Coach and Trainer Simon Pimenta discusses how anxiety can affect people with ME/CFS and strategies for achieving more peace, calm and confidence.
“I am not an anxious person.”
Someone I know with ME said this to me a while back.
What was interesting is that her boyfriend had been saying to me a few months before that his girlfriend worried a lot!
Anxiety and worry are totally understandable when you have ME/CFS.
Some people- including me, were worriers before we got sick.
For others, the anxiety and worry is a result of being unwell and not being able to trust your body to do what you want it to.
When I have a session with clients, I ask them a question that helps them understand how anxiety may be affecting them.
There are 86,400 seconds in a day.
That’s a lot of opportunities for a lot of thoughts.
The question I ask is “What percentage of the thoughts that you are having each day are calming, nurturing and supportive?”
The answers are often very telling, anywhere between 0 and 50%.
If you have read my free report ‘ME/CFS: A Piece Of The Jigsaw’, you will know how stress, fear and anxiety can affect your health and hinder your recovery.
Briefly, every time we activate the fight or flight, it suppresses:
- Immune function
- Energy production and storage
- Deep refreshing sleep
The problem with anxiety is that unless it is addressed it often gets worse.
Our comfort zone gets smaller and our lives become more and more restricted.
What we practice we get good at.
So if you are an anxious person, you end up becoming better and better at it, unless you learn how to reverse it.
It begins to rule your life.
And it screws your life up.
I used to be a worrier.
I learned it from someone in my family, who still worries all the time.
If worrying was an Olympic sport, they would be in team GB!
When I had ME/CFS, there were times when I experienced heightened anxiety.
I would worry about eating the ‘right food’ or I might have a relapse.
I would worry that if I didn’t get a good nights sleep, I would have a relapse.
And of course, worrying about sleep didn’t help me sleep well!
I would worry that if I didn’t get enough exercise, I would have a relapse.
I would worry that if I did too much exercise, I would have a relapse.
This is called ‘Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t’ thinking.
It is fear based thinking.
It is just one of a number of unhelpful mindset patterns that we need to change.
It’s closely related to Catastrophising.
I would worry that doing something- for example going out for a meal, would make me feel worse.
In truth, the worrying is what made me feel worse.
If I had gone out for a meal and been calm and relaxed, I would have probably felt ok, or certainly better than I did, afterwards.
Right now you are either thinking:
“Wow. This guy was neurotic!” or
“That sounds like me.”
9 Signs That You May Be Experiencing Anxiety
- A lot of your thoughts are worry based and you worry that doing something will make you feel worse.
- You find it difficult to switch off and relax.
- You lie in bed awake, with your mind going round and round.
- You awake easily during the night to the slightest sound.
- You feel nervous, panicky, flustered, impatient a lot.
- You experience bodily sensations: butterflies, tension in muscles, palpitations.
- You are looking out for ‘danger’ a lot.
- You talk quickly and take quick breaths.
- You don’t experience much peace and calm.
7 Strategies For Dealing With Anxiety
1. Write It Down
I have explored the benefits of journaling in another post. You can read it here
Allocate a certain amount of time as ‘worry time’, perhaps 5 -15 minutes.
During this time:
a. Write down your worries. Aim to limit this to 5 minutes. Set a timer!
b. Starting with the biggest thing you are worrying about, explore solutions: brainstorm as many possible solutions as possible.
c. Choose the best option.
d. Create a step by step action plan. You can spend longer on the solution finding part of the exercise if necessary.
e. Decide when you are actually going to do the steps.
2. Get It Off Your Chest By Talking To A Trusted Person
3. Learn To Meditate
Meditation is a way of detaching from thoughts and feelings by observing them.
It doesn’t advocate fighting the thoughts and feelings, just noting them.
4. Do An Activity That You Can Get Lost In
Whether it is doing art, cooking, knitting, playing an instrument, having time where you are focusing on something outside yourself is important.
That is one reason why people go to work, because for many people, if they weren’t usefully engaged, then they would get themselves into states of anxiety.
5. Get Out Of Your Head
If you can manage it physically, go for a walk, learn yoga, pilates, tai chi, chi gong or whatever takes your fancy.
Anxious people often tend towards using their brain more than their body.
6. Take Steps To Address The Anxiety
If we step out of our comfort zone and get used to being there, then our comfort zone gets bigger.
It doesn’t matter how small the steps are.
The act of doing this can help us grow in confidence.
Check out this article I wrote 5 Tips For Doing More Safely
7. Seek Help From A Qualified Counsellor/Therapist/Coach
Learning strategies to help you address stress and anxiety may have a profound affect on your health.
As I mentioned earlier, I used to be a worrier.
I was determined to find solutions to overcome it.
Now I am pretty good at being pragmatic, calm and relaxed, and I spend more time just enjoying life.
I believe you can learn too!
You can learn how to:
i. Identify The Unhelpful Thinking
You may be aware of some of the unhelpful thinking, but usually there are thinking patterns that you are unaware of, as they have become automatic or unconscious.
ii. Interrupt These Unhelpful Patterns
Developing critical thinking skills can help break the unhelpful patterns of thinking.
‘Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t’ thinking and catastrophising are just 2 examples of unhelpful thinking.
Black and white thinking and labelling- when you say things like “I’m weak/stupid/not good enough.” are others.
All these and other unhelpful mindset patterns need to be broken.
When people say “I’m an anxious person.” they are making a very unhelpful statement because:
- Anxiety is something we generate.
- Any statement containing the words “I am..” is an identity statement, so effectively we are turning a habit- for example feeling anxious, into part of our identity, rather than a habitual pattern that we can break.
iii. Create New Helpful Patterns
The brain has the capacity to grow with use; this is called neuro-plasticity.
So it is possible for the us to learn new patterns of thinking and behaviour.
The Building Resilience Course covers these 3 steps.
Do your best to address anxiety.
Anxiety can be detrimental to our wellbeing if it is frequent and may be hindering your body’s healing.
Get help if necessary.
Are these issues that are affecting you? Do leave a comment on how useful you found this article. I am interested in your thoughts.
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Feel free to contact me here for a free consultation* to find out more about how I work, or if you have any questions.
I do 3 free coaching sessions each week.
I promise that I won’t sell anything.
During the session, we will work together to:
- Clarify your current situation
- Identify a number of clear, reasonable goals
- Identify what is stopping you from achieving them
- Identify practical steps to help you achieve these goals.
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After working in a demanding job as the Director of a Housing Trust, he went off sick and remained unable to work for the next 8 years.
He discovered a pioneering approach to resolving health issues and got back his health, and now trains others using these same techniques.