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.
How easy is it, when somebody gets your back up, to immediately get angry and feel hateful towards her/him?
It’s an immediate natural reaction, so it’s really easy, right?
But what has harbouring anger, hate, resentment, jealousy, anxiety, stress (and any other negative emotions you can think of) ever done for you?
Nothing, except make you feel like crap.
When you allow somebody else to make you feel like crap, you’re only extending your mental pain and suffering by continuing to harbour the anger, hate, resentment, jealousy, anxiety and stress.
It’s time to let go of it – for your sake – not theirs.
If somebody does you wrong, I’m not necessarily saying you should forgive and forget. What I am saying is, for the sake of your own feelings and well-being, you should let go and move on. In other words, you should forgive but don’t forget.
If you don’t let go and move on, you’re only harbouring all those negative feelings that will continue to make you feel like crap. That means that you’re allowing whoever it is that has caused you pain to continue that pain.
You’ll be the one causing all your mental pain and suffering.
It might feel as though you have no control over these emotions at times, but anger, hate, resentment, jealousy, anxiety and stress are always a choice. I know this because these emotions always begin with a thought, and that thought is then manifested as a feeling.
You have control over what thoughts you choose to act on, and that means that you do have a choice whether or not you allow these emotions to dominate you.
How does that make you feel to know that you have a choice to feel these negative emotions, just as much as you have a choice to feel the good stuff like happiness, joy, love and contentment?
When I discovered this fact, it made me stop and think – and I’m hoping it’s doing the same for you.
By learning to let go and move on, I stopped harbouring all those negative emotions that were no good for me, which made me less frustrated, angry, anxious and stressed.
I still experience all these things – I just don’t allow them to dictate how I feel, including whether or not I’m going to have a good or bad day.
If somebody pisses me off, for example, I won’t allow the mental pain and suffering caused from that to define who I am.
People will act as they act. You have no control over that. You only have control over you – including how you choose to react and how you feel.
Dependent on the level of the suffering and pain you’ve experienced, some of you will find this harder to take on board than others – I appreciate that.
I’m not diluting the fact that anger, hate, resent, jealousy, anxiety and stress aren’t incredibly difficult to overcome. I know first-hand how difficult it is. But it still doesn’t take away from the crucial fact that these things are a choice.
When it comes to anger, hate, resent, jealousy, anxiety and stress, we prefer to look at these things as though we have no choice – like they are put on us. The biggest issue with this is we become a victim to them.
When you’re a victim of circumstance, you tell yourself that there is nothing you can do – so you continue to allow these negative emotions to dominate you. That will keep you trapped in a negative cycle, and you’ll always be a victim.
The next time you feel any of these emotions, remember that you have a choice.
To help you remember, I’ve listed the solutions as 3 A’s. These are the three things that will end your mental pain and suffering.
The first A to end your mental pain and suffering is acceptance. You could also call this A ‘Appreciation’. Like Carl Jung said: ‘What you resist persists.’ You’ll only feel the full force of something when you fight it. When you accept and appreciate something, including its reasoning and why it’s happening, it can no longer cause you further mental pain and suffering. Stop fighting whatever it is you’re fighting, and learn to let go. This doesn’t mean you have to put up with it. Letting go could mean walking away. Remember: forgive but don’t forget.
The second A to end your mental pain and suffering is attitude. An extended version of this is ‘attitude of gratitude’. It’s impossible for any negative emotion to overcome you when you are in a state of gratitude. For example, you can’t be anxious and grateful at the same time. Dock leaves grow next to stinging nettles because nature always wants to provide us with a solution. Gratitude is nature’s solution to all that is negative. Practice gratitude daily.
The third A to end your mental pain and suffering is affection. It’s probably the hardest ‘A’ of them all, but it’s also the most powerful. How can you show love or affection to somebody who might have physically or mentally abused you? How do you make friends with an emotion like anxiety and stress - emotions that might have destroyed your life for decades? How do you say ‘hello’ to somebody who has done you wrong? These are not easy questions to answer, but getting even close to the answer offers you a lot more mental freedom. Imagine the freedom behind being able to let go, move on and forgive what you hate. It’s an ‘A’ I’m still working on, so I’m pleased to be able to join you on this journey myself!
Would you let a plumber fix your boiler if they had no qualifications or experience? Not gonna happen!
If you’re not going to let somebody play around with your boiler, how do feel about your state of mind and well-being?
