Happy New Year to you all.
I hope that everyone has had a good Christmas and that 2016 is the year you feel able to move forwards in every avenue, you health being the most important .
One of my important New Year's resolutions is always the same "To help as many people as I can begin to facilitate their own recovery from Panic and Anxiety Disorders, using all the knowledge and experience I have"
It has always been important to me to help others, I want to expand on my knowledge and abilities to help people to feel better, get better and go onto live a rich panic free life.
I have given much thought to Januarys blog as I feel it's a new year and new start and so I think it is important to cover this important topic.
This month I would like to talk about why, during your recovery how important it is not to focus on every subsequent negative feeling, thought or sensation that you have and link it to your anxiety or label it anxiety.
In my opinion this could well be the single biggest thing that people do that keeps them stuck in the anxiety cycle and hinders if not preventing altogether recovery.
I will try to explain what my point is in a way that it comes across correctly as it is really that important.
Before we were anxious and/or depressed we had down days, mood changes, nerves in certain situations (maybe before a job interview for example), hormone fluctuations and bad things that happened to us which are part of life, such as an illness, a fall out with a friend, a bereavement, a relationship breakdown or any situation that would NATURALLY give us feelings of Depression, hopelessness, anxiety or Panic attacks.
At that time we never knew what it would be like to be constantly Depressed or anxious over a long period of time with no let up. Instead we were blissfully unaware, got through our bad days while concentrating on /living in the moment and just accepting that they were there. When they passed, which they always did, we just got on with living our lives and enjoying the good days once again. If we went through a life changing event such as a relationship breakdown or a bereavement and felt longer term stress feelings while in this period then we allowed the feelings that we were having as we accepted that they were an inevitable part of what we were going through at the time and we knew that they would pass. This allowed those feelings to naturally process over time and for us to return to normal function and move on.
Now let's look at what seems to happen to our reaction to these same everyday situations or life changing events once we have suffered from Anxiety and Depression, because our reaction to the feelings becomes very different even through the feelings and sensations that we are feeling are the same.
It is because when we suffer from Anxiety or Depression for the first time, the symptoms, feelings and sensations that we have are bewildering and terrifying as we do not know what is happening to us. They become imprinted on our brains not just because they are traumatic but also because like every passing moment of our life they become stored in our Amygdala.
It all felt bad that we have a big problem moving on from these feelings and forgetting them enough to return to the life we had before the onset. Instead we become preoccupied with the fear that they are going to come back and begin to limit our life and movements to protect ourselves, this keeps us stuck and makes it difficult to move on. But the most important point to note is that each day we live in the anxiety cycle, habits are forming which get stronger and stronger over time. The habits become who we are and so anxiety becomes a comfort blanket of automatic habits so strong that we literally become unable to live without it, or remember what normal function is.
This is all key because the anxiety cycle has had such an impact on us that going into our future even when we are functioning well, we still relate every bad day, hormone fluctuation, or challenging life event to anxiety, we still label it anxiety rather than a normal part of everyday living.
The truth is many people whom have not felt anxiety have these feelings for a number of reasons but accept the feelings and never label it anxiety. They accept and allow the feelings and in doing so allow them to process and pass, before returning to normal function over time.
I will use an example to explain my angle on this.
Let's use bereavement as an example, if we suffered a bereavement we would have a period of feeling exactly like we would with anxiety and depressive symptoms, however if we had never suffered anxiety or depression in the passed we would accept these feelings as a normal thing whilst going through a bereavement, we would see them as nothing more than a normal thing given the circumstance and even though we didn't like the way we felt we would go with it, allow ourselves time to process things and then we would move forward. What is really important here though is that we would link the feelings to that of bereavement, and allow them. Once we had found things easier to cope with over time, we would leave the general feeling behind us. I know we would still get the sadness when we were reminded of our loved one (The Amygdala working again), but in general we would move on and smile and laugh again. We would label the feelings as normal for Bereavement we would not label them Anxiety"
This is where Anxiety and Depression is different, once we have suffered from them, every circumstance or feeling in the future that we have that feels panicky or Depressive we immediately link it to our anxiety or Depression and believe that it has come back. This then puts us at risk of slipping into a setback, by focusing on the feelings. Had we had been going through the bereavement again we this link is so strong that there is a good chance we would have linked the way we feel to our anxiety or depression starting again and not to the fact we were going through a period of bereavement!. That is how strong this can be.
We would resist the feelings and begin our behaviours again, not allowing anything to process and keeping us stuck.
Life is life, there are going to periods of stress and challenging times that will bring with them feelings very similar to what we have felt with anxiety and depression. Once we have moved away from our initial period of going through an anxious period we must learn to leave the blanket of anxiety behind us and realise that future events that generate these feelings have no place to be labelled as anxiety or depression when they are nothing to do with it, just a normal part of life.
You may go through these types of feelings and symptoms many times through your own life time, that does not mean that it is all to do with your anxiety or depression starting again, it could be a normal reaction to a circumstance in your life at that moment.
Once you do leave anxiety behind you, keep it behind you, recognise feelings for what they are at the time and allow yourself to feel and process them as you would have done before times of acute anxiety or depressive feelings, don't bring back what you would like to keep in the past just because it feels similar, that would be silly to put yourself through developing these habits again when you really don't need to.
Learn to see, by your own thinking just how easy it is to fall back into this cycle, become aware of it and stop it.
Leaving anxiety behind comes from learning to live without those habits and the blanket that covers you, not labelling every feeling you have in the future as it "coming back".
Down days and feelings due to circumstance are normal. Not Anxiety or Depression.
I hope that this thought helps you in your own journey,
Until the next time I blog,
Sending very best wishes,