I was talking with someone the other day and how he just wanted his anxiety to go away. He said that it initially came about due to being put under a lot of pressure at work and there were a few problems at home that were causing him a lot of stress and worry.
He then said ‘ But Paul, I have cut my hours down, the other problems no longer exist, yet my anxiety won’t go away, nothing is changing, why?’
I said “The reason you are still in a cycle of anxiety is that you now have a new problem and it is this problem that is keeping your anxiety going.
To which he replied ‘What new problem’?
I replied “Anxiety'”
I could tell by talking with him that this was the case. He was rubbing his hands constantly, seemed agitated and kept mentioning how anxiety was ruining his life and how he had tried everything to overcome it without success.
How we stay in the cycle of anxiety
I explained that initially, yes, the anxiety was brought on by him worrying and stressing about work and home, but even though this was no longer the case, the work and the stresses of home had now been replaced with worrying and stressing about anxiety and his current predicament.
Instead of worrying and stressing over a deadline at work, he was now worried about his anxiety and how it was affecting him and those around him. His whole day was also taken up by fighting it mentally and physically, and this is the reason he felt so worn out and continued to feel anxious.
He agreed with me and explained that he felt real pressure to defeat his anxiety, that others around him were saying how he must man up and put it behind him. He said “Paul, all I want is to be left alone, but I have responsibilities, a family to feed. Everyone relies on me but you’re right, I have been up all night at times trying to figure a way out, trying to defeat this thing, only to then wake up feeling more defeated than ever”.
I explained to him that he was caught up in a cycle of creating new suffering through the process of fighting and worrying about his current state. All this battling and overthinking was only wearing him out further and keeping him awake at night. Recovery could never come through this approach.
The anxiety loop we get stuck in
This is the cycle that so many find themselves in until they see the truth for themselves. You can’t heal your symptoms of worry and stress by worrying and stressing about the symptoms themselves. You have to realise that you are creating even more problems and continued suffering from this approach.
I did the same thing; in fact, my initial problem no longer mattered; this anxiety was a far bigger problem than what brought it on.
I went through the whole cycle of continually worrying about how I now felt. I went to war with it daily and tried everything to make this damn thing go away and it only got worse. I had no idea at the time that I was creating all this extra suffering and keeping myself in a loop.
Once I explained all this loop to him, he said ‘Paul I truly understand what you’re saying here, and I realise now that I am doing all of the above and it makes sense and to why I am getting nowhere’.
We then spoke about how he could now explain to his family and his boss about how he was feeling and also what was needed for him to recover. He needed time, space and some understanding from others, so they put no extra burden on him.
I also explained to him that he had to accept he had anxiety for the time being and stop this pointless pursuit of trying to defeat it and take that burden off himself.
To recover, he had to break this cycle of recreating his anxiety and then be patient enough to allow the process of healing to happen. If my body could have spoken to me many years ago, it would have said ‘Paul just leave me alone and I will heal myself’.
It kept shouting this message at me until one day I finally listened!