“I have had the worst year imaginable. I feel so empty now. I had planned to go see my family for the five day window over Christmas, and when the government changed it to just Christmas Day, it was not enough time to get there and back in a day. Now another lockdown. I feel like I am suffocating with restrictions and limitations. I have daily panic attacks which frighten me and occur at any time, for no reason. My heart is racing and I break out into cold sweats. Again, no particular reason.”
You are not alone in feeling any of this. Many people are experiencing the (now) long term effects of prolonged isolation and restrictions on personal liberty.
Let’s face it, we are all used to going where we want, when we want, and doing the things and seeing the people in our lives that create our own sense of enrichment.
A life in solitude is not what human beings were destined to have.
The trouble is that we have gotten so used to an unrestricted lifestyle, we have forgotten how to cope in leaner times.
My father was a self employed Accountant. As a young boy, he used to say to me, when I have had a good earning week, we eat steak, but when I have a quiet week, we eat fish fingers. My point is that life is meant to ebb and flow between good and not so good times.
Putting it another way, if we did not have cold winters, how could we appreciate the warm, long summers.
Before the invention of electricity and the Internet, people used to hibernate in the short days of winter. We used our own circadian rhythm to dictate when we slept and when we awoke.
None of this simple lifestyle brought about anxiety and depression. It was, at that time, a way of life.
I make a point of not putting the lights on at night. It makes me feel sleepy. And I awaken when the sun rises. During the winter I sleep for longer. In the summer months, I enjoy having less sleep and more awake time.
But we live in a world full of packaged content; Streaming galore, Internet constantly on demand; A pocket sized world in the palms of our hands.
One has to question — do we have too much choice?
There are a number of contributing factors to anxiety.
- Inability to understand our own emotions
- Locking away painful experiences
- Less face-to-face interactions
- Fear of… Fear!
- Social media
- In your face news – and fake news
- Lack of healthy lifestyles
- Reduced sleep patterns and sleep quality
- Frustration with the lack of life-available choices
- Long term illness
- High blood pressure
- Metabolic syndrome
The list goes on, but I highlight a few of the major protagonists.
If you follow my blog posts, you will, no doubt, notice the recurring theme of being unable (or frightened of) dealing with and processing your inner emotions; locking your soul down and throwing away the key because you don’t think you will be able to cope with what you have hidden away — from others, but more importantly from yourself.
I have a phrase I like to use —
‘Feel the fear.. and do it anyway’.
So, what does that mean?
It means — let go of that which no longer serves to help you, or make you feel happy and well balanced.
In emotional terms, this means reconnecting with your soul and listening to what it has to say. Feelings are not complex exchanges. They are single words. Loss. Grief. Emptiness. Lonely. Rejection. And so on.
The soul helps you because feelings tend to be mapped to different places in the body. Unexplained pain in the neck, chest, back, stomach for example. Not the medical kind. No. This is a manifestation of the parasympathetic nervous system.
The more a problem is ignored, the more the soul has to try and attract your attention! Panic attacks, for example.
So ask yourself — what am I suppressing? What feelings am I trying to avoid? Deep down, you know the answers!
In days gone by, many of us might have kept a daily diary. A personal journal of our lives, their trials and their tribulations. How many of us can honestly say that we still write in a personal, secret diary now?
Through writing, we put down the goings on in our lives. Unrequited love. Crappy dates. Promotions. Arguments and fallouts. Happy things. Sad things. Our diary kept a reality check on our feelings.
Now we resort to Facebook, Twitter and Insta. Yet it does not feel the same. Bearing our souls on social media is too public.
What is more, since when did we need the critique and admonishment — or the validation and approval from virtual strangers?
If you have a feeling, you have it for a reason. It does not require any justification or judgement, least of all from anyone else. Your feeling is entitled to be there. It asks only that you acknowledge it, honour it by listening to it, and some time to deal with it and then let it go.
The amount to which we are all guilty of backing the wrong horse and placing our emotional faith in the hands of social media is bearing out in the cross correlation to the rise in depression and anxiety.
I am not saying quit Facebook. I am saying that you should consider your motives when posting your innermost feelings. Some things are meant to remain personal.
As for what you should do instead? Start a feelings journal or Dear Diary. Reintroduce and protect your privacy and your feelings and consign them in your written words. It is incredibly cathartic. And through it you will better connect with your soul and so have a direct line into your feelings.
Okay, I hear you say, so I have written down the feelings I have been ignoring, but I can’t see how to benefit it.
Right. Well, first of all, a problem shared (in this case written down) is a problem halved. That is 50% of the battle. Half way. The answers will come because you now have awareness. It is good, and healthy, to be self-aware and curious.
Once you have a better handle on the feelings you have inside you, you can then compartmentalise them. Two lists. Things you can do something about. Things you cannot do anything about…yet.
It is absolutely normal to miss your family and friends. Shopping days. Days out. Social treats. For now, those maybe things you cannot do much about — and where technology might actually be beneficial, through the medium of telephone, video and messaging.
Instead look at the things you can do something about. Get out and take some fresh air and exercise. Call friends and family and keep in touch. Learn to pivot. If you like to play poker, do it over video instead. Somethings have a workaround (pivot).
All the things you have been experiencing are found in your soul’s need to be listened to, processed and let go of. A pill cannot do anything more than provide a temporary mask. Those same feelings will still be there. Might as well have a go at trying to manage them holistically.
I will post a separate blog about the connection of anxiety and metabolic syndrome. Read it here.