We also have, a very high cost of living, out of control housing prices, worse rental prices, freeway gridlock, a go-go-go work mentality, family conflicts, stressors relating to our children, marriages, jobs, aging parents, and all that it takes to try and keep up with a world moving at a pace our bodies and minds weren’t designed to cope with. We’re burned out in Paradise.
Orange County is a great place to live, but it’s also a challenge to find balance in our busy lives here. I know. I listen to Orange County people and their stories every day in my psychotherapy office. I specialize in anxiety reduction and trauma healing. Based on what I’m hearing and seeing, here’s what I can tell you: a lot of you are very stressed out, overwhelmed, and feel isolated and alone in your experience. It doesn’t have to be that way. When anxiety has gotten out of hand in your life there is qualified expert help available for you right now.
How Can You Tell When Anxiety Is Becoming An Issue In Your Life?
1. You can’t quite your mind. Ever. It can seem like there’s no way to shut your mind off and get a little relief. Racing thoughts, particularly worry-oriented “what if?” thoughts are a great indicator anxiety is getting the upper hand. Your bright beautiful problem-solving mind has gotten stuck in overdrive. You find yourself fully engaged at midnight, trying to solve tomorrow’s problems, next year’s problems, and problems that may or may not occur over the next twenty years. There’s a good chance you’re still trying to problems solve in your sleep, once you finally knock out.
Your mind isn’t driving you crazy only on your own time, either. Intrusive, negative, catastrophic thoughts can cloud your thinking at work and reduce your effectiveness. A highly anxious mind is a highly distracted mind. It’s too busy running in different directions to settle down on one issue or manage to be present when you’re interacting with others. In an anxious enough state, you’ll miss deadlines, misread emails and people, and find you’re working harder than ever just to keep on top of things. Mistakes are made. It all adds up to even more stress.
2. Oh, but you’re trying to quiet your mind and it looks like this: too much alcohol, weed, TV or porn, an abundance of hours-long Netflix binges, over-eating, over-working (yes, that can be an anxiety coping strategy), over-spending, gambling, over-exercising, over-anything. It’s not like you haven’t discovered ways to try and reduce your anxiety, it’s just they’re not always healthy or in balance. Some, like over-drinking, can sneak up on you and create havoc of their own. Particularly in the hard-driving business and social culture in the OC. Others, like over-exercising can seem like a great strategy, right up until the time they no longer work. I meet plenty of executives and First Responders who have coped with anxiety for years by getting up and hitting the gym by 5:30 for a few hours. When they start waking up at 3:30 and going in at 4:30, I hear from them. Exercise can do a lot to raise those mood-enhancing endorphins, but it doesn’t teach you a thing about how to actually work through your anxiety. You can’t outrun overwhelming anxiety. True Story.
3. Speaking of the body—it’s TIGHT! You may notice tightness across the neck and shoulders, tightness in the chest, or even a sense of heaviness in the chest, knots in the stomach, a sense of restriction in the throat, racing heart, even profuse sweating at times. On top of that, there are the anxiety and high-stress related maladies: ulcers, acid reflux, esophageal spasms, high blood pressure, auto-immune disorders, hair loss, loss of sex drive, impotence, muscle and joint pains (yes, your stress can be a player here as higher levels of inflammation are experienced throughout the body), IBS, and many more. Anxiety can be a big player when it comes to its impact on the body. Simply treating the physical symptoms is going to do nothing to relieve the anxious cause. Overwhelming or significant sustained levels of negative stress and anxiety can actually shorten your lifespan, not just undermine your ability to actually enjoy life fully.
4. The Walking Dead have nothing on you. You’re Sleepless in Newport Beach or anywhere else. Did I mention ruminating at bedtime and in your sleep? Yes, anxiety is a great robber of sleep and an even more effective disruptor of restful sleep. Many things can contribute to insomnia, but anxiety is at the top of the list. When you’re finding yourself having trouble falling asleep, or waking a few hours into the night and unable to re-settle into sleep, or waking too early in the morning, there’s a good chance anxiety is the culprit. Incidentally, some of your insomnia coping strategies may be backfiring on you as well. That goodnight cocktail or glass of wine might put you down for a few hours, but is common to awaken later and not be able to resettle. Unless you really tie one on and that’s not called sleep. We call it passing out. And no one feels well rested after that. Feeling exhausted and brain-dead only compounds your feelings of anxiety. It’s a nasty cycle.
5. Your relationships may be crashing and burning. Anxiety is a great disruptor of relationships. First, when you are experiencing overwhelming or even just persistent states of anxiety you’re not present. It’s hard to relate to anyone through the anxious noisy haze of your own thoughts. People notice we are disconnected and inattentive. Anxiety numbs us to a lot of our emotions and takes so much energy to finance that we simply can’t be present, truly present to the people we’re with. Even those we love the most. To make matters worse, anxiety makes us irritable. It’s a highly uncomfortable and exhausting state. As a result, Anxious Folk are going to get snappy from time to time. Even explosive. If we’ve been dealing with anxiety long enough, our self-esteem and sense of self-worth are often at risk, since our anxious mind has been criticizing us and lashing us for a good long while. As a result, we don’t always feel secure in our relationships.
Anxious Folks can be Control Freaks and there’s nothing like controlling behavior to strain relationships. No one likes to managed, bossed, or manipulated, even when we think we’re only trying to “help.” A little bit of “do it my way” goes a long ways.
Most Anxious Folk are overwhelmed and doing everything they can to “do it all the right way.”
We Anxious Folk are some of the nicest people you can find on the planet. Or in Orange County. We’re also some of the most over-committed and harried people around. Our busy minds are running us into the ground. If you’re looking for ways to unlearn your anxious habit and gain more peace and balance in your life, give me a call. I specialize in helping Orange County Anxious Folk get their lives back on track.