the opposite and expanding it.
What is a comfort zone?
We all live within a comfort zone that we've created. Everyone's comfort zone is different.
To some people, jumping out of a plane is 'normal' - so it's within their comfort zone. To others, just the thought of doing it is enough to create panic.
Our comfort zones are the reason some of us feel anxious in certain situations and places, and why some of us don't have a care in the world.
Let's use the supermarket as a common example.
To most people, going to the supermarket is an everyday, common scenario. But if you've had a panic attack in a supermarket, or become highly anxious while you've been there, that will induce fear - so you’ll avoid going.
The fear will make you believe that a supermarket is a threat to your survival, and you'll keep avoiding it.
The more you avoid going to the supermarket, the less likely it will be that you will ever want to go again.
Your comfort zone is shrinking every time you make a decision not to go.
You'll get comfortable using avoidance as a short-term solution to your high anxiety, and so you'll avoid more things (which will continue to shrink your comfort zone further).
After a period of time, your comfort zone might get so small that you don't want to leave your house - or bedroom. Your house or bedroom becomes your 'safe place', and everything outside of it is perceived as a threat to your survival.
Now, do you see how quickly your anxiety-based comfort zone can shrink, and how quickly it can become an issue?
It starts with something like the supermarket, but before you know it, the fear has spread through your life like wildfire until you can’t leave your house and do normal everyday things.
If this sounds familiar, don’t worry - there is good news!
The good news about this shrinking comfort zone is it can be expanded again.
By using time, practice and small steps, you can stop your comfort zone from shrinking, and with a bit of confidence, you can grow your comfort zone – to the point where you might even get comfortable doing the things you've never done before. (Before high anxiety became an issue.)
You might get so good at expanding your comfort zone that you're able to do things you've never done before.
Maybe that skydive is closer than you think? :)
How to expand your comfort zone
Let's start with a simple question: What have you been avoiding?
Is it the supermarket?
Is it a conversation with someone?
Is it leaving your house?
Is it your boss?
Is it paying a bill?
Whatever 'it' is, facing it holds the key to you expanding your comfort zone.
The more we use avoidance, the more the situation gets out of control. Very much like when we internalise our feelings by bottling things inside and not communicating what's on our minds - they end up becoming bigger than they are.
When we take action by making small steps, we expand our comfort zone.
The bigger our comfort zone, the more capable we are of dealing with the challenges that life will inevitably throw at us - including high anxiety.
Step into a new comfort zone
Over the next 5-7 days, we're going to expand your comfort zone a little more every day by doing these three simple things.
1. Take what it is you've been avoiding.
2. Come up with the next small step that you can take towards getting it done.
3. Take that small step, and once you accomplish it, move onto the next small step.
Keep making steps until your comfort zone has expanded to where it is you want it to be. (You'll know when your comfort zone has expanded because you won't feel as anxious about doing the thing you were avoiding.)
Your comfort zone will naturally expand as you continue to take the small steps towards achieving it.
Each goal will have a different timescale dependent on how big your comfort zone needs to expand. For example, if your goal is to go abroad and you're currently struggling to leave your home, this won't be an overnight process. But as long as you keep making those small steps to make it happen, it WILL happen.
It's just a matter of time.
The more you expose yourself to whatever it is you've been avoiding, the quicker you'll overcome it. For example, if you want to overcome a fear of driving on a motorway, you have to keep exposing yourself to the motorway as often as you can - even if you don't need to go on the motorway.
Think of it like this.
How much quicker will you learn to play the guitar if you dedicated three hours every day to it, compared to just one hour a week?
The same principle applies to anything you want to get better at - including overcoming high anxiety. The more you expose yourself to it and, the more you practice it, the better you'll get and the quicker it will happen.
At first, you might need support, so don't be afraid to ask for help (if that is an option).
Just be aware not to become dependent on the person(s) offering you help. That will defeat the object, and your comfort zone won't grow unless you have a level of independence.
If you've been avoiding a place, like a supermarket, while you're expanding your comfort zone, take your headphones with you. Listening to music or an audiobook will help.
How did 2017 treat you?
How were your levels of anxiety? Did the year have lots of ups and downs? Of course it did – because that’s normal.
Good days. Crappy days. Happy days. Anxious days. It’s all par for the course.
The trick lies in getting the balance right – even better when you can tip the balance in your favour. How? is the question.
Here are seven suggestions to help you get 2018 off to the right start and manage your levels of anxiety.
