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.
If you want to know your future, I can read it for you.
I don’t need a crystal ball, and you don’t need to cross my palm with silver.
I’ll give you your reading absolutely free – and I don’t even need to meet you!
All you need to do is take a look at what you’re doing right now.
Here are some questions to get you started.
Are you growing?
If you’re not growing emotionally, physically, financially and mentally, you’re not evolving. Life is about growth, and you’re either growing or dying.
What are you eating?
You are what you eat – now and in the future. What you’re putting in your mouth today is not only affecting how you feel today but also in the future.
How often do you exercise?
If you don’t feel physically good today, you won’t tomorrow – unless you change your pattern and routine.
How much do you like / dislike your job?
How you feel about your job or career won’t change unless you change it. The career decisions you make today are shaping your future career.
How many hobbies do you have?
Life is about balance. If you’re not taking enough time for yourself, including having hobbies, you’ll feel the stress later down the line.
How much free time do you have?
Do you have enough time for yourself and your family? If you don’t, why not? Unless you begin to change that pattern, it won’t change in the future.
What are the people in your life like?
You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. They are a heavy influence on who you are today, and who you will be in the future.
Do you love your partner?
If you don’t, why not? Can it be fixed? If you don’t believe it can be fixed, how does that impact on your future self?
What are the relationships like in your life?
Do the people around you help you grow, or make you miserable? That won’t change in the future unless you change it.
Do you read books or listen to audiobooks?
Books and learning are one of your biggest sources of growth. What you’re feeding your brain today will influence what you say and do tomorrow.
How much time do you take to educate yourself?
Imagine how much smarter you’ll be in five years if you take the time to educate yourself today. Imagine the amount of growth you’ll miss out on if you don’t make learning a priority.
Do you invest your money, or spend it?
If you’ve got more money going out than you’ve got coming in, it won’t be long before the debt piles up. How will that debt look in six months, a year, or ten years?
Reading your future is easy. You just have to look at what you’re doing today.
Listen To The New Carl Vernon Podcast: Talking About All Things Anxiety, Stress, Success & Wellbeing
I’m excited to share my new podcast with you – a new way for us to connect.
I love podcasts and use them a lot myself.
It’s not always easy reading a book or watching a video, and podcasts are perfect for when you’re on the go.
You can listen in the car, at the gym, going for a walk, at work – anywhere you can put your headphones in!
In this first podcast, we’re going BIG by covering the two biggest subjects.
I’m talking about my DP Rule, and how it can help you overcome your fears.
If you’ve read Anxiety Rebalance, you’ll most likely know about the DP Rule, and in this podcast, I wanted to give you a little more insight into how it helped me deal with my fears and overcome anxiety.
You can listen to it directly from here on SoundCloud. Or if you’re a proper podcaster (if that’s the proper term?) you can listen from iTunes and subscribe to my podcast on there – the link is below at the bottom of this post.
My aim is to get at least a new podcast out every week, and I’ll be covering lots of exciting subjects – everything to do with anxiety, stress, success and wellbeing – to help you break out of your comfort zone, make positive changes, and improve your lifestyle for the better.
Be sure to subscribe on iTunes, so you don’t miss out on future podcasts – click the logo below to go to my podcast and subscribe.
If you like what you hear, don’t forget to rate and review.
Thank you for taking the time to listen, and along with my other stuff, I hope my podcast helps you on your journey!
All the very best,
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!)
The Less-Stress Lifestyle is now ready for your eyes (or ears, if you prefer audio).
I wrote this book to put out a strong message.
In short, that message is you don’t have to put up with being miserable and stressed. You have more options than you think you have now, and even the smallest change can make a big difference.
To give you a peek into what you can expect, here are fifteen things you can do to create a less-stress lifestyle - these have been recently featured in GQ Magazine, The Mirror, The Sunday Mail, and Woman's Own.
I used to avoid self-help.
Just the term ‘self-help’ would be enough to put me off.
There was a real embarrassment attached to it for me.
Me? Self-help? How dare you!
My internal picture of self-help included high-fives, cheesy grins, groups of people jumping up and down, and arms raised up to the sky as people were overcome with an invisible power.
Although this is partly accurate, the embarrassment I attached to self-help was seriously holding me back.
That’s why I’ve dedicated this post to anybody who feels the same – because if you give self-help a try, it might just change your life.
Here are six reasons you need self-help and why you shouldn’t be embarrassed about it.
It's been a manic few weeks.
