Often when clients come to counselling they say they feel anxious but follow it up with “I don’t know why – there’s not much going on for me”.
When we look more closely at this it turns out that they have been dealing with lots of stress and worry for so long that they have just become used to it. Or there are unresolved issues from the past like a relationship break up, childhood traumas or bereavements.
Alongside all of this there can be limiting beliefs or unhelpful thoughts that add to the anxiety. For example a person that has low self esteem and little self confidence is going to feel far more anxious about a challenging task than someone who has a lot of self belief. So the lower your self esteem and confidence the more likely you are to feel anxious.
I sometimes compare this to a bucket of water.
We all have a bucket that holds everything we have to deal with.
Some people have a bigger bucket than others, some have a lot of trauma or past issues that are stuck in their bucket so it’s already half full.
Every day the stresses and problems we face add more water into the bucket and if it fills up then it can overflow.
We need to find ways to empty that bucket or slow the flow of water into it to stop it overflowing.
An overflowing bucket can show up as anxiety, losing your temper, feeling overwhelmed or even burnout.
Are you struggling with too much?
One way to reduce your stress is to start to slow down the flow of water into your bucket. This is about looking for the smaller things in your life that you have control over and limiting those things
Here are some ideas
- Opt out of 24/7 news. A generation ago people bought a daily newspaper and/or watched the news on the TV which would be on a couple of times a day. Nowadays we have 24 hours news channels and news apps on our mobiles which constantly send us updates through the day. While it is useful to have an awareness of current issues and events this constant bombardment can be really detrimental. The news doesn’t just tell us what has happened but then tells us what might happen – what if there is a new war or another pandemic? This drip feeds small doses of anxiety over and over. Could you limit it? Maybe watch the news or read a news website once a day. Resist the urge to be constantly in the know
- Set boundaries around work. Do you find yourself checking your work email on Sunday afternoons or just before you go to bed? Instead of enjoying your weekend you worry about work next week. If this is you – try as much as possible to limit your work to working hours.
- Notice “shoulds” – if you catch yourself often saying should then pay attention. Why should you? Often “should” is something coming from a sense of guilt or obligation. Do you want or need to do the things you think you should do? If you don’t want or need to do some of the things on your to do list could you look at dropping them?
- Find a self care activity that works for you. Some examples could be Yoga, Meditiation, Mindfulness, reading a book, exercising, going for a walk. The perfect self care activity is one that you enjoy and can do often so don’t force yourself into a yoga class if that’s not your thing. Forcing yourself into doing an extra activity you don’t want to is just going to create more stress!
Sometimes we get hit by “big” things we can’t control like illness, bereavement, relationship breakdowns. When this happens it’s normal to feel anxiety and sometimes recognising that and giving yourself permission to feel how you do can help reduce the intensity.
Get help if you need to
It’s normal to feel overwhelmed now and again. If you feel that way a lot of the time it could be you need some help and that’s OK.
There might be some really big things stuck for you – a past relationship break down, a bereavement, health problems – these all chip away at our mental health.
Counselling helps by giving you the space to talk through your feelings and helping you to explore them in a safe way. Often feelings can be confusing and talking them through with a counsellor can help untangle them.
Some people find Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) helpful as well. This looks at your patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving and supports you to change them to work more helpfully for you.
As an example many people have unhelpful thinking styles such as catastrophic thinking where they imagine the worst case scenario in every event. CBT would help you recognise and change that pattern.
If you would like to find out more about whether counselling or CBT is right for you I offer a free 20 minute chat over the phone to give you a chance to get to know me and ask any questions you might have.