I recommend counselling to anybody going through a difficult period. Communicating what’s on your mind is a BIG contributor to you moving forward and getting better. It always will be. Bottling things inside and pretending things are OK only lead onto more issues, like breakdowns.
You’ve got to be able to talk, and that’s where a good counsellor comes into play.
A good counsellor will not only listen to you but also have the experience and knowledge to help guide you through your tough time.
Notice I say ‘a good counsellor’.
Like with all professions, there is good, bad, excellent, and downright shouldn’t be in that professional at all!
Like a plumber and most other professions you can think of, a counsellor could set up their own practice overnight – without any experience or qualifications. The fact that somebody calls himself a counsellor doesn’t make it so.
We can all call ourselves whatever we like – it doesn’t make it the case.
If you’re going to let a plumber loose on your boiler, you’ll want reassurance he knows what he’s doing. (A big reason why the best tradesmen come through recommendation.) If you’re going to let somebody loose on your state of mind and well-being, you should also look for reassurance that they know what they’re doing.
It’s up to you to find out what experience and qualifications a counsellor has. Don’t take it at face value.
When I was dealing with high anxiety, I met with at least four different counsellors. Some were good, and some were not so good.
In hindsight, I should have moved on from the bad ones sooner. But I didn’t. Why? I thought I was the problem. I thought, surely somebody with all that experience and all those qualifications can’t be that bad – it has to be me.
I have lots of respect for good counsellors, so I want to clarify what I mean by a ‘bad’ counsellor. Having now had the pleasure of meeting some great counsellors, I can compare them to the not so good ones.
Here are a few defining signs of a bad counsellor, including things to look out for.
Guilt trips. Lack of confidence. Wanting to please others.
Just a few of the reasons why we end up saying YES to doing favours, working overtime and doing things we don’t want to do – even when we know we should say NO.
You’re a nice person. Nothing wrong with that. But if you find yourself saying yes to everything you’re asked, it won’t be long before the misery kicks in.
You’ll be burnt out, depressed, skint and desperate before you know it!
Here are five things to start saying NO to more often. When you say NO to these things more often, you’ll find you’ll take back control and your life will be much more bearable.
1. Other people’s BS
People will bring you great joy. But if you let them, they’ll bring you a lot of shit too! It’s time to start saying no to their BS. If they want to bring their toxic behaviour and drama into your life, say ‘NO’. Cut it out without hesitation. Let them know that you will no longer suffer fools lightly. They’ll soon get the message, and your life will be much better off for it. The next time the gossip comes up, or somebody is chewing your ear off with negativity, cut it out.
2. Constant favours
As I mentioned - being a nice person is a good thing. There is nothing wrong with wanting to do nice things. But it does put you at risk of being taken advantage of. If somebody calls you at 1 am in the morning asking you to give them a lift home from partying all night, it won’t be long before they’re calling you at 4 am. Everybody has to have boundaries, including you. The next time the call comes in, say ‘NO’. The same goes for any favours that go beyond being reasonable including giving away your two most valuable assets: your time and money.
3. Being in places you don’t want to be
Life is way too short to put up with doing things you don’t want to do, including going places you don’t want to go. I’m not talking about being ignorant or selfish. Sometimes we’ve got to do things we’re not happy with – it’s all part of having good relationships. But if you find yourself constantly being in places you don’t want to be, hanging around with people you don’t like, say ‘NO’.
4. Going to a dead-end job
If you work full-time, you’ll be spending most of your life at that job. If you absolutely hate your job with a passion, it basically means you hate your life. When it comes to work, including toxic bosses and dead-end jobs, there is always a better option. Say ‘NO’, and explore what your options are further. If you’re feeling stuck, The Less-Stress Lifestyle will help.
5. Living in the past
Living in the past is causing you serious, unnecessary stress and anxiety. I know this because when we live in the past, it’s usually because of negative reasons. If your childhood was messed up, you made a mistake, or you regret something you did, it’s time to let go of the past and say ‘NO’ to it. Move forward with the lessons you learnt, and don’t allow the past to haunt you. The trick here is to learn from the past because if you don’t, you’ll keep making the same mistakes you always have.
Tired. Exhausted. Beat-up. Shattered. Worn-out. Knackered!
Just a few of the nicer terms we use when stress is beating us.
Well, it’s time to fight back and get some control!
