Anxiety Warning Signs

How do you know when you are suffering from background anxiety? It's important to be aware of the warning signs, because excessive levels of anxiety can disrupt your performance, stifle joy and lead to depression and illness.

A good test of a person's physical fitness lies in their ability to do the things our ancestors did, routinely. So you're physically fit if you can run slowly for several miles without getting out of breath, climb, hunt wild animals . . . you get the picture.

Perhaps you've stopped reading already, daunted by this test of physical fitness, but we know, deep down, that we're built for that kind of activity. It's what your human frame was designed for.

So what about anxiety? What is the equivalent test of 'normality' which we should apply when deciding whether we are over-stressed? I would propose the following list. I don't claim that it's scientific, but I would defend it as a pragmatic and practical list of qualities. These are the conditions which each one of us can aspire to.

A reasonably relaxed person :

· Doesn't procrastinate

· Is open to spontaneous suggestions

· Looks forward to the weekend . . . and looks forward to the working week

· Feels that they have plenty of time

· Moves gracefully

· Enjoys their food

· Sleeps well

· Good balance of time between family, personal and working lives

· Fit

· Efficient

· Looks forward to challenges

· Not readily affected by criticism

· Not particularly susceptible to vices such as overeating, smoking, heavy drinking

· Open and courteous

How did you do? Don't worry too much if you struggled. It isn't unusual for people to struggle with half of the items on this list. Turn this around for a moment and think about the gains to be achieved when you do learn to relax. Think how pleasant it would be to feel more optimism. To take greater pleasure in your animal nature (eg exercise, sex, food, sleep). To enjoy greater control over your own destiny. And, of course, the career benefits to be enjoyed from greater efficiency and effectiveness.

We can all benefit from increased relaxation. Perhaps surprisingly, this isn't hard to come by. As a hypnotherapist I treat people for a range of conditions, and the consistent response from my clients is "yes, you helped me with my condition, and I've also discovered again how much fun life can be". Stress reduction is a side effect, a by-product, for many hypnotherapy clients. If you wish, it could also be the main event.

Look after yourself. It's a short life and it's here to be enjoyed. Consider hypnotherapy. Consider meditation. Above all, look honestly within yourself to identify sources of anxiety. Don't be embarrassed, or feel guilty, simply because you feel anxious. It's normal. Doing something positive about our background anxiety is possibly the most positive step any of us can make towards enjoying life more.

Jim Sullivan is a hypnotherapist specialising in confidence, self esteem and stress management. He may be contacted via Confidence Club

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