Updated: Jun 27
In my last blog post, "Could this be anxiety (that I'm feeling)? Part 1", I outlined how anxiety shows up in a variety of ways, including through body cues, restlessness, and sleeplessness. If you have no history of an anxiety disorder, or if you are generally skilled at regulating your emotions, it may be more difficult for you to detect anxiety. As a result, there is a risk of ignoring how it manifests itself in your day-to-day experiences, and this can result in long-term negative effects.
As we continue our discussion of how anxiety is experienced, be reminded that this isn't an exhaustive list. Also, if you are concerned about significant changes you're experiencing physically or psychologically, it is recommended that you speak with a medical or mental health professional.
People typically notice their mental health is off-balance when they find that they are more irritable in response to stress. As a result, they may label this experience as having "anger issues". While it may feel like anger, it is possible that this irritability stems from anxiety. It could be anxiety related to disruption in routine, loss of control, or the perception that their changing circumstances will lead to negative outcomes. Irritability is a manifestation of the emotional dysregulation stemming a need for stability.
Have you ever found yourself reading a book, and before you know it,10 minutes have passed and you're on the very same page? We may easily dismiss our distractedness to just being "scatter-brained", but it can actually be a sign that you're dealing with multiple stressors, including distressing thoughts, that make it difficult to focus on any one thing at a time. To address this, the key is to notice and acknowledge that you are distracted, and try to identify the source of distraction (typically, it's your thoughts, but it could also be your environment). Is it something that requires your attention? If so, it makes sense to resolve it if you can. Otherwise, it will continue to be a distraction.
Another strategy is to make a list of the thoughts that are distracting, and make plan or schedule on how you can address them one-at-a-time. Borrowing from mindfulness, tackling activities one-at-a-time not only boosts productivity, but it makes the experience of each activity more purposeful and fulfilling.
Procrastination/Lack of Motivation
When we find ourselves struggling to keep motivated, or we're constantly putting off our work, we tend to characterize this as being lazy. But every behaviour has a backstory, and if we're curious enough to check it out, we may realize that it's actually anxiety that is the root cause. Anxiety produces unpleasant feelings and reinforces unpleasant, sometimes distressing thoughts. Our typical response therefore is to avoid that experience because it can be too overwhelming. But our avoidance brings only temporary relief as we have yet to resolve the cause, and when our anxiety returns, it is even more intense. The graphic below (from Therapy in a Nutshell) summarizes it well.
You can address your procrastination/lack of motivation by:
1. Being honest about the fact that you're avoiding negative thoughts and feelings,
2. Identifying whether those (anticipated) negative feelings are based on rational or irrational thoughts,
3. Challenging negative thoughts by checking facts or evidence, and accepting alternative perspectives, and finally
4. Making a plan of action for factors that may leave you feeling ill-equipped or unprepared (eg. doing more research, gathering more resources or information, asking for help, etc).
Again, these are just a few of the ways we may be experiencing anxiety without readily noticing that that is the case. And remember, different people have different experiences at varying intensity. If you are concerned that your well-being (physical or mental) has been disrupted in a way that it is impacting your everyday life, it's best you speak with a physician or a mental health professional for more insight.
If you would like to discuss your therapeutic needs, and would like to explore the possibility of starting therapy, feel free to contact me by calling 416-688-5274, or by booking a free initial consult at heartspringtherapy.ca/book-online. Video therapy sessions are available.
Take a look at other related posts that you may find helpful during this time: