Suicide is one of the leading causes of death among young people being bullied.
But it’s not just young people being affected by bullying. Bullying takes shape in all areas of life, and it’s just as likely to affect adults at work or home, as it is at school, university or college.
When we think of bullying, we also tend to think of being physically abused. But most of today’s bullies exist in the mind. These types of bullies and trolls are the emotional manipulators and mental abusers who use intimidation through their words and mind games.
It doesn’t matter who you are - we’ve all fallen victim to a bully. I have no shame in including myself in this. I’ve experienced bullying in many different forms throughout my life. There are lots of unhappy and toxic people out there, so bullying will always be part of life.
With the power of social media, bullying is now just a click away, and unless you go and live a solitary life somewhere in the hills, there’s no getting away from it. That’s why rather than try to pretend bullies don’t exist we need the mental armour to deal with them.
Here are five ways to do it.
1. Don’t play a bullies game
To most bullies and toxic people, bullying is a game to them. The specific aim of a bully is to get a reaction from you, usually by frightening and intimidating you. The simplest way to stop this from happening is to not play their game. Starve them of the one thing fuelling their behaviour: your attention. When there is no fuel to stoke the fire, it will burn out. Bullies operate on a low conscious level; so don’t try to understand why they do what they do. Just move on because you are the smarter and more conscious human being.
2. Know your inner strength
When we get bullied, we go into child mode, and that puts us in a vulnerable state of mind. It makes us feel anxious and stressed, and like we have no power. This is bullsh*t, and part of the lies the bullies will have us believe. You have more inner strength than you know. That doesn’t mean you have to go out and learn karate (unless you want to). Inner strength is exactly that – the mental capacity to make a decision and take responsibility for it. If you decide something isn’t going to happen anymore, it’s up to you to follow up on that decision and take action. A strong mental decision starts by knowing you can handle anything that comes your way.
3. Set your personal boundaries
If you’re a good person, people will come along and try to take advantage of that. That’s just life. There are lots of toxic people out there who are waiting to pounce on what they believe to be suckers. Setting personal boundaries could be something as simple as saying ‘no’. I don’t buy that, so ‘no’. Everybody has this power, including you. It might take a little time and practice, but keep at it, and you’ll find saying ‘no’ becomes much easier.
4. Don’t try to control somebody else and their actions
You’ll never be able to completely control somebody else and their actions, so don’t try. It’s only going to cause you stress and anxiety. The only thing you can control is you and your actions, so focus on that. If somebody chooses to bully you, focus on what you can do about it, rather than trying to control and predict the bully. There is much more power in that.
5. Always know you have a choice
If there is one thing I want you to take away from this, it’s this: a bully doesn’t exist unless you allow it to exist. In other words, it’s your fear that is the real bully, and that means you have a choice. It might not feel like it, but it’s true, and sometimes it takes a little time for you to appreciate this fact. Nobody said dealing with a bully would be easy, but you deserve more. Make the right choice, because you do have a choice.
We get stressed and anxious when we feel out of control.
The more we try to control the things we can’t, the more anxiety and stress it causes us.
The fact is:
- People will do things you don’t expect.
- It will start raining when the weather forecast said sunshine all day. (Especially if you live in the UK!)
- That thing you were sure would happen, won’t always come off.
However, there are things we can control, and these are the things we should focus our time and effort on.
By focusing your time and effort on the things you can influence and shape, you’ll be much more productive, and more importantly, happier and less stressed.
Here are three things you can start controlling better today to reduce your anxiety and stress.
1. Control your thoughts
We have around 60,000 thoughts a day, so trying to control them all is an impossible task. What we can do, though, is decide which ones to act on and which ones to ditch. Before you act on a thought, ask yourself what it’s doing for you. Is it keeping you locked in an anxious and stressed state of mind? Is it pushing you forward and helping you achieve your goals? Act on the thoughts that are doing you a favour, and ditch the ones that are holding you back.
2. Control when to let go
Life is a balancing act of knowing when to hold on and let go. Anxiety and stress are usually caused when we hold onto something no good for us. To lessen this anxiety and stress we need to learn to let go. What are you holding on to that is no good for you? What is causing you anxiety and stress? It’s time to let go. Release your grip and take those white knuckles off the handlebars. Enjoy the ride of uncertainty, and embrace the change.
