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!)
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.
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.
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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.
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Since I’ve been hosting my Facebook Live Q&A sessions, the biggest subject that keeps coming up is health anxiety.
It was a big problem for me, so I’m not surprised by how many of you out there are being affected by it.
The constant need to worry (fuelled by the anxiety habit) means worrying about your body and health is easy – because it’s the closest thing you’ve got to worry about.
The littlest change or pain will instantly spark a chain of worry, especially for the already hypersensitive, highly anxious mind.
There are three crucial things you need to do to deal with health anxiety. The third in this list is the most crucial, but you can’t do it without doing these first two things first (so pay attention to them all!).
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.
If anxiety is playing a big part in your life right now, you’re not the only one.
For years I thought I was the only one.
I suffered from high anxiety for about fifteen years, and for ten of those years I lived in complete denial and didn’t tell a soul. I thought I was the only person on the planet experiencing high anxiety until Google proved otherwise.
I’ve been through the lot, and it’s likely I’ve experienced everything you have. If you’re currently dealing with anxiety, I have no doubt you’ll be able to relate to most of the reasons I’m about to highlight.
I know high anxiety is destroying lives. It’s preventing lots of you from fulfilling your dreams like it did me.
It’s even making some of you so fearful you can’t leave your home. That makes me sad (and angry). Why? Because I was this person, and I know with the right answers and a bit of willpower and belief, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Ever since I turned my life around, I’ve made it my mission to help others do the same, and my hope is I can help you understand anxiety more by providing answers so that you can do something about it.
Here are the top five reasons you’re anxious right now, including what you can do about it.
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.
Driving anxiety drove me up the wall!
A massive fear of mine was losing control of my car, especially on the motorway.
Whenever I hit the motorway I’d get an intense feeling of being trapped, and thoughts like ‘what am I going to do if something happens to me and I’m stuck’ would race around in my head. It would cause a panic attack, and I’d have to pull over on the hard shoulder while trying to control my breathing and disorientation – not nice.
The fear got so bad I avoided the motorway at all costs.
The trouble was, by avoiding it, my anxiety about driving on the motorway kept getting worse over time, and I continued to avoid it as long as I could (which ended up being months).
My comfort zone kept shrinking until I became fearful of driving altogether, and I panicked at just the thought of having to drive.
I have no doubt lots of you reading this will be able to relate to driving anxiety – it’s a common high anxiety symptom.
Here’s a question I received from Olivia about driving anxiety. She’s going through a very similar experience to mine, proving how common it is.
As soon as I get on the motorway I start feeling anxious and panic. I get dizzy and feel like I'm going to lose control of my car. If I drive too close to a lorry or big vehicle I feel like I'm going to crash into it, so I slow down and try to avoid it.
I panic when I just think about driving on the motorway, and it’s getting to a point where I feel as though I’m not going to be able to do it anymore. A few days ago I had to get a friend to go on the motorway with me because I was too afraid to go on my own.
Luckily I don't have to go on a motorway to get to work, but it is preventing me from travelling to see friends and family. I'm restricted where I can go unless I get somebody else to drive or be with me, but I don't want to keep depending on others.
I’ve noticed I’m getting more and more nervous about driving on normal roads, and I’m scared it will get to a point where I’m not able to drive at all. I can’t imagine living without my car, so it scares the life out of me to think I might not be able to drive.
Driving anxiety convinced me that the motorway was a danger to my survival, so I was always on high alert. That’s why I panicked at just the thought of having to drive on the motorway, and why I avoided it at all costs.
It was only when I had a make-or-break meeting for work I had to brave it. I didn’t have anybody to drive me at the time, but if I didn’t attend, I’d lose one of my biggest clients.
I feared public transport just as much as driving at the time, so I decided to opt for the car.
The journey to my client was about an hour, but it felt like ten hours! It was a very shaky affair, but I managed it without the need of the hard shoulder.
It was far from easy, but after the deed was done, I felt more confident.
With this newfound confidence, I decided to hit the motorway again the next day. It still wasn’t easy, but again, my confidence was growing.
I could have got somebody to accompany me, but I decided this was something I had to do on my own; otherwise I’d always be dependent on someone else.
I didn’t want the momentum to end, so I decided to go on the motorway every day for the next week, even if I didn’t need to.
Every day got better.
When I felt trapped and like it was getting too much, I reminded myself what the motorway was – a bit of concrete like all the other roads I drive on. This perception of the motorway helped me rationalise my fear and put it into perspective.
I focused on the end goal rather than the extremely slim possibility that something bad would happen.
With time and practice, I overcome my fear of driving on the motorway by facing it head-on. It’s the only way to do it. If you keep avoiding driving on the motorway, how are you ever going to know if you can do it?
It was tough, to begin with. I was convinced something bad would happen, but I had to break through this fear if things were going to change long-term.
I knew if I kept avoiding the motorway the fear will continue to get worse, making it harder to overcome the fear. In the end, that wasn’t an option. Like you, Olivia, I couldn’t imagine my life without my car.
As I said, overcoming driving anxiety was difficult, to begin with, because I was working against my survival instinct (fight or flight).
But with practice and time, it will become second nature again, like it did with me. The feelings of disorientation and dizziness will disappear, and the fear will dwindle away.
In the end, I believe my fear of being dependent on others was the driving force behind me overcoming my driving anxiety. My desire to see my friends and family when I wanted, and be free to live my life on my terms, outweighed my fear of driving.
It’s our biggest fears that put us into action. If you fear losing your independence over driving on the motorway, I have no doubt you’ll overcome the fear too.
Watch my video on driving anxiety on Facebook and Instagram.
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