Anxiety Rebalance has been signed up by world-leading publisher, Hachette (which is great news because it means we can spread the word internationally), and I've been busy in the studio recording the audio version, which is due for release on 5th May (thank you for all your audio requests!).
When I started writing the book it was my dream to help people across the world, and with your help, the dream is becoming reality.
You and I both know there are so many people out there that need help, and I thank you wholeheartedly for your support, including all the amazing feedback received - I couldn't do this without you.
The cycle of being overstressed and becoming ill became too obvious to ignore.
I’d let things build up, hold things inside, not talk to anybody, and pretend I was coping just fine. It always led to me being ill.
My illnesses consistently followed the same pattern, revolving around my throat. It would start with a sore throat, which progressed onto a throat infection (tonsillitis), which caused lots of other physical symptoms (cold sweats, fever, headache, neck ache, nausea, lack of energy) leaving me completely bed bound, normally for weeks at a time.
Not uncommon. I’ve known anxiety sufferers who have spent months at a time in bed. In an effort to protect themselves from the stress they’re trying to bury their bodies completely shut-down.
Some of them recognised their symptoms as being stress / anxiety related, and others lived in denial, like I used to - probably because like me, they saw being ill as a weakness, and didn’t want to face up to the reality that being bed bound was caused by anxiety / stress.
Why can’t I cope with the stress that life throws at me? Everybody else seems to manage it.
(Obviously not true, but that’s what you believe when you’re not feeling great.)
It’s a horrible cycle to be trapped in, but is it breakable. The key to breaking the cycle lies in regaining your balance.
What does BALANCE mean to you? How do you know when you’ve achieved it, and what’s the end goal?
These are all important questions, and to help answer them I’ve put together the Rebalance Scale.
SCALE 7: Panic
Panic – my best friend for many years! Obviously, I’m being sarcastic – there is nothing about panic that would ever make me class it as a friend. As a high-anxiety sufferer, I have no doubt you’ll know all about it. You’ll know that it sits at the top of the scale because it represents the most extreme form of anxiety and causes an array of unwanted symptoms, typically including sweating, dizziness, nausea, heart palpitations, shaking, numbness, tingling, chest pain and discomfort, loss of breath, a smothering or choking sensation, a dry mouth, a churning stomach, chills and hot flushes … and any other symptom the mind can muster.
At the height of my high anxiety, panic attacks were a daily occurrence. Some were caused by obvious triggers, such as going to the supermarket. (The supermarket was a particular struggle for me, and always induced panic.) At other times, a panic attack would creep up on me without warning. I could be doing something as trivial as watching TV, when all of sudden I’d start to feel disorientated and uncomfortable. Because nothing obvious was causing these feelings, I’d panic because I didn’t know what was going on.
It didn’t matter how many times I experienced panic attacks and got through them, each time I was convinced there was something more sinister going on. I really believed I was ill and had a serious medical condition. It was incredibly frustrating. I’d plead with the doctor: ‘Please diagnose me with something – anything – so I can stop this torment and move on.’ But, as in so many other cases of panic, that diagnosis never came.
Examples of panic
SCALE 6: High anxiety
High anxiety is best explained using the analogy of a swimming duck. Everything above water (on the outside) might appear calm, but underneath the water (on the inside) you’re frantically paddling, trying to hold things together. I spent most of the fifteen years I suffered living like this. I’d be sitting on my sofa watching TV, yet feel like I was at war on the frontline. From opening my eyes in the morning to going to bed at night, high anxiety ruled my life, and all my decisions were based around it.
Examples of high anxiety
SCALE 5: Above-normal anxiety
These symptoms are similar to those of high anxiety, but are less pervasive. You’re able to operate and cope in everyday life without anxiety dominating your decisions, but it still plays its part, manifesting itself through mild forms of anxiety-related disorders.
Examples of above-normal anxiety
SCALE 4: BALANCE
Sitting comfortably within normal levels of anxiety and energy, BALANCE is the optimal place to be. You’re living an active and healthy lifestyle without anxiety and depression dictating your decisions and actions. Anxiety isn’t present in your immediate thoughts, and it only presents itself when genuinely needed. Until then, it sits quietly as your life companion, keeping you away from danger and helping you make sensible decisions (doing its job properly). You don’t feel tired or drained, and have enough mental and physical energy to cope with life’s usual daily challenges.
It’s likely you’ll be able to recall a time you felt like this, but if it’s been a while, let me remind you what it feels like.
What BALANCE feels like
Most importantly, BALANCE means FREEDOM. No hang-ups, no emotional ties, no psychological baggage – just you, living how you want to live.
