Anxiety can strike at any time.
There is no rhyme or reason for when and why we feel anxious. Anxiety can happen at random or it can be a regular occurrence that you associate with some previous event. The only thing I know for certain is that feeling anxious is out of my control. It must be because I certainly wouldn’t volunteer to feel any type of anxiety!
Anxiety is like a Nightmare…
Bear with me while I set up the context for this post about getting a grip on your anxiety, it will all make sense the more you read…
The other night I woke up after having a nightmare.
Unlike some people I don’t remember the content of my dreams or nightmares, all I know is that whatever I dreamt wasn’t pleasant and I awoke screaming.
Afterwards, it occurred to me that when I was in the nightmare what I was experiencing was my perceived reality. It seemed very, very real, so much so that when I woke up my heart was pounding and I was in a state of fright for a few moments, I was completely terrified and had a feeling of anxiety that felt very real.
After a few minutes, I realised it was just a bad dream, the fear subsided and I felt calmer and back to normal, although I was still wondering what had happened to cause me to have this bad dream. After a short while I was unable to recall the details of the nightmare and feeling calmer I easily got back to sleep and forgot all about it until the morning.
What is a Nightmare?
Who knows, people have been trying to fathom out the purpose and content of dreams for thousands of years, there are many theories but no one really knows.
For me, a dream is just my thoughts occurring in a state of mind where my normal reality is suspended, where anything is possible. Because I’m asleep I have no conscious way to regulate my thinking and therefore my thoughts can run wild and the impossible things that happen in nightmares and dreams seem very real and possible.
What makes it a Nightmare and not just a dream?
My emotions do.
If it is just a dream I feel good, if it is a nightmare then I feel negative emotions like fear, anxiety and dread.
I decide what label to give a dream either good or bad, dream or nightmare, based solely on what I perceive and feel it should be when I wake up and try to make sense of it afterwards.
I also have Daydreams too…
I hope you are still with me because we are getting to the main cause of anxiety soon…
During the day I have daydreams.
I go off into a fantasy land where I can be mentally miles away. Daydreams are usually quite pleasant and don’t seem to affect me adversely for they are simply made of thought just like my dreams at night.
I could be dreaming about how I want something to be or just some bizarre fantasy that is never likely to happen. All of these thoughts pass through, are forgotten and mostly don’t bother me again.
Every now and then I get daydreams that aren’t very nice…
Daymares, I call them.
Daymares are made of thoughts that if I experienced them at night would be labelled as nightmares.
Anxious thoughts about how something could go wrong, what if’s, maybe’s and many other thoughts that cause me to feel anxious, or fearful about something. Usually, about something that hasn’t happened, or may never happen, these daymares become my reality, both mentally and physically while I’m thinking them, just like in the nightmares.
In the past they have been the fuel for anxiety and even full-blown panic attacks – now that’s a real daymare!
All dreams are made of thought…
Why is it I can dismiss a nightmare so quickly and not be bothered by it in a really short period of time but can easily hang on to the after-effects of a daymare?
After all, dreams and nightmares are just a series of thoughts strung together making up an imagined scenario.
None of the thoughts or scenarios is real and most likely they will never turn out the way I imagine.
We end up feeling anxious about the scenarios we imagine in our daymares.
So why do Daymares cause so much anguish, worry and anxiety?
Why can’t we just let daymares go?
We know that a nightmare is just that, a bad dream we had in the middle of the night. We try to make sense of it but there simply is none most of the time, we can make up reasons for the dream but we never know for sure why we had them.
Nightmares are a part of life they just happen out of the blue, we never know when we will experience one.
Daymares are different though…
During our waking hours, we have real-life scenarios happening, sometimes triggering the daymares.
Sometimes we can’t make sense of what is happening or we want to know what the outcome will be before it happens.
We drop out of the present moment into a fantasy land where our thoughts run riot trying to predict an unknown future, often based on bad past experiences, and sometimes the prediction we make is terrifying.
The conscious mind kicks in trying to make sense of the daymare, trying to find solutions to problems that either don’t exist or don’t have a solution.
These thoughts trigger neurochemicals in our brain, and these, in turn, flood into our body and cause us to feel negative emotions and physical tension in the body.
The result is we label these feelings and emotions as anxiety or fear…
We become even more worried and tense as our conscious mind tries to work out a solution to these anxious thoughts and feelings.
Your mind has turned a daydream into a daymare simply because there is now a physical element involved of which you have become very aware and judged to be a bad thing.
Your brain is now on high alert, causing the same thing to happen over and over again and so the anxiety thought cycle continues.
So what is the answer to stopping anxiety?
There may well be something causing you concern that you need to deal with, but drifting into a dream world of anxiety and worry isn’t going to fix it.
And you won’t find peace of mind in your dream world if your thoughts run riot and there isn’t a real problem to solve.
You simply need to realise that anxiety and worry are made of thoughts just like a dream or nightmare. And those imagined thoughts are triggering all sorts on negative feelings and emotions, and also more anxious thinking.
You are in a vicious circle that needs to be broken.
It does seem to be the case that we label nightmares as “just bad dreams”, and let them go easily, but we take daymares more seriously.
We give daymares importance that they really don’t deserve. As a result, we suffer from stress, worry and anxiety, all caused by our unchecked thinking.
The anxiety and worry stop when you wake up from the dream and get back into the present moment because in the present moment it’s not possible to feel anxious or worry about things.
Only in the present moment can you deal with the problem or realise that there is no real problem to deal with.
But how do you wake up?
What has worked for me is seeing that when I feel worried or anxious for no good reason I have slipped into a daymare. It doesn’t stop daymares from occurring, but it does make it easier to escape from the false reality I have created for myself.
As a bonus the more I see what I’m doing to myself the easier it gets to escape and as if by magic fewer daymares happen.
There are always times when I don’t realise I’m in a daymare, I get caught up in the daydream and forget to check to see if there really is something to worry about, but that’s simply part of the experience of being human.
Sounds too easy, doesn’t it?
Well, it is and it isn’t.
Like everything the more you practice the better you get.
You have to make the effort though, nothing will change until you make it change by taking action. It isn’t hard or difficult to change, just take it one step, one thought at a time.
Just become aware of your anxious thoughts…
Watch them and simply question if there really is a problem or situation that needs your attention. Or is it just a daymare in progress?
Often just becoming aware of your thinking is enough.
Try it and see for yourself…
I found out how to deal with my anxiety and now my passion is helping people to find their way to deal with their anxiety.
I coach, guide and encourage my clients to see what they need to do to break free from the worry and anxious thinking that has been blighting their lives and to be able to live life in a much calmer, peaceful and enjoyable way.
Life doesn’t have to be a nightmare, you don’t have to live in a daymare – it’s up to you to wake up and discover what’s really going on…