What do control and judgement mean? How do they play a part in our anxiety?
When you think about it, don’t most mental illnesses stem from the need to gain control or a worry about how we are perceived by others? It’s funny that mental illness is still being explored and there is a whole world of things left undiscovered and yet with all that mystery you can boil it all down to two simple principles.
Let’s start with judgement….
You might be an “I don’t care what people think of me!” person, just like me but I’m betting you weren’t always like that; for a start, puberty is designed to derail how we feel about ourselves, it’s a whole 5 years of changing and trying to fit in. Most anxiety can be followed back to our teenage years if not before, at that age we’re still learning the ropes of life. Copying and following the directions of others (whether that be a good thing or not) is part of that “growing up” stage.
We learn from an early age to act a certain way or look a certain way that’s fitting to the society and culture around us but if this is not counteracted by positivity and messages of positivity in our everyday lives, we can often become too reliant on others to dictate who we are, in turn causing a life-long struggle for identity.
When you think about your anxiety it’s important to always be asking why. You can’t always hope to just wake up one day and know where your anxiety is coming from and how to reduce it, it’s a process and sometimes that process is one of elimination of trial and error. By removing emotion and just tracking behaviour and result it often becomes clearer quicker.
1. I get anxious on a bus. Why is that?
2. Because I don’t like all the people. Why?
3. Well what if I do something like throw up or something embarrassing, why would that matter?
4. Because they might make fun of me. But why would they, you won’t see these people again?
5. Oh, Maybe they wouldn’t.
In social situations where I’ve felt overwhelmed and anxious and I know it’s the social aspect I usually repeat a few key statements or ask myself questions to calm down:
1. If something happens what are the chances, you’ll see any of these people again?
2. How do you know there isn’t a nurse or doctor here that would help you? Surely there are parents who have experienced this kind of thing.
3. Time will move forward anyway, it’s just whether you want it to be spent fighting anxiety or not.
4. Maybe some of these other people feel like I do but they are so concerned about me they hide it just as well as I do.
There are many contributing factors as to why we care so much about how other people view us and “not caring” is not always the answer as it’s incredibly difficult to achieve but we can learn to love ourselves, be honest with who we are and that in itself gives us the power to care more about what we think of ourselves than what others might think of us.
So next up is my personal favourite…control.
Now I might have a slightly skewed perspective since I have struggled with OCD since well…as long as I can remember; but I also tend to think that mental illness usually comes in pairs, with one feeding the other and nearly every time one of the two is a controlling mechanism.
We all know that daily life regardless of circumstance is chaotic and fast-paced. Everything now seems to happen at the click of your fingers, instant gratification has become the structure we all follow. We live under a constant state of urgency and I’m not going to pretend that I don’t and preach that we should all slow down, take long walks and have weekend retreats because let’s face it, it’s not always achievable. By trying to follow all this guidance we end up stressing ourselves out even more and get a sense of disappointment in ourselves for not trying hard enough to be better.
Ask yourself how many times you’ve felt anxious or had an anxiety attack in an environment you control? More often than not anxiety creeps in when we are out of our comfort zones. Something in our heads says we are unsafe.
Bizarrely enough our anxiety is protection, our body telling us something isn’t right, we aren’t ok; unfortunately, we are so overwhelmed with information every second of every day our brains are just not built to deal with it and therefore go into “protection mode”. We can not control other people, our circumstances or our environment so we begin to look inwards. What can I control?
As soon as we start finding ways to control uncontrollable things that is when we spiral. We should really be focusing on accepting and understanding that we can’t control everything and that’s ok.