SCALE 3: Below-normal energy
Because anxiety goes hand in hand with depression, it’s present at both ends of the scale. It will zap your positivity and happiness, and work with depression to lower your energy. The lower your energy, the greater your depression. Scale 3 represents lower than normal energy, which could be the early signs of a deeper depression.
Examples of below-normal energy
SCALE 2: Low energy
Scale 2 represents a deeper anxiety-induced depression and a lower level of unhappiness; you experience the same symptoms as with below-normal energy, but to a greater extent.
Examples of low energy
SCALE 1: Sleep
At the very bottom of the scale, sleep represents extreme depression, just as panic represents an extreme form of anxiety. I went through long periods of both. When I was deeply depressed, all I wanted to do was sleep all day. It felt as though my body was shutting down (like when you reboot your computer), and sleep was my only escape from the clutches of anxiety. On average, I would sleep sixteen hours a day – twice as long as the average adult needs. In the few hours I was awake, anxiety had a way of sucking any remaining bit of life out of me. My energy became non-existent, and I felt mentally and physically exhausted every waking second of every day. It made breaking the anxiety and depression cycle very difficult, because all I wanted to do was (you guessed it) sleep more.
At the other extreme, sleep deprivation (caused by high anxiety) was the worst symptom I experienced. I know exactly what it feels like to be a zombie on The Walking Dead. Three days of not sleeping properly, red-eyed with dribble running down my chin, unable to talk, was as bad as it got for me. This is a typical example of the continuous rigmarole I went through on a nightly basis:
As soon as my head hit the pillow I have racing thoughts about all the bills that need to be paid this month and the work I have left to do. I’m exhausted, but it doesn’t matter how tired I am, I just can’t fall asleep.
I lie there with my eyes wide open, just staring at the ceiling, until I’m so frustrated I decide to get up. I make myself a drink. I know going back to bed will be a waste of time so I lie down on the couch and put the television on. It keeps me company so I don’t feel so alone.
My eyes are heavy. I look at the clock. It’s the early hours of the morning and I start to panic – I’m desperate to sleep because I know I’m going to feel like a zombie at work the next day.
Eventually, panic subsides, and through pure exhaustion I fall asleep at around 4am. After a few hours I wake up on the couch, feeling like I haven’t slept at all. I immediately start to feel anxious, and I’m already worrying about how I’m going to get through the day.
I dread going to bed because I know it’s all going to happen again.
Eventually, with time and practice, I sorted my sleep out. If I hadn’t done this, I had no chance of overcoming anxiety and depression. That’s why I can’t stress enough how important it is to get it right. A strong pattern of sleep combined with the ability to relax is essential for achieving BALANCE.
If sleep is a problem for you (and I’m guessing it is), rest assured – we’ll look at how to combat it within Part 4, Ten Actions to Achieve BALANCE.
This was an excerpt taken from the book, Anxiety Rebalance by Carl Vernon.
On your journey of discovering BALANCE, you are going to have good and bad days (you need the bad ones to help you appreciate the good ones!). The bad days can make you feel like you’re going backwards, however, that’s normally far from the truth.
Seeing evidence of your progression on paper will help you realise that the bad days are just a small part of the bigger picture.
I found the easiest way to track my progression was using an excel sheet – here’s a template you can use.
For the next few weeks, write down the date, day, a rating from 1-10 (where 1 is absolutely abysmal, and 10 is the best day you’ve ever had), and a short note highlighting what you did on that day (like a diary entry).
After a few weeks, take a look at your results.
Were there particular days that scored well, or badly? What were you doing?
Did you feel better on Wednesdays because you’d been to the gym?
Did you feel bad on Sundays because you had nothing to do?
Ask yourself questions based on your results and look for clues.
By writing down the reasons behind your moods, you can make the changes needed. For example, if on Monday you felt particularly anxious, write down what you were doing (or not doing) on that day. Do the same if you were feeling particularly good on Thursday.
When you track what you’re doing, the facts speak for themselves. Those bad days that make you think you’ve gone backwards are easily contradicted by actual results. You might be pleasantly surprised by your progress.
It doesn’t matter what your sheet looks like. The only thing that counts is that you see progress. If you don’t, keep looking for those clues. If you can’t find them, look harder – they’re definitely there. They hold the key to your change.
If you need to, go back to the ten actions to achieve BALANCE (in the book Anxiety Rebalance), and keep taking action. Positive change will come.
The best way to connect with Carl and join the discussion is on his Facebook page