In his late 20’s, Clive Fogelman lost both his parents within six months. He was then diagnosed with bowel cancer a few years later.
Clive credits both yoga and meditation as significant tools for dealing with his anxiety through this challenging time and says that by using these things as a ‘toolkit’, everyone can benefit.
Whether it’s focusing on your breathing while waiting for the kettle to boil, or paying more attention to your surroundings when walking to work, everybody can put a little more mindfulness into their day.
We spoke about:
The importance of ‘inviting yourself’ to connect with your body and how you feel.
Breathing techniques to deal with anxiety and stress instantly.
Bringing yourself back to the present.
How becoming more self-aware can help you deal with everyday emotions.
Taking all experiences (good and bad) and seeing them as something to observe – without judgment or feeling like they’re going against you.
The power of the mind and belief.
How to use a mindfulness pause.
Letting the journey present itself, and dealing with whatever is part of it without fear dictating how you feel.
Clive has been a yoga and meditation teacher for nearly a decade. You can find out more about what Clive does at www.helloyoga.co.uk
Alison Edgar, aka The Entrepreneur’s Godmother, started her own venture when she was 46. Since then, she’s been voted one of the UK’s top business advisors, with invitations to both Downing Street and Buckingham Palace.
It turns out that sales (selling) is a surprising handy skill to have when it comes to overcoming anxiety.
We spoke about: – The importance of asking for help. – Making a change, even when it scares you. – How to avoid regret. – Why ‘real men’ do cry. – Dealing with anxiety, stress and pressure at work, and as an entrepreneur. – The pressures of money and debt. – Staying motivated through challenges.
Is there anything worse than being hit with anxiety as soon as you wake up? What can you do to wake up calmer, happier and less anxious?
It feels like that churning feeling in the pit of your stomach is there waiting for you as soon as your eyes open in the morning, followed closely by the instant ‘what if…?’ negative type thoughts that set off a chain of more anxiety-inducing thoughts.
‘What if that email didn’t come through?’
‘Have I paid that water bill?’
‘I can’t send Jamie to school with that hole in his shoe.’
The outcome: bags of morning anxiety and instant stress.
I’m going to be honest from the outset and tell you that morning anxiety isn’t something you can fix overnight.
The reason we wake up and feel instantly anxious is a build up of things that have been going on in our lives for a while.
If you’ve not slept well for a while, you can’t expect to fix that overnight. If you hate your job, you can’t expect to change that in a day. If money is tight, it’s unlikely the money fairy is stopping by anything soon.
But, with all this said, you can start to immediately improve things, including how you feel when you first wake up.
Right now, you can make a conscious decision to do something different when you wake up tomorrow morning. If you do that, you can start to make the changes you’re looking for.
Here are seven handy and simple tips to help you make your mornings better and less anxious.
Give yourself time
Feeling rushed and frantic is marvellous for upping your anxiety levels. If you want to get those anxiety levels down to a better place of balance, you need to give yourself time – so you feel less rushed and frantic. If you set your alarm for 7am, and you’ve got to be out of the house by 7.30am, is 30 minutes enough time to complete your morning routine? If it is and you’ve perfected it down to the minute, I’ll suggest to you that it’s not enough time if you still feel anxious. Set your alarm a little earlier, and give yourself some more breathing space. How you start your day usually dictates the rest of it.
Snooze you lose
Snoozing and staying in bed is just prolonging the pain. Why? Because when you’re sleeping you’re not taking action. It’s as bad as sweeping your problems under the carpet. The problems don’t go away – they grow under that carpet and get worse. Ultimately, there is only one thing that is going to ease your morning anxiety: Taking action. Action is the one thing that will help you overcome any form of anxiety – morning anxiety included. Know that when you stay in bed, nothing is changing. Be prepared to get up and take action.
Up your energy
If you’re feeling extra frisky, jump up straight out of bed as soon as you wake up. Start stretching your body out. Even better, do some exercises, like push-ups and star jumps. This might sound crazy and like it just won’t happen, but if you want to feel radically different in the morning, you’ve got to do something radically different. Even if you do it for 30 seconds, it could make all the difference. We’re talking about realigning your focus here. By doing this, you could ‘forget’ to be anxious – and that will set you on a different course.
