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Recognising Anxiety

For most of us thoughts of lockdowns and social isolation are a distant memory but for many the impact of this period of our lives continues to affect us. The conditions we lived under due to the pandemic triggered a 25% increase in anxiety and depression globally. In some regions, such as Western Europe, where I live, rates were much higher. As our physical health crisis subsided, the psychological effects lingered on, and may persist today. If you are feeling more stressed and overwhelmed in daily life, you too may be experiencing anxiety.

One might think that someone like me, who writes about happiness and has all the tools of a coach at hand, would be well equipped to deal with increased anxiety. But if we are not aware of what our feelings are telling us it can be difficult to find solutions. Where mental health is concerned, we may tell ourselves we are alright or attribute how we feel to external conditions that will soon pass. However, we may develop negative mental habits that cause us to feel worse even as life around us improves. Today I want to share my experiences to help you reflect on the your own state of mind.

In 2020 I started a project for a relatively small company whose CEO I knew and admired. I was really excited about working for this company and the impact I could have on their business. I liked the people I worked with and was inspired by their vision. The contribution that I could make was clear to me, and I launched into my work with confidence and optimism. Two weeks later, Covid began to change our lives and in the months that followed I changed in ways that were not clear to me until much later. During that time I began to sleep poorly, was easily agitated, and my stress level was high. I began to think about how I was failing the CEO and the people within the organisation. Over time I couldn’t see how I was adding any value to the point that I felt guilty about submitting my invoices. Finally, I terminated the contract.

Anxiety can change the way we see ourselves and the world. I was't criticised for my work, quite the opposite. Unfortunately my thoughts and feelings distorted my view of reality. The way I addressed what I was feeling was to walk away. Avoidance is one of the main ways we seek to address our anxiety, which only fortifies the problem. As the world began to get back to business I started doing more in person and virtual workshops and leadership trainings for other companies. Unfortunately my feelings of anxiety continued, and it began to affect my work. I also experienced new levels of social anxiety, and began to limit my social interaction outside of work. This behaviour developed into part of my identity.

It took some time for me to recognise how the anxiety that I allowed to develop during Covid remained with me. I overlooked the poor mental habits I had developed and neglected to apply the remedies that I so often recommend to others. They say that doctors make the worst patients, but coaches may not be the best at taking their own medicine either. Fortunately awareness allows change, and after admitting that I too had allowed anxiety to escalate in me, I could take the steps to change.

I tell this story because I am sure I am not alone in my experience.  We see the world through the filter of our beliefs. When we allow thoughts and feelings driven by anxiety to inform our beliefs we will not be the best version of ourselves. Our beliefs drive our strategies and fear based strategies for life will not lead to success and happiness. By facing our fears we can diminish them and find our true potential. If you need help with this process seek out a therapist or a qualified coach to provide the support you need.

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