It’s time to get back into a better mental place – to give us the very best chance of managing our stress properly.
Here are seven popular relaxation techniques you can use to beat stress and stop it controlling you.
When you practise deep breathing, you breathe in slowly and deeply, while expanding your belly, allowing your diaphragm to contract. Breathing in this way sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax, which makes it effective for dealing with stress. It is a simple and versatile technique that can be learned and used immediately.
Progressive muscle relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation is a very effective technique for releasing tension in your muscles: you tense a muscle for a few seconds and then relax it. For example, try clenching your fist for a few seconds and then letting go, releasing the tension so your hand is as loose as possible. Your hand should feel relaxed after doing this a few times. You can use this technique on any muscle in your body, so if you have a particularly tense area, you can concentrate on that. The typical areas that affected many people include the neck, chest, face and shoulders. If you do this daily, you will condition your muscles to relax much more freely and naturally.
You need an outlet for your tension so it’s not trapped inside you and used to create more stress and negative energy. Physical activity is an effective way to release tension, due to the fact you burn energy and feel like you’ve accomplished something. Yoga and tai chi are known to improve breathing and relaxation and are therefore good for stress and tension. If you’re more of a football or boxing fan, join your local club. The aim is to find a physical activity you enjoy.
You can channel the release of tension through healthy mental exertion. I can, however, think of a few board games that increase tension rather than reduce it, so if it becomes counterproductive, avoid it! Sitting down to do a crossword is relaxing for some people, and stressful for others. Use your common sense: if it’s not helping you reduce your stress, try something else.
Although I don’t practise meditation, I make sure I find a moment to relax every day, especially if I’m busy and find myself dealing with extra stress. People have told me meditation has helped reduce their stress and anxiety, improved their mood, and been good for their insomnia – so it could do the same for you. Meditation takes time to perfect, but if it’s something you would like to explore, you’ll find apps and videos on YouTube that will help get you started.
Have a clear-out
It feels very therapeutic to have a good clear-out. The more possessions we have, the more emotional attachment we have to them. This emotional attachment isn’t always negative, and you’ll probably have possessions that bring you great joy and comfort, like your favourite jumper or chair. At the end of your clear-out, I don’t expect you to have an empty home! However, there will be some items you just don’t need (or want) any more. A good clear-out can make you feel lighter and clearer. I do it regularly. When I looked at my wardrobe I noticed I tended to wear the same selection of clothing all the time, so I packed up all the clothes I hadn’t worn for a year and sent them to a charity shop. eBay is marvellous for raising some extra funds from unwanted stuff. You might be surprised by how much you can raise. Maybe you could put the money you raise towards a trip, or course?
A change of scenery
If you’re constantly looking at the same four walls, talking to the same people, or doing the same monotonous tasks or job, you’re not presenting your brain with the variety and challenge it needs and deserves. Predictability is boring, and boredom leads to unwanted feelings, including feeling trapped, leading to stress and tension. So spice up your life a little. Take a relaxing break, change your scenery, and do something out of the ordinary.
These techniques are listed in The Less-Stress Lifestyle. Start improving your lifestyle and managing stress better today - check it out!
There’s nothing like sitting down and watching a decent film.
I like to take something away from every film I watch. I believe there is a message, hidden or otherwise, in all decent films.
If you haven’t switched the film off in the first few minutes because it’s rubbish, you’ll get something out of it. A lot of what you get depends on your mood, how you feel at the time, and what you’re looking for.
Here’s what I learnt from my top five films (in order of my favourite first).
#1 – The Matrix
What is there not to love about The Matrix? Putting aside all the Kung Fu and bullet dodging (which, don’t get me wrong, is brilliant), there is a serious message going on. For me, that message is quite simply: Wake the f*ck up! You are part of a system. If you allow that system to control you, it will. If you don’t take control of your life, you will drift. You will just survive, rather than thrive. To make changes in your life, you have to get educated and become aware. If you want improvements in your lifestyle, begin by getting educated. You can have more if you want it, but first, you have to wake up.
#2 – Terminator 2
I’ll also include the first Terminator film here. (Terminator 3 – not your best one, Arnie.) With the rise of AI (Artificial Intelligence), who knows – the machines may well take over one day. But that’s not the defining message I got from the film. The message I got is about dealing with toxic people. This is what Kyle Reese says when he’s warning Sarah Connor about the Terminator: ‘Listen, and understand. That terminator is out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop.’ Some toxic people in life are the same, and you should avoid them just as much as you would the Terminator.