Put your phone down!
The alarm on your phone goes off, and if you don’t hit the snooze button and roll over to go back to sleep, you’re straight on your phone checking your social media or news feed. News is generally news because it’s bad news, and social media is proven to increase your anxiety. If you’re doing these things as soon as your eyes open, there are no prizes for guessing what you’ll get in return. (Remember what we said about how you start your day?)
Prepare the night before
How you feel when you wake up is directly affected by yesterday, the day before, and the day before that. Don’t worry about the big stuff for now – just focus on the small step you can take. One of those small steps is to prepare the night before. If you know you’ve got stuff coming up for work, school, or whatever, prepare for it the night before. Get your bag ready. Get your clothes ready. Without getting too OCD about it, do what you can to prepare for the next day. Your brain likes routine, and setting yourself up by getting rid of the unknown will drop those anxiety levels in the morning.
Swap the caffeine
Caffeine is a stimulant that will fuel your anxiety. If you’re using caffeine to keep you awake, you’re also indirectly using it to make your anxiety worse. Swap your tea and coffee for decaf options or herbal teas, like Green Tea and Chamomile Tea.
Get a better sleeping pattern
The reason I used to wake up feeling like a zombie had a lot to do with me only getting a few hours of sleep (if I were lucky). Getting your sleep pattern right is one of the most difficult things you can do, but if you can start to improve it, even just a little bit, it will go a hell of a long way towards you feeling less anxious in the morning. There are some myths when it comes to getting better sleep, and you’re best to check out my interview with Stephanie Romiszewski (Channel 4’s sleep expert) to get you going in the right direction.
Stay patient and give yourself time. Keep taking action, and with each small step, know that your mornings will continue to get better.
The 80/20 Rule, also known as the Pareto Principle, shows us why 80% of our worry (and the anxiety that comes with it) is made up by us.
If you haven’t heard of the 80/20 rule (also known as the Pareto Principle), the basic principle of it is that roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.
Effects of what? Causes of what? I hear you say.
That’s the whole point of the Pareto Principle. It relates to anything – and it’s surprisingly accurate in relation to anything.
Seeing as I spend most of my time in the world of anxiety, and seeing as you’re probably here because you want to manage your anxiety better, I thought it might help us with managing our anxiety. And it does. Massively.
When I discovered the principle and how accurate it was, it helped me appreciate just how much of my worry, anxiety and stress was real and how much was made up by me.
In other words, it helped me see and appreciate that I was my own worst enemy!
How the 80/20 rule relates to overcoming anxiety
The Pareto Principle is such a powerful and accurate principle, it’s well worth us translating its meaning into overcoming anxiety. And that’s the bit I want to help you with.
When we link the 80/20 rule with overcoming anxiety, it shows us that 8/10 of your problems don’t exist.
That’s a decent bit of knowledge to have – especially when it comes to reducing our anxiety.
You’ll have about 60,000 thoughts tomorrow. If you’re dealing with high anxiety, most of those thoughts will be worrying ones. You know the type of worrying thoughts I’m talking about. They normally start with ‘what if…?’. They’re thoughts based on us trying to predict the future and worrying about the past (what’s already happened).
Summed up: Overthinking.
What the Pareto Principle shows us is out of all those worrying thoughts you have, 8 out of 10 of them won’t be real. 8 out of 10 of the things causing you anxiety is made up by you.
On the flipside of that, it means that roughly 20% of the things you worry about are worth worrying about. They’re the things worth spending your time on. And when you spend your time on those things, they make a difference to your life.
What does this knowledge do for you?
I’m hoping it does two things:
It helps you appreciate that nearly all of your worry, and therefore all of your anxiety, is made up by you. That means that when you start taking more control the impact can be significant.
It instantly reassures you to know that your problems and worries aren’t as big and overwhelming as you thought they were. When you focus on the 2/10 things that count, it gives you the confidence to know you can handle it.
Try it for yourself.
If you’ve read this and think the 80/20 rule is a bit of a crock, or you’re still not convinced, try it for yourself.
When you wake up tomorrow, have a piece of paper and pen handy, and write down every worrying type thought you have throughout the day, no matter how big or small.
