RUSH RUSH…THE PARODY OF ANXIETY
I use this image because it evokes calm..as impatient as you getting out and rowing one of these boats is something we cannot rush
If there is one thing I have observed in my practice, and this is true of young and old alike it is the link between anxiety and being in a hurry. My anxiety ridden clients speak at a rapid fire pace, they never seem to be able to slow down. It is as if they are fearful that their plans will not come to fruition and so they run through life at a breakneck pace without really pausing to let any of it settle in.
My telltale test for this is the shower. I ask people to slow down while they are taking a shower and enjoy the experience. For many if not all my clients, the daily shower is simply an activity..like eating…best to be done on the go. We have fast food after all. Who needs or has time to take time.
In this little blog, I am going to share with you some very powerful techniques that I have constructed for my clients. While the tools will work and the symptoms of crippling anxiety will abate once applied, I want to discuss what causes such anxiety in the first place and how we can perhaps stop it at the source.
We live in a world, or so we imagine, that makes incredible demands upon our time. We try to jam in emails, our readings…everything that we think we need to do we stuff into our overflowing agenda..soccer for the oldest at 5, hockey practice…making supper…our job…our social life…it all becomes a blur simply because we have assigned equal priority to the many tasks that we believe we simply must do. We don’t question…and if we have ‘free time’ we are at a loss for what to do. How do we fill the time?
Lewis Carroll writes about the mad hatter who was asked why it is always tea time at his tea party. He replied that while some people waste time, other people beat time..and still others seek to kill time, he treats time very well and so it always behaves. Of course that is nonsense but there is some sense in it as well. The Mad Hatter respected time. I believe that when we rush, fill stuff in more things to do, we are trying to escape time…run as it were against the sands in the hourglass…just one more thing….like someone trying to stuff one more item into a suitcase that threatens to explode at the slightest touch.
We rush because we believe we are actually expected to fill every waking hour with things and stuff to do. We plan endlessly…pencil in this and that to enable us to achieve it. At the end of each day we are exhausted. Sometimes, we can take ‘me time’ but I have found that is often a frenetic session at a local gym where we rush through our workout as if our very life depended upon it.
So, the first question is why do we rush? And secondly what harm is it..after all doesn’t it mean we can do more. There is the rub as Shakespeare would say. Rushing gives us the illusion that we do more..and indeed we can point to checkmarks on our calendar to show the world just what we have done. We rush, I believe for two reasons 1) We are terrified that if we stop we will be forced to face who we are..in that space of silence and alone and we are quite frankly afraid. 2) We have bowed down to pressure or the spirit of the age that we are supposed to do a,b,c and d if we are to be considered successful in the eyes of others. We dare NOT get off the train for fear of being called strange, weird..antisocial or anything else we can think of.
All of the great thinkers from past and present have all needed time alone…away from the crowds..away from the pressure to reflect. The more demands are placed upon us, the more we need this contemplative time. Notice I did not say rush to a yoga class..or read a book…no I mean time by yourself..time to walk..time to think..time to be with your thoughts away from the clamour and endless chatter of social media. We used to call it clearing your head. Before labour saving devices such as dishwashers were the norm..people had time to reflect while washing dishes or doing other household chores. They were family matters. We have no more time or so we think.
For those of you who truly believe you have no time..I challenge you to make a diary and simply record what you do every half hour of the day. You will be surprised if not shocked to see how much time we waste responding to emails…checking out Youtube videos..checking out sales flyers..getting caught up with the latest scandal. Or how much time we spend commuting.
After you have done that, and taken serious stock…think about what is superflous. Yes it is great that little Johnny has Tai Kwon do, music, soccer and hockey ..but does he really need to be busy every night? Are we not inculcating him into the very disorder that we suffer from? Think about it.
The harm that being in a rush..no time gives us is that it causes parts of our brain, namely the amygdala to become over reactive…that is to say we find ourselves getting jumpy…making mountains out of molehills and simply reacting in a very negative way to any change. Anything that is outside of our tightly crafted timelines or schedules will cause great distress. So we start to avoid situations and activities that make us feel uneasy and before you know it//you now have anxiety. There are also numerous studies that have linked anxiety to heart disease and other chronic conditions. In its end stages sufferers of anxiety become literal prisoners in their own home, shielded from the dangers of the outside world.
Anxiety presents itself in phases. The first phase is when you are simply not feeling right. It is a vague feeling of discomfort..like knowing you are asked to have a chat with your boss…nothing tangible just not right. Typically, we ignore this phase of anxiety. It is however at this point where we can stop the progression. Here we need to ‘clear our head’, do some deep breathing or muscle relaxation until the feeling goes away. If we dont…..then phase two kicks in.
In phase two…we are bombarded with the what ifs. What if I get fired? What if I am asked to leave? What if..what if….the more we try to address a what if…the more thoughts come and threaten to drown us. There are two things going on here…if we think we can simply ignore the thoughts…we cant as more and more are created. We could try to take ONE thought the worst case scenario and realize that we could cope…but there are too many. The best thing at this point, as I have observed is to say “ALL of these thoughts are valid…but I dont have time now…in 2 minutes I will give them due consideration” Interestingly enough, the thoughts once validated as it were cease their attack on you. I have likened this to a child in a toy store…ceaselessly whining that they want such and such…they wear you out with reasons..and how terrible a parent you are…if you ignore them…the cries become more fervent.. “I hate you” and so forth. However, if you say to the child…” I hear you and I understand now in five minutes we will sit down and consider all you have to say” The child is validated and the whining goes away. In 5 minutes usually the precious toy is but a distant memory
Some folks however, chose to do battle with the thoughts…and exhausted and depleted they fall into a full blown panic attack. Here is where you need to escape..you are irrational..you cant breath…you are convinced you will die. The anxiety mechanism in the brain which tells you to fight, or fly or freeze is one of the most powerful as it has keep us alive as a species. You cant outhink it as now your brain is essentially off line. There is only one other system in the brain that is more powerful and that is pain.
I suggest to my clients to do a wall squat or snap an elastic band on their wrist. Both are painful and I have seen my clients in full blown panic attacks in my office, collapse after a brief wall squat to the point where they can be reasoned with. Interesting
So in conclusion
Do NOT rush..that leads to problems in the end. Take your time, go walking..try to observe things as much as you can.
Do NOT overstuff your agenda…realize what you are doing and trim it down
DO take some quality time away from outside influences for yourself simply to recharge. I find walks the best for this.
DO recognize what I call the stages of phases of anxiety and realize that it can be helped
DO be mindful and take your time in your life. If you are rushing to experience everything..in the rush you will lose all that you seek
Hope this helps. Check this out for more on the amygdala https://study.com/academy/lesson/the-amygdala-definition-role-function.html