3. Control your expectations
If you’re dealing with high anxiety, you’ll naturally want to control things more. It’s your minds way of trying to deal with the extra stress - the last thing it wants is to deal with something unexpected – because that will cause more stress and anxiety. But the fact remains that things aren’t always going to go the way you expect them to, and if you want things to be perfect all the time, you’re heading for a fall. Expect your journey to have some potholes and bumps along the way – a road worth going down will always pose more challenges. When you expect and plan for things to go wrong, problems won’t jump out and scare the life out of you.
If you’re familiar with my Rebalance Scale from Anxiety Rebalance, you’ll know that low energy sits below BALANCE.
Low energy represents depression (or low mood), just like panic (on the other end of the scale) represents high anxiety.
When we get low and depressed, we get ourselves into a cycle of behaviour. It starts by not wanting to get out of bed in the morning, and the rest of the day follows in the same way.
Very quickly, we find ourselves having no energy or motivation for anything. We stop going out and seeing people, we don’t eat enough or eat too much, our sleep pattern is all over the place - the days drag on, and the cycle continues.
The more the cycle continues, the less energy we have. And that’s an issue, because what can you do without energy? That’s right – NOTHING! You’re definitely not putting yourself into a state that will help you deal with anxiety and stress.
You need to keep your energy levels up, and here are the three most important areas you need to concentrate on to do it.
Without food, there is no energy. Even if you don’t feel like it, you have to eat. If just the thought of food turns your stomach, get your energy levels up by drinking a protein shake. They can be the quick solution you’re looking for - before you’re ready to start eating well again. Foods heavy in carbohydrates (like pasta and white bread) weigh on you and burn energy quickly, and that can make you feel sluggish. Stick to foods that burn energy slower, like nuts, oats, sweet potato and brown rice. It’s also important you stay hydrated by drinking lots of water. Always have a glass or bottle handy.
If you’re not sleeping enough or sleeping too much, your energy levels are seriously being affected. I wouldn’t have been able to change my life if I hadn’t got my sleeping patterns right. Try short-term fixes, like drinking a warm glass of milk before you go to bed. Milk contains magnesium, and magnesium has a natural calming effect on you. Do this while looking at the longer-term fixes, like sticking to and getting into a better pattern and routine. Sorting your sleep out won’t happen overnight, but if you start doing the right things today, you can guarantee things will improve with time.
You’ve heard about the benefits of exercise before – but for a good reason. Exercise is your direct route to less stress and anxiety. When we use our bodies less and less, we go into slow mode. Our brain tells our body that it doesn’t need to work as hard, so you don’t. This is how you can quickly become lazy, and get stuck in an unhealthy routine. Even if your job means sitting at a computer all day, you have to stay active. Put exercise in your routine as much as you can, and the more you do it, the more addicted you’ll get. (Exercise is proven to become addictive, so very soon, you’ll start missing it!)
We have about 60,000 thoughts a day.
If you put high anxiety into the mix, you could probably add another 10,000 to that tally.
It’s impossible to try and control all these thoughts, but it is possible to manage them better.
Here are five powerful ways to help you deal with negative and OCD-related thoughts.
1. Recognise the useless thoughts
If you look at most of the thoughts you have on a daily basis, a high percentage of them will be useless and negative. What thoughts are keeping you trapped? Which thoughts are limiting you and stopping you from living your life? These are the ones you need to let go of, and not dwell on or hang on to. The more power you give these thoughts, the more your life will be dominated by negativity.
2. Don’t fight your thoughts
It’s a little like trying to fight with anxiety – pointless. You can’t win a fight against something that is well and truly implanted in you. Rather than fight the thoughts that are no go for you, accept them, no matter how bizarre they might be. Don’t sit there saying I’m fine I’m fine I’m fine if you’re not. Accept that you’re not having a good day. The acceptance will give you immediate comfort.
