Anxiety becomes your normal, your comfort zone

Hello everyone,

It is now just coming into spring and again it has been a few months since my last blog, I do apologise, I am not sure where the time goes, I just seem to be so busy at the moment. 

Just to explain to all those who have e-mailed asking where my updates are!

As you all know I am currently undertaking the last stages of Counselling studies for my Diploma. But at the same time I am also studying for my child and young people qualification, so at the present time in my life, between studying academically and working in practice with both adult and child clients as well as maintaining it's just a feeling, working in my day job and looking after my family I seem flat out!.

I know it will be worth it and things will settle down soon. I have been very serious about my dedication to this cause for the ten years that it's just a feeling has been live online, but I just feel it would give my client's even more confidence in me to qualify as a therapeutic Counsellor and that is very important to both myself and the cause that I care so deeply about that I go through a period of devotion to both my studies and practice to make that happen.

I am as always, absolutely dedicated to removing the stigma and helping others to facilitate their recovery from mental health issues and in particular anxiety as it is a subject very close to my own heart.  Please just bear with me at the moment if updates seem to take slightly longer than normal, you know the reason why!

So going back to my post, First though I hope as always that all my clients and followers of It's just a feeling are as well as they can be and finding the courage to begin to face their fears and move towards a more positive outcome and better way of life. As always I hope to trigger reflective thought, that may help my client's to stand back from their fears and see this thing for what it is. A feeling of intense and uncomfortable feeling with no danger.

In this months blog post I would like to talk about comfort zones and in terms of where comfort zones fit into the make up of your anxiety as I do consider this trail of thought quite important.

Often seeing a different perspective can change the way we look at our fears and our anxiety and sometimes that is all we need to stand back and consider a new way of thinking about this that helps us to start to climb out of this emotional mess that we find ourselves in at the moment. Maybe at the very least find that initial courage, motivation and the bit of belief that things could change that helps to get us started on moving forwards positively. 

Let's begin by taking a look at the general cycle and how things can start.

Before anyone actually felt a feeling of fear and reacted to it they will have had down days, happy moods, sad moods, good moods and bad moods as that is normal. They may even have felt anxious from time to time but just labelled it in their minds as a bad day. 

They had a normality or a way of life that felt normal to them. They lived day to day un aware of how it may feel to suffer anxiety or panic symptoms. So even though I hate using the word normal (As what is normal really?) here I am referring to normal as life as was for you before feeling anxious feelings and labelling them dangerous and developing a fear of them.

Once someone gets the feeling of anxiety or panic and reacts to it before labelling it a "problem" in their mind, something to dread and fear, something that has invaded them rather than just a part of who they are, then that is when the problems start and the anxiety habit can begin.

The habit becomes all consuming very quickly and starts to overtake reality and "normal" as we once knew it.

Once this happens, anxiety comes with you wherever you go, because your preoccupation is with it all of the time.

What has your focus, will prevail. Even when you are trying to get rid of anxiety, it still has your focus and will stay. That is why just taking it with you is the only way.

Anxiety has two important rules that re enforce this message:

1. it feeds of itself

2. It takes up a lot of time

Rules which I for one always bear in mind.

Very quickly the preoccupation of this awful feeling returning means that what was once a bad day, dealt with and forgotten quickly vanishes and is replaced by constant monitoring of self, rumination over every thought, feeling or sensation we feel and even when someone feels well, it often only takes one sensation for the relating to anxiety "coming back" to start.

Fear takes over, the need to protect ourselves from this awful thing that is happening to us takes over, anxiety never becomes who we are, but it can sure feel like that when it feels so strong.

We become pre occupied with this awful feeling that we felt, labelling it dangerous in our minds, thinking not just that it is a small part of who we are, but that it has become who we are.

We go into protect mode, and we will do anything not to feel this awful feeling again.

We find things to do that protect us from the danger we feel we are in, we try to carry on, we try to hide it from ourselves and others  most importantly we set our parameters in which we feel safe and this then becomes what will make up our comfort zone, the only place we feel free from the fear.

The problem is that every place we go or person we visit or thought we have that generates a feeling of  fear becomes dangerous and because we are trying to do everything we can do not to feel like that.

Feelings have to process and without feeling them how can they?

Lets be honest, it is never really the place or situation that is causing the anxiety. For example, if we were in a supermarket and we are logical about things  we know that we might be there in physical body, but our minds are not really in the present moment as we are ruminating about fear. We are often worrying about something that we fear will be happening in the future or something from the past that makes us feel bad. That is what is causing the feelings fixating on the fear, not the shopping centre. As soon as we feel the feelings, there is a reaction. The reaction is our natural instinct to protect ourselves from the fear we think will harm us. We may run out and when we do our short term fear goes down and our long term fear goes up. We have trained our Amygdala in our brain to react when we enter a supermarket. We have told it that it is a life threatening situation. So subsequently we avoid the supermarket, this is the habit again, and the reality of the habit. Our tendency would be to avoid anywhere where we felt these feelings as we need to protect ourselves from this feelings and follow our natural instinct to do that. We retreat into our comfort zone, the one that makes life smaller and smaller and anxiety bigger and bigger. Revert back to the "rules" you can see what is happening I am sure.

