“Over thinking, over analysing, separates the body from the mind”
Feelings of happiness and self-esteem are strongest when you feel connected to the world and the people around you; when you feel like you’re in a lead role, not sat on the sidelines waiting silently in the wings.
Our happiest memories are always forged when we feel completely in the moment and consumed with whatever great adventure or human interaction we are in.
These experiences are what make us feel human, they are the ones we look back on and cannot help but smile and grin.
But if there is one thing which will try and rob you of these moments and emotions, then it has to be anxiety and the depression it can often bring.
It becomes all about focusing inwards and eventually the world around you fades until all seems dull and dim.
Anxiety can change you into a different person, it is certainly what it did to me.
My focus stopped being on the world and people around me and became all about how I felt, what I was thinking and the physical sensations I was experiencing.
I became introspective, and there often wasn’t an hour in the day which went by without me checking how I felt.
I’d stop every so often and examine how I was feeling, scanning my body and mind in hope that I’d be able to mutter to myself. “It’s alright, I feel ok at the moment”.
I was anxious about feeling anxious, and I couldn’t see that by continually ‘checking myself’, I was only making it worse.
So if your anxiety means you spend a lot of time monitoring how you feel and looking inwards, then this post is for you.
Today we are going to be addressing why becoming hypersensitive to your anxiety by constantly checking your thoughts and feelings is a major contributing factor in your anxiety persisting.
Good morning anxiety!
There’s a little test you can use to see if you’ve become hypersensitised to your anxiety.
How long does it take you after waking up in the morning to check how you are feeling?
5 minutes? 10 minutes? Half an hour?
When you’re hypersensitised to your anxiety, other than switching the alarm clock off, it’s often about the first thing you do.
Your anxiety becomes an obsession and it makes you compulsively monitor how you are doing.
It’s become so important that you don’t feel anxious, that you keep checking to see if you are.
But all this constant checking does is put even more pressure on you to not feel that way. So of course, this only makes your anxiety worse and you begin to monitor it more and more.
This can only serve to do one thing.
It ingrains deeper into your mind that your anxiety should be feared.
It starts off so innocently, just a simple question…..
‘Do I feel ok’?
If the response is not a resounding ‘yes’, then you can find you’re on a slippery slope.
The feelings of worry and panic hit and then the negative thoughts begin…..
‘Why do I feel this way’?
‘Why can’t I just feel normal again’?
‘Am I stuck like this’?
‘Why can I feel my heart beating so hard, is something wrong?
‘It feels like I’m losing my mind‘!
Then BANG……….your anxiety is in overdrive. Best you chalk this one down as being just another bad day.
This is no way to live. Being trapped by your own thoughts and stuck inside your mind.
So what is going on?
Hypersensitivity to anxiety
Hypersensitivity to your anxiety is caused by nothing more than your fear of being anxious.
You fear the anxiety, so you constantly check to see if you are feeling anxious, and the more you do it, the more sensitive you become to every little symptom you have.
If you are constantly checking yourself and trying to make the anxiety go away then it is very unlikely that it ever will
It’s a lot like trying to fall asleep. If you know you need to be up early and need to get to sleep as quick a possible it is almost impossible to do.
Sleep comes naturally when you don’t care if you fall asleep or not, your mind just takes over subconsciously and this allows you to drift off.
By constantly checking yourself, all you are doing is putting more stress upon your mind. Stress which only acts to fuel your anxiety further.
It is this continuous stress by constant checking, combined with your inward thinking and disconnection from the world which can then lead to dissociation (depersonalisation and derealisation).
This is what makes you feel spaced out, not with it and feeling like you are no longer part of this world.
When you focus in on yourself too frequently, you become disconnected from the world around you.
This feeling of ‘not really being there’ makes you believe something is wrong with you and is a major contributing factor to health anxiety.
Hypersensitivity and health anxiety
When you are hypersensitive to your body, every sensation you feel is noticed and amplified: heart palpitations, trembling, floaters, dizziness, muscle aches, shortness of breath.
What ever physical symptoms your anxiety gives you, if you are monitoring them, then they are always going to feel ten times worse.
You start to wonder what is going on, you get more anxious and the sensations become even more pronounced. Of course you’re then sat there ready to check and notice them.
When you realise what is happening, is it really any wonder you feel the way you do?
Checking your pulse, putting your hand on your heart, touching your head, checking your vision, the list goes on.
Yet, cut your finger chopping an onion, you rinse it under the tap, put a plaster on it and get on with your day because you know it will be healed by the end of the week.
Can you not see the absurdity in this?
You don’t constantly check your fingers to see if they have a cut, so why are you checking x, y and z about yourself?