#3 – The Wolf of Wall Street
Leonardo DiCaprio does an amazing job of playing a hedonistic drug addict. His outstanding performance is equalled by how good the film is. Anyhow – I’m not writing a film review – so back to the message. The Wolf of Wall Street perfectly sums up the fact that money will only ever get you so far. It’s a short-term view to think you can do what the hell you like for a few years and not have any consequences. At the risk of sounding like a complete killjoy, most things in life are OK in moderation, but what you’re doing today is shaping your future. As well as thinking about what you’re going to do today, start planning for the next five years. Otherwise, the future might not be so bright.
#4 – Catch Me If You Can
Another Leonardo DiCaprio film on my list – and what a cracker it is. Frank Abagnale (the con man Leonardo plays) fooled everybody – to the point of becoming a fake co-pilot, lawyer and doctor – all before his 18th birthday! (This is a true story!) The message? For me, a positive one. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Do you think Frank cared about the fact he might get rejected? Do you think he allowed the fear of people to hold him back? Not in the slightest. Although a lot of what he did was immoral, there’s a lot to be learnt and admired from what he did. The level of freedom you can get from not caring about what people think is immense. It helps you achieve pretty much anything you want, as demonstrated perfectly by Frank Abagnale.
#5 – Drop Dead Fred
I grew up as a Rik Mayall (Bottom) addict. He made me cackle just as much in Drop Dead Fred when he played an imaginary childhood friend to a miserable kid. Part of her misery was her control freak, OCD led mother, who was affectionately known as ‘The Megabeast’. So the first lesson – if you’re a parent putting too much pressure on your kids, you might also have an interesting nickname. The second lesson from the film is not to let the kid in you die. Life is serious enough. Don’t ever forget your humour. It shouldn’t take an imaginary friend you had as a kid to come back into your adult life to remind you. You can start having more fun today. It is a choice, and you don’t have to wait. What would the kid inside you do? Sometimes it’s worth paying attention to him or her – especially when anxiety and stress is biting.
When stress mounts up, it feels like a never-ending flow of one problem after the other!
If it’s allowed to, stress continues to grow until it gets to a point where we feel like we can’t cope. That’s when we walk around feeling as though a ton of bricks is on our back.
It doesn’t matter who you are. Nobody is immune to stress - no matter how strong, organised or capable you think you are.
Stress can hit anybody at any time.
Here are three things you can do to immediately stop the flow of stress pouring in – and protect yourself against it better in the future.
1. Take immediate control
We get stressed when we feel out of control. As soon as we feel like we’ve taken back control, the feeling of stress and anxiety subsides. That’s why taking immediate control of whatever it is causing you stress is the best way to deal with it. It’s also the reason why stress will quickly get out of control if you let it. Don’t sweep your problems under the rug. Those bills you put in the drawer aren’t going anywhere. Although you might get some short-term relief by pretending your problems don’t exist, the long-term effects are potentially a lot worse. A lot of stress and anxiety can be avoided when we get brave and deal with our challenges head-on by taking immediate control.
2. Break it down
The quickest way to deal with any problem is to break it down. When a giant problem hits your desk, your doormat or your phone, it will feel daunting. You’ll think to yourself: ‘How the hell am I going to manage this!’ By focusing on the BIG problem or challenge at hand, you’ll convince yourself that it’s impossible – and that’s when we feel like we can’t cope. Forget about the BIG issue for now. Instead, break whatever it is you need to do down into small pieces. Think about the next small step that you can take, and focus on that. When you get that done, you’ll go onto the next thing, and then the next – and like a snowball effect, your challenge is getting easier at every step – until you look back and all of a sudden, it’s done.
3. Stay on top
‘Staying on top of things’ is a commonly used saying, but have you stopped and thought about why we say it? What comes to mind when you think about being on top of things? It feels like you’re in control and dominant, doesn’t it? Imagine feeling like this from this moment forward. Imagine a life where you knew you could handle anything that came your way. The truth is, there is only one thing stopping you from feeling like this, and that is you. In other words, you can decide from this moment forward that you can handle anything that comes your way – and there is no reason why it’s not the truth. You’ve got through 100% of your challenges and problems so far, so what’s stopping you from knowing you can get through 100% more? Keep reinforcing this knowledge and belief, and you’ll stay on top.
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