If you are in the middle of a bad anxiety cycle, your brain needs rest. Look at your anxiety disorder as your brain’s way of trying to get you to take that rest.
Whatever is going on in your mind and in your life is exhausting to your brain. It is tired and it desperately wants you to start taking better care of yourself.
But you know what? Your brain can’t send you an email saying:
“Hey Joe, can you do me a favor and get rid of some of the stress? There’s been a lot going on lately and I’m having trouble keeping up. I’m starting to feel a little run down and overwhelmed. Thanks bro.”
Your brain can’t pick up the phone and call you. And it can’t write you a letter. It has no way of coming right out and saying “Hey….CHILL OUT MAN! You’re going to run us both into the ground if you don’t freakin’ relax!”
Your exhausted brain knows, even more than you do, how much stress is impacting your life in a negative way.
Your brain knows you have got to remove this stress from your life. But without being able to come right out and tell you to slow down, all it can do is hope you come to this realization on your own and straighten things out.
Your brain is a good, logical brain. And like any logical brain it is waiting for you to say to yourself “Stress is bad. Stress equals “danger”. I have to remove myself from this danger.” That is what it logically expects you to do.
The fear/adrenaline response cycle is supposed to be a lifesaving backup system used in the most dire of circumstances – not a routine mechanism that helps you get through every day of your life. Your negative thinking, and the stress in your life…and your response to the stress in your life.… causes you to over-use this system, which is exhausting to your brain, and to your body, and to YOU.
As I have said many times throughout this blog, I am not “blaming” you for your anxiety disorder. Lack of understanding and awareness is the problem. It’s hard to fix a problem that you aren’t even aware exists.
(It’s interesting because with an anxiety disorder, you become hyper-aware of every thought, feeling and speck of dust that flies by. Yet an awareness of how the stress and pace of our lives has contributed to the disorder seems a pretty hard thing to come by.)
Because we often aren’t aware of the real extent of the stress we are under, and we aren’t aware of how our reaction to this stress is overusing our fear/adrenaline cycle, we don’t “remove ourselves from the danger.” Instead of interpreting our adrenaline symptoms as a sign that we need to take it easy for a while and make some changes in our life, it’s a bunch of:
“I wonder why I can’t sleep.”
“My hands sure do seem to be shaking a lot lately”
“Sure wish I could stand up without feeling like my legs want to give out on me.”
“Why do I startle every time a speck of dust hits the floor?”
“Why is my heart pounding all the time?”
“Why do I always feel like something bad is about to happen?”
“I have been to the doctor and he says I am perfectly fine. So why does my head and neck always feel so tight and painful?”
“Why can’t I stop my thoughts from racing?”
“Am I going crazy?”
Meanwhile, your poor brain is up there going:
“Hellooooo? Can you HEAR me? Yo! Hey you! Listen to me! You are OVERTHINKING this! It’s the adrenaline I’m making that’s causing all that to happen! Adrenaline from STRESS! It’s me…your BRAIN! I need a break! Geez…what do I have to do to get this guy to get the message??”
My ex went to a doctor once who told him that his concern about his back pain was almost certainly nothing to worry about. It probably wasn’t cancer, it was probably just arthritis related issues. And my husband said “Why do you seem so confident about that?” And the doctor said “Because that is the most logical answer to me. And I have found that the most logical answer is almost always the right answer.” And as it turned out, he was right and it was a minor arthritis problem.
But that doctor’s words really stuck out to me. It made me think of myself and my anxiety disorder, and how a lot of us with anxiety can have the most logical answer to something staring us right in the face, tapping us on the shoulder, repeatedly clearing its throat loudly to get our attention, and we choose to ignore it and go straight for the most unlikely of scenarios. For example:
“My heart is racing, I can’t sleep and I can’t stop thinking something terrible is going to happen………I must be going crazy or dying.”
Instead of going with a more logical explanation such as the chaotic pace of our lives and stress hormones rearing their heads, we go straight to worst case scenario.
We have to be aware of our tendency to do this and always remind ourselves to focus on the most logical answer to a problem first. Instead of going straight to grandiose, dramatic thinking when a problem presents itself, we need to look at it on a smaller scale and ask ourselves what makes the most sense.
And to that, I suppose you might say, “Well, NOTHING made sense to me in the early days of my anxiety disorder. Everything felt logical and illogical at the same time. And I certainly never knew stress could give me symptoms like THAT.”
And I can understand that. I have been that clueless person, and I know how stress can cloud our judgement.
But now you DO know. If you have gone to a doctor and have been medically cleared, as I recommend everybody with symptoms they are unsure of does, then now you know that there is a pretty good chance that everything you are feeling is caused by adrenaline and stress and a basic neglect of your emotional health.
And if stress and neglecting your emotional health are big contributors to your problems, then doesn’t it seem logical that taking better care of your emotional health might make things better?
Forget about feeling like a weak person or “bad” if you decide to nurture yourself and give yourself some much-needed love and attention.
If you had the flu, you would take care of yourself. If you had a broken leg, you would take care of yourself and slow the pace of your life down. Those are times that we as a society consider it “acceptable” to nurture ourselves, probably because we don’t have much of a choice in the matter.
But I am here to tell you that it is perfectly acceptable to tend to your emotional health as well.
Don’t let the fact that technically you CAN still physically do everything you normally do in a day, trick you into thinking that you SHOULD continue to do everything you normally do in a day.
Take some time away from your commitments if you are able. Find some extra time to do things you enjoy…things that make you feel good about yourself. Spend more time outdoors or with family or whatever it is that brings you a sense of well-being. Wear something to remind you of your commitment to yourself such as a Chakra bracelet or a MantraBand. You absolutely need to prioritize yourself. Your brain, your mind, and your life all need it.
Looking for support? Check out my Facebook Group to ask questions and interact with others who understand what you are going through.
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