3. Rationalise and challenge your thoughts
If you don’t do an OCD related task or routine, will there be a consequence? If you’re convinced there will be, what is your reasoning based on? Can you predict the future? It’s time to start dealing in facts, and facts will tell you that nobody suffered from a consequence they made up in their head.
4. Stop catastrophizing
When you’re anxious, you always think the worse. You enter the world of what if…? and in this world nothing is good. Everything goes wrong, and there is always a catastrophe waiting to happen. Grab hold of those what ifs…. and don’t allow them to spiral onto more negativity.
5. Divert your negative thoughts
The more you internalise your thoughts and hold them within, the more power they’ll have on you. Release your thoughts by going outside of yourself. The most effective way of doing this is by helping others. Ask somebody how their day was and listen to them. By doing this, your negative thoughts are being healthily diverted away from your mind, being replaced by positive thoughts – the sort of thoughts that will enhance your day, not destroy it.
You might say these things are easier said than done. But are they? Who has the power over your thoughts if it’s not you?
One of my favourite quotes is from George Adair.
‘Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.’
I like it because it’s so true.
Everything you want is on the other side of fear, and to get what you want, you have to break through your fear.
You can also call fear anxiety, apprehension, or worry if you like. It links to everything we do, including what, where, when, and how we do things.
Fear can either push you to achieve things you never thought possible, or keep you frozen to the same spot.
Maybe you’ve got a big goal in mind, like overcoming agoraphobia, social anxiety, health anxiety, or you want to be able to get a plane? Or maybe you just want to ask somebody out on a date?
Using this three-step simple technique, it will help you breakthrough your fears, so you can start moving forward in a positive direction.
1. The Upside vs the Downside
Think about the goal you want to achieve – something you’ve been fearful of doing. Now, out of 10 (ten being the worst thing that can happen), rate the downside of you trying it and it not working. Let’s say, for this example, it’s a 5. Now, rate the upside of you doing it and it working. It’s a 10/10, right? Rate the upside against the downside, and if the upside outweighs the downside, go for it!
2. Pain and Pleasure
We do things to either get pleasure or to avoid pain. Avoiding pain is where the power lies, because we’re much more likely to do something to avoid pain. That’s why I want you to think about what your life would look like in five years if you didn’t overcome your fear. What would it mean to you? How would you feel? Now think about the pleasure it would bring to your life if you overcame the fear. What difference would it make to your life? How different would your life be?
3. I’m Excited!
There is an emotion that shares the same feelings we get when we’re anxious. You probably guessed it from the title. Being excited is the same as being anxious. We get an adrenaline rush when both of these things happen. Next time you get anxious or scared, I want you to tell yourself: ‘I’m excited!’. It’s much easier to transform anxiety, fear and panic into excitement compared to calmness because being calm is the opposite feeling. So, the next time you’re faced with a challenge, tell yourself: ‘I’m excited!’. This will be the final hurdle to help you push past your fear.
Go make it happen.
When anxiety bites, it’s the worst feeling in the world.
It takes over your body and mind, and before you know it, you’re totally consumed by it.
When you get into the habit of using these three quick and easy techniques, you will instantly break its grip on you, and stop your anxiety escalating.
1. Change your physical state
You can change how you feel in an instant by changing your physical state. How does an anxious person look and act? Pacing up and down, biting nails, a look of terror on their face, and quick breathing, right? All these acts are sending a message to their brain saying: ‘continue to be anxious’. Do the opposite to break the cycle. Slow your breathing down, put an instant smile on your face, and watch your favourite comedian and start laughing. You might not feel like it - but that’s the point. It’s the hardest acting job in Hollywood, but you have to fake it ‘til you make it. With time and practice, this will get easier to do.
2. Change your environment
When you begin to feel anxiety biting, don’t stand still. Anxiety will catch up and attack you. Immediately change your environment. Get out the house. Get in the car and go for a drive. Go for a walk, cycle or run, and burn off that excess energy caused by anxiety. Water only stagnates when it’s not moving. It goes from clear to murky when there’s no flow. Keep moving and don’t stand still.