The checking is part of the cause, not the safety net to make sure you are ok!
Why you must stop checking how you feel
I’m not going to lie to you, stopping the habit of constantly checking how you feel is not always easy, but it can be done.
Before we get to how to do this, we must look at why it is important that you break this habit.
Severe anxiety can be crippling and really limit what you do.
For some it even means that when at its worst, they have to take days, weeks, or months off from work/college/school.
Many people believe that they need to remove themselves from as much stress and anxiety inducing situations as possible until they feel it has reduced to a level where they can then return.
This is completely the wrong approach, you have to live your life and become part of the world again without worrying how you are feeling. This is what enables you to be able to reduce your anxiety.
You cannot get rid of the anxiety first by shutting yourself away and then when you feel a little better start to become part of the world again.
Otherwise all you are doing is reinforcing the ‘how am I feeling’ mentality, checking how you are and making your decisions on what you do, based on the response you receive.
Well guess what?
Your hypersensitivity to your anxiety will only continue.
If you are waiting until you feel better before you get back to a normal life it will never come. You’ll only feel better when you stop checking yourself and get on with life, then and only then will the recovery come to you.
Read that again and let it sink in.
Therapy, pills, meditation, avoidance techniques, breathing exercise, hypnotherapy, symptom research, forums, they may help you manage the anxiety, but they are also a constant reminder to check how you are feeling too.
Not only that, but many are also just another barrier stopping you getting on with your life.
It’s much better to get on with your day without the constant monitoring because you’ve decided you don’t care how your anxiety makes you feel.
This is what really works, because it will help you to stop making your decisions based on how you are doing that day.
If your anxiety is there, so what, forget about it, it doesn’t matter, just get on with what you’ve got to do.
How to stop checking how you feel
I actually don’t remember the first day I woke up and didn’t within the first 10 minutes stop to check if I was feeling anxious.
I also can’t remember the first time I went the entire day without checking how I felt.
That’s because that is exactly the way it works. You can’t stop thinking about something by trying to not think about it.
You stop because your mind knows it no longer needs to think those thoughts.
There’s no conscious input from you, it just happens.
The process to train the subconscious mind to be able to do this is as follows:
- Get on with your day, never use how you feel as a reason not to do something.
- When you do notice yourself checking how you feel or monitoring any physical sensations, remind yourself this is not helping you feel any better. Instead, just allow the sensations to be but don’t focus on them, then move your thoughts away by going and doing something mentally and/or physically demanding. Going for a run or to the gym worked wonders for me.
- Never beat yourself up about it when you do notice yourself checking how you feel. You will continue to check yourself for a while and the aim is to reduce the frequency over time. Important note: This does not mean each day, bad days will happen when you check yourself more again, this is ok, the reduction in checking needs to be viewed over weeks and months, not days.
- Stop writing down, talking about or looking into your symptoms of anxiety, all this does is remind yourself you have them and this then makes you look for them.
It’s going to take time and you will have set backs, but your mind will heal itself when you allow it to.
You just have to trust in the process and allow it the time it takes.
I learnt the majority of this through trial and error and along the way I also found a number of other techniques which helped me to reduce my hyper awareness to how I felt.
They were as follows:
- Learning how to start the day right to reduce anxiety and stop checking for it – read my article on this here or try my morning routine here.
- Writing a to-do list the night before so that when you wake up you get stuck straight into the tasks for the day ahead and keep busy
- Not shutting yourself off from the world, but getting out there and doing things with other people and just getting lost in a new adventure.
- Physical exercise – cardio, weights and sports. Even just doing some strenuous gardening work is great.
The most important thing is keeping busy, not limiting what you do and having a mission, something you’re passionate about that becomes more important than the way you feel.
You’re training your mind to not care about your anxiety, to remove the power it has over you.
When you have those anxious moments, just accept they are there, don’t monitor them and get on with what you want to do.
Eventually your mind will not even listen to them and the need to check if they are there will go.
Now is the time to begin
It’s time to break free from your mind and get back to the world.
To go and get lost in the moment and give your mind the break from your over thinking and over analysing that it needs.
Otherwise your anxiety becomes your own self-obsession, and you’ll never be rid of the habit of always looking inwards and checking if you’re ok.
You are ok.
You’re fine, you’re anxiety doesn’t deserve the time you give it and your worries about it won’t solve a thing.
Instead, go make those memories, achieve what you desire and do what you have always wanted to do.
Anxiety doesn’t need to lead to a life limited by the way you feel. Nor does it mean you have to look back with regret.
When you stop checking and analysing every little thought, feeling and sensation, you give your mind the space it needs to be well again.
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