Archive for May, 2009

Anxiety and Safety Behaviours

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

Hello everyone, here is this months post. I thought long and hard about what to write and again used what I have read on here and what I feel holds people back from stepping from improvement to the next level.

Many people get stuck at a certain level, where they feel they have come so far, but can’t quite break through to where they want to be. This happened to me, I felt able to do things a lot easier and my anxiety and come down to a manageable level, but I seemed unable to move any further forward. Being me I was never happy with this, I wanted to move towards feeling totally free, to move to another level.

What I did understand is that I was trying to manage my anxiety and was using a lot of safety behaviours to do so. A list of these would include, avoiding certain social situations ‘I may feel bad, overwhelmed’ I won’t go there’. ‘What if so and so is there and I have to speak with them’. I would play pool with friends and afterwards we would all sit around drinking and I would sit there feeling a bit odd/anxious and hardly involving myself in the conversations, more nodding and smiling when I thought I should. I may walk around town and if I saw someone I knew, it would be ‘Oh, no I will feel uncomfortable, odd if he sees me and wants to talk, I will turn my head’. In fact avoiding eye contact and conversation was probably the main one for me.

I once went to a theme park and wondered if I would feel o.k going on a ride, something I had done a 1000 times before, but I feel vulnerable and overwhelmed now, what when the bar comes down I may feel trapped, overwhelmed, maybe I should play it safe and stay here’. A lot of places I was going to or invited to, involved conversations like this and I used safety behaviours almost on a daily basis, play it safe Paul, stick to what you know, if you don’t have to talk you wont feel bad, if you avoid that social situation, you wont feel uncomfortable or be in a situation you don’t want to be.

Well of course to move forward I would not do so while I thought and acted like this, I had to drop these behaviours and learn new ones. So let’s take the first one.

What I did understand is that I was trying to manage my anxiety and was using a lot of safety behaviours to do so. A list of these would include avoiding certain social situations ‘I may feel bad, overwhelmed’ I wont go there. ‘What if so and so is there and I have to speak with them’.

I decided that I wanted to feel uncomfortable, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I knew to feel normal I may have to feel uncomfortable and from now on if I saw someone I would no longer run away. I will go against my instinct and actually approach them. The very action of not pulling away and instead moving towards, tells your body and mind, it’s o.k, there is nothing to be bothered about and I found it went far better than I thought it would. What happened is before as soon as I had no choice but to talk, I automatically went into ‘Oh no, lets get this over with’ what chance did I have with this attitude? I also noticed instead of listening to what the person was saying, I would be straight ‘on me’ I was only bothered about how I was doing, hoping they would scurry off soon, keep smiling, acting your way through, they may go soon, was my attitude. So I did the opposite and actively went towards conversations, not pulling away or avoiding eye contact, how I felt no longer mattered was the key. I am not saying it went great every time, but it got so much easier and I had finally broken a behaviour, one that had built up through instinct.

O.k on to the next

I once went to a theme park and wondered if I would feel o.k on a ride, something I had done a 1000 times before, but I feel vulnerable and overwhelmed now, what when the bar comes down I may feel trapped, overwhelmed, maybe I should play it safe and stay here’. There were other occasions when I may have said this also.

Again I decided this was a road I was not going down. I knew felt a bit on edge and vulnerable because I feel anxiety in normal everyday life, its not harmful and never will be and I am not getting into avoidance behaviour and creating false problems. Lets be honest here, it is always a fear about feeling overwhelmed and never a situation, we could do all these things easily before. So I had to strip away the fact that it was a situation and deal with me.

I did nothing earth shattering, I just went towards what I had been avoiding before, I understood that fear may rise, but what I found out is that it always cut out, it always had a peak, as if to say ‘Paul would you like to run or stay (fight or flight). I found this point was always the key point and I wanted to ride my fears out, it was only adrenalin, so come if you wish, I no longer care. When adrenalin comes, you may feel butterflies, a little shaking, your heart may beat a little, its just your body’s way of asking if you would like to fight or flight, then it would be ‘well you have stayed, so I will now cut off and let you get on’. Your body can only produce so much adrenalin at one time, that is a medical fact, its not harmful and will always calm.

I am not saying its easy to go against your instinct to run, but I trusted in how my body worked and responded. Many a time I would feel overwhelmed, but still go towards it and mostly say ‘Is that it?’ as nothing would really happen, fear would rise a little and then drop to nothing. The feeling of achievement was wonderful and it gave me so much confidence for the next time, things just became so much easier, until it came to the point where I felt no apprehension and I had my life back, I no longer relied on safety behaviours to get through my day.

These were just my main safety behaviours, I had other smaller ones that I would pick on and say ‘Paul your using that as a safety behaviour, do this no longer’. Others may have their own safety behaviours and not really realise they do until they read this, some maybe obvious, others not so. I am not saying go out tomorrow and banish them all, just work towards doing so, one at once or small steps is fine, just acknowledge and try to change these behaviours that hold you back in the long run.

I will try and come back and advise further on this and apologise for not being around as much recently. I just always seem to have something to keep me busy. The main site is having a massive overhaul and a big tidy up and this is taking up all my time at the moment.

I hope there is something in there that helps many people.

For more help and advice on anxiety, visit www.anxietynomore.co.uk

For more information about my book ‘At last a life’ visit

www.anxietynomore.co.uk/the_book.html