HOW TO UNLOCK ANXIETY

Photo by  CMDR Shane  on  Unsplash

Photo by CMDR Shane on Unsplash

There are times in our lives when our world's get turned upside down, for whatever reason, not only causing some turbulence in the outside world, but also turbulence within our inner world.

This happened to me during my first year of University when I was dealing with coming out and all the confidence issues that come with it. It caused me to have these overwhleming waves of persistent anxiety and dread that I had no control over, and while the weather outside was warm and sunny, inside my head there was an angry, tempestuous storm eating away at my soul.

I found it difficult to explain to friends what was going on, but eventually I was able to work it out through a metaphor. I explained to one friend that it was like being trapped in a room with white noise playing the whole time. Sometimes it is quiet, sometimes it is really loud and overbearing, and it felt like there was nothing I could do to silence it. I dreamed that sometime soon I would find the key to get me out of this prison, but I just had no idea where it was. I did know however, that I would never stop trying to find it, as I was not willing to accept this condition as my life.

On this occasion, it took a summer holiday back in my home town, reconnecting with my passions and childhood friends and hobbies, that I had somehow disregarded and allowed to become diluted while at University. It was simply taking small proactive steps to find my inner joy and value of myself as an individual and surrounding myself with the people who supported that.

Being a highly sensitive person, with vulnerabilities that come with being a gay guy, I continue to be more prone to moments of anxiety than others. But I am fascinated by how it is possible to manage it and develop a strategy to protect yourself from it causing too much damage in your life.

Essentially, when we feel anxious we have to find the key to unlock it and set it free. We have to make sure our lives are set-up so that we give ourselves the flexibility to put things on hold just for a short moment so that we can deal with it, in the same way that you would spend some time in bed when you have the flu.

Finding the right key, that's the trick. But be careful not to be tricked into negative behaviours that put you into another prison. Getting drunk, taking drugs, over-endulging on junk food or having promiscuous sex can provide short-term relief from anxiety, but can become dangerous addictions. Finding an activity that is therapeutic but positive is more important. My love of singing has been my saviour in times of stress; shutting myself in my bedroom, lowering the lights and losing myself in a bit of a fantasy world of singing and music is my go to at the most intense times. Also, having a good exercise regime helps to expel some of that negative energy. Half an hour of pounding the running machine listening to my favourite tunes at full blast on my headphones makes me feel truly alive, energised and empowered.

However, even my escapism into singing I see as sometimes non-productive. If I find myself reaching for the iPod too many times rather than going out and finding connection in the outside world, then I know I have to have a word with myself and start to use that energy to imagine new paths of exploration in the world where I can find connection that may be missing at the time. I have to use the singing to ignite that imagination and creative impulse. I find myself on Meetup.com usually, where I can try out new social groups of cool people in this crazy city who have like-minded interests and philosophies. I also belong to organisations like Outdoorlads.com that provide a safe space for gay men to enjoy outdoor pursuits away from the toxicity of London's gay scene where indulgence in alcohol, promiscuous sex, narcissism or drugs is often required to fit in.

So if you find yourself getting overwhelmed with anxiety, take the time to examine it and interact with it and spend some time searching amongst the many keys that can unlock it.

I have now discovered all sorts of different keys for different situations and I literally keep a list on my laptop to remind me which ones to try when I am feeling overwhelmed:

  • Looking through my photo collection to remind myself of my adventures and inspiring experiences I have had and the beautiful people who I have shared those with.

  • Taking a walk around my flat and enjoying all the pitcures, ornaments and furniture I have collected over the years and appreciating the creative, safe space I have created for myself.

  • Reading through a curated list of times when I have laughed so hard I could hardly breathe.

  • Reading my list of the people in my life who have given me so much joy, support and inspiration, and why.

  • A reminder of the Meetup groups that I have not connected with in a while, where I feel welcome, safe and can be myself.

I guess this is my way of practising the common exercise of remembering what you are grateful for, that many people practice on a daily basis. What would be in your list, that would be helpful in times of need? I know I am appreciative of the life that I am able to have in a way that others sometimes cannot, and this also unlocks the anxiety and turns it more into compassion to help others to find their keys. This is my motivation to being a Life Coach.

I would be honoured to help you sometime.

Take care for now.

Oliver

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