Healing our anxiety isn’t all about mindfulness, CBT and ACT, it’s also about understanding the things that make you anxious in day to day life so we can stop exposing ourselves to them. When you know what makes you feel anxious in day to day life, you can start to seperate yourself from those things. I always say being less anxious, less depressed, less angry, or whatever, is an ongoing process that’s a lot like losing weight. You don’t simply go on a diet for a few weeks, finish, and then expect to be at that weight for your whole life. It’s a lifestyle change. It’s the same with lowering and ultimately overcoming our anxiety.
Some key things need to happen. It’s not always easy to define what makes you anxious because you might feel anxious for most of the day. When you’re feeling anxious and worried most of the day, it’s hard to pinpoint the exact things that are influencing these feelings, it might just come down to your natural beliefs about yourself and your life.
I have personally experienced high levels of anxiety for most of my life. It’s been difficult when I’ve worried extensively about ‘nothing in particular’. However there have always been fairly obvious influences that could have been addressed.
That’s why I put this guide together. Maybe you’ll find something that you can remove from your own life, that will help you feel less anxious on a daily basis.
1. Is Your Ego Out Of Wack?
Many of us grew up being the centre of attention. We were told in school that we could do anything that we wanted to, as long as we tried and worked hard. We grew up with beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. A kind of belief that ‘the world owes us‘ to some extent. As if the rhythm of life should work out as long as we replicated that same effort in school. The problem is, the world isn’t always fair.
Maybe you grew up with a bit of an ego. After all, most of us have, whether we realise it or not. It’s difficult to see the world from a different perspective than our own, because all we have is our own consciousness. We end up thinking that the world revolves around us, forever scraping around to get what we think we need and deserve.
Maybe your underlying ego is causing you anxiety. The Buddha once said; “where there is life, there is suffering.”
That’s because it is an unavoidable part of life, just like happiness. However, it’s our ‘want’ and desire for things that cause us the greatest amount of suffering. It’s easy for our ‘wants’ to become completely unsatisfying, because they never end. Hence we see rich and famous people becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol. Whilst an extreme example, many times this happens because the ‘void’ is never filled after they have achieved their wealth. There always seems to be something missing.
When we remove the ego, we can start to see things from a different point of view – one that’s different from our own.
So what is the ego?
“The part of the brain that is responsible for reality checking and a sense of personal identity.” – Dictionary.
It’s the ‘sense of self identity’ that we build up over the years of our lives. We build beliefs about ourselves, who we are, what we do, and what we deserve.
When life doesn’t gel with our self identity, we can become anxious, or worse, depressed.
However, self identity is simply an idea that we have created about ourselves. Maybe it’s not even real?..
For example, maybe you hate your current job. You think to yourself “I should be doing something better than this”. Maybe you should, or it’s more likely that is just an idea that you have created about yourself. Your current reality doesn’t gel with your ego, therefore, you are unhappy.
You daily life might be filled with anxiety because you feel like “you’re not good enough.” You struggle to put yourself in situations. The idea that “you’re not good enough” is still ego, and still an idea of self identity, but it doesn’t make it true.
Losing all ego is scary to some people, because they don’t like the idea of not having an identity. However, sometimes losing some of that ego and belief system is enough to start changing how you feel.
Could you step back and drop your identity? Could you forget about what you think you should be getting from the world?
I have personally done this, and it’s a refreshing experience.
2. Media, TV, Netflix
Yeah we like to Netflix or ‘Netflix and chill’ from time to time but is this making your anxiety worse? I’ve spoken before about instant TV and how I think it influences anxiety but the media and TV in general is to blame too.
We spend a hell of a lot time in front of our TV’s, sitting on our sofas in the evening’s watching programs that don’t really benefit us mentally or in any other way. Yes we deserve a rest from time to time and to be entertained, but TV consumption and more importantly Media and news consumption can be very harmful for our mental state.
How often are you glued in front of your screen?
We’re lead to a very ‘passive’ life where we’re happy to sit and consume the news, and TV shows that dull us down. The idea that we can get shows on demand leads us into a state of instant gratification.
I’m not saying it’s your fault though of course. We’re conditioned this way. Maybe your parents did the same thing? Maybe you grew up with your TV being a focus point. As I get older, I’m trying to do more productive things like blogging so that I learn but also so I can help others in the process.
