It was 3:00am on a hot Summer's night in 2012. The windows were open in a futile attempt for Fresh air and I lay above the Duvet Covers wide awake. The main bedroom light was on and I stared at the Ceiling, lost in thoughts. I'd woken up Panic-stricken, sweat oozing from my anxious body into the bedding, changing it's colour from grey to a sticky black. This was a regular occurrence when my Anxiety was out of control. Waking up at some ungodly hour, physically and mentally battered. It's strange but I could never remember the details of the nightmares, but they were so gripping that they affected me once I awoke. It was when I was awake when the worrying began. Worrying about anything and everything. Everything was perceived as a threat. One of my main anxieties was around money as I was increased Debt with payday loans. What if I couldn't afford the repayments? What if I never get out the debt? What if my family and friends realised my dirty little secret? What If? What If? What If? It's refreshing for me now to look back and analyse what was happening to me, I'm in a much healthier place mentally. At the time, though, I was paralysed and lost in my thoughts- like being engulfed in a thick black cloud of smoke, unable to see a way out.
Maybe you can relate to this? Those nightmares where you wake up terrified and emotionally affected. Those times where you feel physically sick from worrying. But why does this happen? The event is just imagined, it's not really happening.
So why does it still affect us?
This is why. The mind doesn't know the difference between a Real Life event and an imagined event. It can't distinguish between Real Life and Imagination. This explains why we start to feel terrified when we have a Nightmare and why we feel warm and fuzzy when we look over old photographs capturing happy memories.
Here is the thing: It will never be as bad in Real Life.
I believe that the reason events seem scarier in the mind is because we are powerless. As everything is imagined, there is nothing we can do actually that will have any impact. The scenario doesn't exist so we can't do anything physically to resolve what is causing us the stress.
Sound familiar? Those dreams where you are trying to run from danger but it feels like you're attached to a Bungy cord and unable to move. It's scary! In real Life, however, we have power. We have the ability to think and act. We have control over our Actions.
So, what to do when worrying takes over?
Remembering that we have Power. Let's say you are Anxious about an upcoming Speaking event. In your mind you see it going terribly, you fall over, you mumble your words. So what if that happens? In real life, you have the power to deal with it. You can stand back up, laugh it off and carry on giving the Speech. You have a Choice. You can act. You have power.
A strategy to interrupt this pattern of worrying is by saying to yourself 'I can do this, I have power'. As you say this to yourself, stand tall and breath. Keep an image of yourself in your mind, the best version of yourself.
Next time Worry starts to take over: Slow things down. Remember that it is just a thought, it's not real. Thank your mind for giving you the thought, it's meant well, it's trying to protect you.
But you can handle it, you have control.
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