1. Expand your comfort zone
When I look back at the year, I asked myself the question: Did my comfort zone increase or shrink? The honest answer is it stayed about the same. I did some things that expanded my comfort zone and other things I’ve always done – including procrastinating on a few things that I knew I needed to work on but tried to avoid. A life with healthy levels of anxiety is a life that grows – and that includes a growing comfort zone. The more your comfort zone shrinks, the more you’re allowing anxiety to dictate what you’re doing. Make 2018 the year you continue to expand your comfort zone.
2. Try something new (and different)
Talking of expanding comfort zones, I’m going to set you a challenge for 2018. I’ve even got a good name for the challenge: The Expand Your Comfort Zone To Increase Your Healthy Levels of Anxiety and Decrease Your Bad Anxiety challenge. (I tried to think of a more obvious name but couldn’t come up with one.) The way to win this challenge is simple. Do one thing that you wouldn’t normally do - something that takes you out of your comfort zone - something different. Take the class you wanted to go to but haven’t got around to booking. Ask her out on a date. Change your career and tell your boss to do one. (OK, so that’s maybe a step too far?) Do something new and different, and 2018 will be a better year than you think.
3. Worry a lot less about what people think
This is a subject I’ll be talking a lot about in 2018. Why? Because of how much it’s linked to our levels of anxiety. Social media. The way we look. What we say. The fear of people and what they think is way up there when it comes to causing high anxiety. When you sort your self-confidence out and worry a lot less about what other people think, you feel a hell of a lot better – including a lot less anxious. What other people think is none of your business. Focus on yourself. Concentrate on you and what you can control. Watch this space for lots more advice and info.
4. Laugh more
When I think about the times I was most anxious in 2017 it was when things felt serious. There are things in life that are no joke, like the a-holes who continue to do their best to bring you down. But being Mr or Mrs Serious won’t make things better. When you feel things getting on top of you in 2018, lighten the mood. Put on your favourite comedy, and have a laugh. Make 2018 the year you laugh more.
5. Get out and about
Your brain likes routine, and having a routine is good for reducing anxiety. But Groundhog Day, including being stuck in the house, is a guaranteed way to induce anxiety. Get out the house. Stop looking at the same four walls. Take a break. Get in the car and drive somewhere you’ve never been. Take a walk and get some fresh air. Book a weekend away. Do something spontaneous – something that will help you break the monotonous pattern.
6. Stop doing things you hate
We all need to do things we don’t like doing. Life is far from perfect. But life is also short. Don’t believe anything other. It is way too short to continue doing the things you hate with a passion. When you look back at 2017, what causes a bad taste in your mouth? Change it. It might not change overnight, but just identifying that you want to change and taking action to change it means you’re already steps ahead of where you were last year. Just keep making those small steps and keep taking action. Change will be inevitable.
7. Be more grateful
Think about the times you were angry, resentful, and jealous in 2017. What did these emotions do for you? Make you feel good? Make you feel less anxious? Nah. Don’t get me wrong – it’s normal to feel these things every now and again. But let these emotions take you over, and it’s game over. You can guarantee that bags of relentless anxiety come with them all. For 2018, focus on being more grateful. You can’t be anxious and grateful at the same time. A little bit of gratitude a day goes a long way.
I would have also included eating better and exercising more, but you’ve already seen this advice a thousand times already. You’ve likely got the exercise DVDs scattered over the living room floor already. But this advice is for a good reason. Just by making a small improvement in your diet and doing more exercise can massively lower your anxiety. They’re on my action list for 2018.
I know from experience that getting your sleep right is one of the hardest things to sort out when you’re dealing with high anxiety and stress.
My head used to hit the pillow, and no matter how tired I was, I just couldn’t sleep.
Non-stop thoughts would bounce around in my head, one after the other, with no let-up. It was almost as though my brain thought I was missing out on something!
Getting more sleep is vital when it comes to dealing with high anxiety. Without sleep, you don’t have energy, and you need all the energy you can get. When you wake up feeling exhausted and tired, the rest of the day follows in the same way.
Getting into a good pattern of sleep takes time, but there are things you can do that will help you get back on track and make a big difference. By putting these ideas into practice, your routine and pattern will get better instantly.
1. Have a notepad next to your bed
When we allow a thought to bounce around in our head, it will keep us awake. Lots of other thoughts will spiral off it, and the chance of sleeping through it is limited. Get your thoughts out of your head and write them down on a notepad next to your bed. That way you're getting the thought out of your head and you're reassuring your brain that you've got control and there is no need to worry.