3. Realign your focus
Whatever you focus on you’ll get more of. Keep your focus on anxiety, and there are no prizes for guessing what you’ll get in return. Rather than focus on those racing negative thoughts, focus on something you can control – like the next action you’re going to take to change how you feel. Make that next action to focus on the present moment. Most of our anxiety comes from what has happened in the past and worrying about what will happen in the future. These things become insignificant when we appreciate that the only thing that is real is this moment, right now. Get back to being present.
If things aren’t changing for you, it’s because they don’t have to.
Change only comes about when something has to happen.
If you smoke, and the doctor tells you if you keep smoking you only have a few months to live, you’ll crush those remaining cigarettes in your hand and throw them in the trash (if your health means something to you).
We’re driven by our greatest fears, or our ‘have tos’, as I call them. They are dictating what, where, when, and how you’re doing things.
If you’re more scared of your boss than you are of not paying the bills, you won’t go to work. But if not going to work means you’ll become homeless and won’t be able to feed your family, you’ll go to work.
There is a power behind your have tos, and you can use it to make significant changes in your life, like overcoming anxiety.
I activate my have tos by following these three steps:
1. Decide why
If you don’t have a good enough reason ‘why?’ you simply won’t do it. That’s why the first step is to understand why you’re doing it. What is the reason for the change? Your family, your health, your happiness?
2. Clear the path
If one of your goals is to break the pattern of anxiety and depression, but somebody is tucking you into bed when you don’t want to get out of it, nothing will change. You don’t have to get out of bed, so you won’t. Willpower is overrated so don’t depend on it. Depend on your ‘have to’ mentality instead.
3. Limit your options
Getting into a ‘have to’ mentality requires focus, and having too many options on the table will seriously affect your focus. It will take you to the ‘maybe middle ground’, and that’s not where you want to be. Get laser-like focused on what it is you want, and stick to that. Are things guaranteed to go right if you do that? Of course not. But that doesn’t matter, as long as you’re going in the direction you want.
By taking these three steps, you’ll put yourself in the very best place to get things done and take action. That’s when you know things are really changing.
Make ‘have to’ your mantra.
There is little point going into a social situation with a long list of things that are going to make you more confident.
Focus on one or two, because that really is all you need.
Here are three. Take your pick, but if you pick any one of them, I would go for the last one. It really is the key to dealing with social anxiety.
1. Ask questions
In any conversation, the person asking the questions is the one in control. This is a great way to build your confidence, so get practising asking questions.
2. Everybody is human
When you get socially anxious, it’s easy to focus on yourself, but if you’re feeling nervous it’s highly likely other people are too.
3. Don’t care
Everybody gets judged. They do it - you do it - everybody does it. It’s time to accept this fact and not care so much about what other people think.
The worst time of my life was waking up in the morning without any direction.
An instant feeling of dread would hit me, and because I had no focus, the horrible feeling continued throughout the day.
It was only when I set clear goals (and took action on those goals) that things began to change.
My goals gave my life meaning and purpose.
Instead of anxiety being my focus, my goals were my focus.
Anxiety naturally came as part of the package, but with a BIG difference – it wasn’t my sole focus. It did its job properly, rather than dominate my life.
Without purpose, anxiety will hit you hard by feeding off your lack of direction.
Your mind becomes a breeding ground for anxious thoughts, and when you have nothing to focus on or strive for, anxiety quickly takes over.
You need to know where you’re heading in life; otherwise, you risk being taken over by high anxiety.
You wouldn’t get in a car without a destination in mind, so don’t do the same thing with your life.
Know where you’re heading by setting clear goals. Or, at the very least, have a good idea what your day looks like when you get out of bed.
Start finding your purpose by setting clear goals today, and you will wake up with a very different frame of mind.
I always compare panic attacks to bullies.
What does a bully thrive on? Attention, right?
Without attention, a bully doesn’t have anything to work with.
There is no fuel to stoke the fire.
When you start dealing with panic attacks in the same way, they will move on.
If you stop giving panic attacks the attention they crave, there won’t be anything fuelling their behaviour.
It’s up to you how long a panic attack lasts, or whether it begins at all.
Remember – it’s you that holds the power.
The best way to connect with Carl and join the discussion is on his Facebook page