At the end of the day, go through your list and tick all the thoughts you had that were made up – all the worrying thoughts that were not real – things that didn’t happen.
I’d be very surprised if at least 80% of those thoughts on your list weren’t ticked.
BTW – If you’ve got all your predictions for the future 100% accurate, please get in touch. You and I can make some serious money.
Channel 4’s The Secrets of Sleep expert and leading Sleep Physiologist, Stephanie Romiszewski, gave us some big insights into sleep problems and insomnia related to anxiety.
Stephanie is a rebel.
You have to admire anyone who is willing to take a big subject, like sleep, and challenge the status quo.
Sleep, like anxiety, is one of those things where lots of people have lots of different opinions. One ‘expert’ will tell you something different to another ‘expert’.
What I liked about Stephanie’s approach is how open she is to all methods and solutions for sleep problems and insomnia, but rather than just blindly practising those methods (like most other ‘experts’ do), she is keen to add a new approach.
By having a new approach, Stephanie is breaking some of the myths around sleep problems (including anxiety-related insomnia) and giving us some real solutions we can work with.
Here are the top three myths about sleep problems, insomnia and anxiety we uncovered.
Myth #1: Relaxation and sleep are connected
When we think of sleeping, we think of relaxing. The two things naturally go together. But they’re not actually connected. I know, crazy, right!
When I asked Stephanie if she recommended any sleep apps, including sleep trackers, she said no, not really. Why? Because there is no research to suggest that relaxation will help you get to sleep.
We should be aiming to relax in the day, rather than when we go to bed at night.
If you want to use apps and methods to help you deal with stress and anxiety, they’re more useful in the day than at night. And when you think about it, it makes sense. How you start your day sets the tone for the rest of the day. If you start your day feeling relaxed by controlling your anxiety and stress from the get-go, your day will continue in the same fashion, and you’ll go to bed feeling the same way.
That will put you in a much better position to sleep well, rather than try to force relaxation when it’s sleepy time.
Myth #2: The time you go to bed is more important than the time you wake up
The media have done a great job at scaremongering us into thinking we need to go to bed at the same sensible time every night, which is why most of us hit the pillow and don’t feel sleepy.
I don’t know about you, but I hate going to bed and feeling pressurised to sleep when I don’t feel tired. Sometimes, it almost feels like I’m forcing myself to get those eight hours.
Going to bed at the same time every night is not the key to good, consistent sleep. It’s the time you get up in the morning that is more important!
Stephanie suggests that the best time to go to bed is when you’re ‘sleepy tired’ – when you’re literally nodding off in your chair. If you do that and wake up at the same time every day, that will build up enough ‘awake time’ to get a good consistent pattern of sleep.
The key to making this work is getting up at the same time, every day.
Myth #3: Sleep deprivation is the same as insomnia
I can relate to this, big style!
Feeling fatigued (like crap) is a common symptom of anxiety and stress. The overthinking and worry zaps your energy, so you feel like a zombie.
When anxiety was crippling me, all I wanted to do was sleep all day. And I did. Some days I’d sleep for sixteen hours straight. That’s why on the Rebalance Scale in Anxiety Rebalance, sleep is at the bottom of the scale – because it represents low mood (depression) and low energy.
On the flipside of that, I also went through long periods of sleep deprivation. At the time, if you’d have asked me why I looked like a drooling zombie, I’d have said it was down to insomnia. But it wasn’t. I was sleep deprived, and that is a different thing.
Where I went wrong is I didn’t get the pattern right. I was either sleeping too much or too little. I had no routine or benchmark to set a better pattern.
The conclusion and action to take.
If anxiety is preventing you from going to sleep, try going to bed when you feel ‘sleepy tired’ – when your head is nodding. It doesn’t matter what time it is, go to bed then. The trick to making this work is getting up at the same time every day. Set your alarm and don’t sleep past it, no matter how tired you feel when you wake up. That will build up enough ‘awake time’, and if you stay patient and do this consistently enough, you’ll eventually sort out your sleeping pattern.
You might feel tired and drained in the day, but if you can get through that pain barrier, you’ll want to sleep at night. You’ll get a decent night’s sleep and getting up in the morning won’t be the heavy task it was before.