Episode recap: Overcoming Anxiety with Nick Elston

On the 6th episode of the Joy Superpowers series, we had the honor of hosting Nick Elston– one of the highest-profile and leading Inspirational Speakers on the Lived Experience of Mental Health. Nick is also a Transformational Speaking Coach and Mentor, specializing in Unique Mental Health Engagement and Emotional Storytelling- how to turn our story and deliver emotion so the audience learns from it (Change story owning you to you owning the story).

Nick shares his experiences of mental Illness through his powerful, inspiring, engaging & emotional talks, and most importantly, provides insights, tools, tips, and techniques on how to manage Anxiety in Life, in Business. Here are some key messages from the interesting episode regarding coping with anxiety.

False evidence of fear

Nick´s personal experience with developing anxiety started in early childhood and took almost 10 years. For Nick, anxiety was about worrying and feeling guilty about the past, which made him catastrophize future events. According to him, the line between a reasonable amount of everyday worrying and excessive worrying is being crossed once we start doing something out of obsession and compulsion rather than choice. For instance, the two most common types of anxiety disorders, Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) are both fueled by anxiety running on repeat. What does it mean?… If you haven´t got something to be anxious about, you are on high anxiety and nervous energy, actively seeking to find something, and if you haven´t got that, it feels like you are missing something.

With anxiety and OCD, we use the word fear, which in fact is false evidence of fear – our instincts are looking for danger and threat, however, more often we won´t be right as our emotional intuition will lie to us, and therefore, we need to reverse the narrative of trusting our gut and set on a mission to prove ourselves wrong.

Chasing happiness creates a lot of anxiety

In general, we’re taught that happiness is something to strive for, which is tied up in the milestones of life- making a lot of money, graduating from school, getting married, or having kids. In addition to that, we constantly compare ourselves to other people, while setting high expectations for ourselves. The problem is that it becomes a constant chase and we’re always moving the target. In particular, pursuits of happiness that go unsatisfied can fuel a person’s inner critic, which can increase depression and anxiety. Feelings of disappointment can also increase feelings of inadequacy and low mood, which are precursors to depression. If we are not feeling happy, we feel guilty. Therefore, Nick´s opinion is that we should strive to reach the point of zero – neutral state- which is a good place where you get peace of mind. „I wake up and I’m not chasing positivity or happiness, I’m chasing to be at the point of 0.”

FACT: That´s why our Joy Superpowers show focuses on Joy rather than Happiness, as joy is a state of being that allows for all types of emotions! (It´s okay to be sad).

Even if we don´t feel good or seek professional help, we can still exercise our mental health and do things ourselves to bring the joy back, not necessarily with positivity but with purpose. The main thing which Nick likes about focusing on improving his mindfulness using different tools and strategies is that you don´t have to try to be emotionally well, it just happens. Let´s call it a sneaky development – if you focus on separate building blocks (individually or with help) rather than the end goal, and you will eventually end up there anyway.

Spotting consideration that might tell us we have anxiety: What to do then?

From Nick´s experience looking back, he says: “we have all the answers we just have to start asking ourselves the right questions and being prepared to stand out of our own way“.

  • Masking behavior: if you start to be what people want to see, what situations demand of you or start being afraid to show yourself and put opinions forward, eventually, we will become lost. Nick used to be a different person with his colleagues, friends and family. „None of those was me, it just mirrored what people wanted to see in me”.

Solution!

„Take 15min of the day just to rest and recover, recharge so you can go and be stronger tomorrow. We are so busy being busy- so long till we stop. Therefore, we need to prioritize ourselves. Get a diary, take a nap. It´s not a waste of time, it´s an efficient investment”.

Fact or our narrative?

Think about something that makes you anxious. If it´s a fact, we can deal with it, reach for help, find a solution. If it´s a story we tell ourselves in our minds, we can start changing the narrative and stop talking ourselves to a winning game as opposed to a losing game.

Expanding your comfort zone

Do you know that the paradox of comfort zones is that in reality, they aren’t always comfortable? It´s just easier to stay in a position of pain and frustration than to do something about it. 

Do something that scares you a little bit every day– consistent changes- push yourself a little bit more, practice being a little bit more vulnerable, and you will end up expanding your comfort zone.

“The key to overcoming any anxiety condition is practising wilful tolerance of uncertainty”.

Change and uncertainty are the number one triggers of anxiety and they are unavoidable. It´s important to realize that we cannot influence or control the uncontrollable, and therefore, to recognize what´s in our control and what´s not.

Who you are today is good enough, however, you do have the opportunity to be a little bit better tomorrow if you want to be. Selfcare is not selfish, in fact, it is crucial. Loving yourself is the FOUNDATION, so don’t confuse it with selfishness!

What is your experience in recognizing and coping with anxiety?

Share your comments down below or on social media using the hashtag #joysuperpowers. In case you missed the episode, you can go listen to it here.

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