2. Get organised for the next day
We get stressed and anxious when we feel out of control - which is a major cause of lack of sleep. Another way to stay organised and feel in control is to plan for the next day. If you have a good idea what you're going to do the next day, you'll feel calmer and more relaxed before your head hits the pillow. The 'what if' type thoughts won't spiral out of control because you've got a plan.
3. Get rid of artificial lighting
The reason we go to bed at night has a lot to do with the fact that it's dark. Sunlight sends a message to our brain to say we should be awake and active, whereas being in the dark tells us it's time for sleep. When you go to bed, get rid of all distractions, including anything that produces artificial light. That includes your phone, TV, tablets, and anything else that is shining a light at you. Make sure the room is nice and dark, and your brain will get the right message.
4. Don't drink (or eat) caffeine
This sounds like such an obvious one that it's not worth mentioning, but it is - simply down to the fact that we don't know that certain drinks and foods contain bags of caffeine. It's not just drinking coffee that will keep you up. That nice relaxing cup of tea before bed also has lots of caffeine. And it doesn't stop there. Did you know that chocolate and ice cream also contain caffeine? How about that cup of green tea? That's right - even some of the herbal teas need checking out for caffeine. If you're not sure, always read the label or do a bit of research before having a gorge. You might be inadvertently stimulating yourself before you go to bed. (It's also worth noting that smoking and drinking alcohol before you go to bed will stimulate you.)
5. Get into a pattern and routine
I know it sounds boring, but your brain likes routine. When you get rid of the unknown, there isn't anything to get anxious about - and routine will do that for you. If you train your brain that a certain time of night means sleepy time, you'll naturally begin to wind down at that time. Like any new routine, at first, it will be hard to stick to. But with time and practice, your sleeping pattern will continue to improve. You can become less rigid about your routine when you see your sleep get better.
It's important you stay patient and don't allow the initial frustration to win over. Don't get frustrated with your sleep. It takes time to get it right – but what you're doing right now will be worth it.
The next time you get a worrying or anxious thought I want you to remember D.A.D.
‘What’s DAD got to do with anything?’, I hear you say.
Remember D.A.D is a simple but highly effective technique I’ve created to help you take control and deal with all your thoughts (anxious or not).
When you appreciate that it’s you creating all your thoughts, you can take more control of them. When you take control, you’ll deal with your anxiety and stress instantly.
Because we have about 60,000 thoughts a day, you can’t control all of them – that’s impossible. But you can manage them better, and remembering D.A.D will help.
Here’s how to use the D.A.D technique.
When you have the next worrying or anxious thought stop everything that you are doing.
Sit down (if you're not sitting already), and question that worrying thought immediately.
Don't allow it to spiral out of control, and don't dwell on it.
Don't try to understand it and think deeply about what it means.
Don’t allow the usual ‘what if’ type thoughts to spiral out of control.
Simply comprehend that you’ve had the thought and take control by picking one of the three D.A.D options to manage it.
Stats tell us that most of the thoughts we have are useless, which means you should be ditching most of them. If you decide that the thought is no good for you, and its only purpose is to cause you more worry and anxiety, decide to ditch it. Let it go. Give it a gentle nudge and tell it to move on. You have the power to do that - because you're in control.
If you decide that your thought requires immediate action, don't leave the spot until you take action. Anxiety and stress are caused by feeling out of control, and taking instant action puts you in control. That action doesn't need to fix whatever it is that induced the thought - it can be something small - like making a call, sending an email or having a chat with someone. By taking action, even if it's just a small step, you're putting yourself back in control.
If it is something that can wait, write it down and go back to it. I find the easiest way to do this is using Evernote (a free app that keeps you organised). Get the thought out of your head and put it onto paper (or text) and on to your to-do list. This will release the thought and stop it from bouncing around in your head. If you have an online calendar, like Google Calendar, you can set an alarm so you can go back to it. That way you're not ignoring it or pretending that it doesn't exist (like the bill you don't want to pay). Instead, you're dealing with it at a time that is better for you.
When you manage all your thoughts (worrying or otherwise) using these three options, you'll find you manage your anxiety and stress much more effectively.
Make remembering D.A.D a habit, and with time and practice, it will stick.
The best way to connect with Carl and join the discussion is on his Facebook page