When you suffer from anxiety,it becomes very important to stay within your comfort zone, but the irony is the anxiety actually becomes your comfort zone, because with the choices and decisions you are making to protect yourself, you are actually training yourself to live in this cycle and the cycle is becoming your reality, your NORMAL. It becomes how you know how to be, what you know.

You may feel a sense of being out of control, but let me highlight that you are very much in control, actively making decisions that take you towards your new reality, making your old one the odd one out. Life before these feelings feels more alien that living with them.

Ok so we have talked about the obvious comfort zone, the one that gets smaller and smaller the more we protect ourselves from fear, but that is not strictly the comfort zone that I am talking about here, this one is the result of the other.  This is the one where the new reality and world of anxiety starts to become what you know and believe it or not it promotes a feeling of safety as its familiar, it is what you know.

It becomes so normal that if you don't feel it for a day, you bring it back. This is called "Emotional reasoning" and goes something like... "Oh, I feel ok today, I have not felt anxious, erm, why is that, where is it" and hey presto you search for it and question the anxiety free feeling until it converts back to anxiety.

So yes, I am taking about the comfort zone that is anxiety. Yes anxiety is your comfort zone, or certainly becomes it, quicker than you can ever imagine. It is in no way you, only a small part, but it becomes your normal.

I can almost hear the gasps of surprise as I write this or in fact feelings of distaste as you cry back at me, how can something that feels so awful be a comfort zone?

Once you are locked into the anxiety and panic cycle, the habit is so strong and so consuming that it becomes your new normal and even though it feels very unsafe, it becomes a comfort zone. So much so that if you were to have a day where it was not there or not as strong, the tendency is to do, as I said earlier "emotional reasoning" and almost say "I've not felt it today so where is it" and bring it right back.

This is what driving the anxiety habit does to you.

Let me give an example to highlight what I mean. (Some of my chat session client's will be familiar with this example)

If we take a lady who is in a domestic violence situation, we know that she feels very unsafe and fearful most of the time. However over time, it becomes more prevalent, this fear happens without her thinking. It becomes AUTOMATIC.

So that can be a reason why if that relationship was to end, the likelihood is that the lady would find another partner that was the same. It is what she knows, in a weird way, her safety, her normal, her comfort.

But what happens if that second relationship finished and the lady entered a third one, but this time with a difference. This time she meets a partner who is not abusive and is loved and nurtured. Well the lady is likely to be so far removed from what she knows about her comfort zone, that she made need long term therapy to help her to relax and accept how to be within this type of relationship.

So think about and reflect on what this means in terms of anxiety?

It means that anxiety has become your normal, the more the habit continues and you make the choices and decisions that drive it and make the habit ingrained, the more normal it becomes and "normal"(as you knew it) becomes the part that may feel harder to reach each time you try. To get there, there is difficult feelings to face, just like there would be each time anyone steps out of their comfort zone for anything!

It also means that stepping outside the comfort zone and feeling your fears to change your normal back to what it should be in order to give you the life you want to have, will feel stranger and more alien than the ease of staying with what you know.

You would feel wobbly and like a duck out of water.

So this blog has been all about understanding that in order to go back to pre anxiety, it will feel hard and there are difficult feelings to face for the above reason.

During my own recovery, I lived by the following mantra:

"In the short term, life transformation causes great stress"

Meaning that to gain anything new or to go back to the old, you must step outside of your comfort zone. This is the only place that self development happens. You have to show yourself that you can.

I hope this has given you a new perspective on why it may feel so hard to face this.

Remember to allow your feelings to process, they must be felt. It is the only way.

Until my next blog, wishing you all, health and inner calm.

Michelle x







I can almost hear the gasps of supervise as I write this or in fact feelings of distaste as you cry back at me, how can something that feels so awful be a comfort zone? Hi. I'm sorry but I'm having difficulty understanding the context of the word 'supervise ' in this paragraph. Is this what you meant to write? Thanks

Posted by Vance , on Thursday 29th June 2017, 12:59 PM

Hi Michelle, Just wanted to say how grateful I am to you for your article on Night Time Panic Attacks ... especially this phrase "It's common to presume that you have developed some new form of mental illness, panic symptom or that this provides ..proof that you are "really bad and beyond help... "
I'm booked into a 'shared tent camping' yoga training and have started to get NPA's as I'm sharing with strangers and suffered NPA in the past

Posted by Rachel Eastwood , on Saturday 6th May 2017, 1:03 PM

Look forward to reading more on this one!

Posted by Leanne , on Friday 5th May 2017, 6:15 PM

All thr best with your studies. Look forward to your next blog ??

Posted by Linda , on Saturday 29th April 2017, 1:35 AM

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