It’s no secret that the news focuses on negative stories to get more viewers. I can totally understand that. The problem is, so many people are easily influenced by what they hear about. How often do you hear other people say ‘I can’t believe what I watched on the news?!’ and then they go off on a rant about it.
These things really affect people.
Try and limit your time watching TV and especially the news. You might find that by keeping your thoughts in the present and not on yesterday’s negative stories might make you feel less anxious.
3. Social Media
Social media has been another type of media that caused me a lot of anxiety and stress in my early 20’s. At first it was the cool new thing that everyone was doing. Then, it became a sea of memes, pointless status updates and dodgy videos.
I knew I had to stop. Now the only social media I really use is Pinterest and that’s only to connect and share my work.
How often are you using social media?
If you’re anything like I used to be, you might wake up and check your phone before you do anything else. I used to wake up, open Facebook and scroll up my newsfeed until I’d taken in all the information I’d missed whilst I’d been sleeping.
I would do this until the last minute before I needed to get ready for work and had wasted over half an hour of my morning time. It took me a while to realise that I was doing this and that it was contributing to my overall anxious state, however it didn’t end there.
Later, I’d get in from work, get changed and sit on the sofa and do the exact. same. thing. Aimlessly scrolling catching up on what I’d missed whilst being out of the house. I was on autopilot, not really thinking about why I was doing it. I wasn’t even trying to keep up with what my friends were doing, I was simply addicted to the feeling of getting instant gratification.
It was exhausting to say the least.
After I realised that seeing other people’s pointless status updates, posts that would make me feel bad about myself and other low value things, I stopped.
I went on a detox and found myself less anxious.
I still have Facebook installed on my phone but I no longer find myself trying to stay off it and instead just don’t feel a need to.
If you’re struggling with a social media addiction that is making you feel bad about yourself or that’s causing you extreme anxiety, I would recommend a detox. The detox involves you using your time for better things and therefore fills the time you would normally be using social media for.
4. Choosing Who You Spend Time With
We all have friends that are stuck in their ways. Often times so are we, and so it makes it harder and harder to see that they are themselves stuck in their ways. This means that we go on and on for years with people who are not really doing anything. you both bounce off each other.
Limiting your time with certain people who are causing you anxiety is hard but it could be a big part of what makes you anxious. Usually this is because they are family or they are friends we have had for years.
These people can be causing you your anxiety without you realising.
Maybe they remind you of negative times or they drag you into doing things that make you anxious, or ways of thinking that makes you anxious.
Separating your time from these people can seem harsh and you do run the risk of losing friends. However, you have to think about your long term mental health first. I myself have had to seperate myself from old friends because they made my anxiety increase.
Some old friends would still be goofing around whilst I wanted to move forward in life and try and do well. At the time it was a really hard experience but I’m glad that I made the decision to step back from these people.
Take a look at your closest friends. Do they align with what you’re trying to do? If so, great! If not, maybe it’s time to step back a bit. If they are trying to get you out drinking constantly (something that will send your anxiety through the roof) or doing things that will impact your mental health negatively, start giving it some thought.
How To Remove The Influencers – The Bottom Line
It’s all about what you do in your free time.
The influencers to our anxiety are in our daily life. Although we can’t avoid all of the influencers to our anxiety, we can seperate ourselves from the things we can control. This starts by understanding that makes you anxious personally.
The second thing is to start doing other things in the time that you’d normally let your anxiety influencer take ahold. This means doing things instead of watching TV, Watching shows on demand and spending hours on social media.
Start something new, read books or listen to podcasts. Developing yourself and learning is the best way to spend your free time.
I learnt this through art and blogging. Once I removed the negative influencers and started learning a doing more productive things, I had little time for my anxiety influencers.
What Makes YOU Anxious?
What makes you anxious?
Only you can really answer that. All I can do is share my experience with you and show you what made me anxious fo years. The thing is, everyone is different. You might be able to function well with negative people in your life, spending tons of time on social media and watching every negative thing you see on TV.
Understanding what makes YOU anxious personally is key.
Hopefully the above three points can resonate with you and make you think about what could be fueling your anxiety.
Please feel free to share some things that make you anxious in the comments.
Here’s to your success – Sean
Previously published on projectenergise
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