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4 Things I Wish I’d Known About Managing Anxiety

4 Things I Wish I’d Known About Managing Anxiety

I’ve recently turned 30 and I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on my misspent youth – more specifically, on the moment I decided to slap the ugly mug of anxiety with my glove of self-belief!  I’d like to think that I handled this duel with the wit and finesse of a young Cary Elwes ala The Princess Bride, but if I’m honest it probably looks more like an ungodly montage of Mr Bean and Bridget Jones’ Diary – complete with binge eating and drinking, ineptitude, embarrassment, and clumsy attempts at fitness.

Anxiety is one of the most common mental disorders in the world, and according to Beyond Blue 1 in 4 people will probably experience it at least once in their life.  For some of us, this monster will be ever-present and it takes considerable energy to keep this beast subdued and chained up somewhere to keep it from hurting us, our loved ones and even our professional aspirations.  At the time, I had no idea anxiety was even a ‘thing’ and completely thought that there was something physically wrong with me. Fortunately, I sought help and have since learnt a thing or two about making this condition sit and play dead.  Of course, everyone is different and you’ve got to tailor your own approach, but if you’re reading this at 2am and feel like your head is rotating like that girl from The Exorcist, don’t start climbing the walls just yet!

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1. The old switch-a-roo!  Stop, breath, distract, relax

You want to be loving life like a mighty Gyarados, but instead you’re a Magikarp hyperventilating on the floor.  We can all agree that panic attacks are the worst.  The important thing to remember (unless you have been medically diagnosed with heart condition!) is that you’re not having a heart attack – you’re just having a crappy moment.  One of the first things my psychologist told me to do was take care of my physical symptoms first.  Stop for a moment and take slow, deep breaths so you don’t feel light-headed.  Once the world has stopped spinning, pop on your favourite tune, or do some light domestic task – basically anything simple that will distract your brain from freaking out.  When you’ve got this technique down pat, you’ll feel like Houdini!  Your brain will be tricked into thinking everything is fine and dandy (at it will be!), your heart rate will regulate itself and you’ll start to feel normal again.  At this point, choose a safe activity that you find relaxing and treat it like a mental reward for getting through it.

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2. Get a little help from a friend

You’re never alone, and remember that you are surrounded by people who care about you!  Some people are better at understanding and talking you through your bad days than others.  Reach out to a good friend or family member who has this gift of empathy to help you get back on track.  Surrounding yourself with positive people who have a balanced and chilled out view of life will also help you get perspective.  If you’re convinced that nobody you know can help you or you don’t feel comfortable talking to someone close to you, ask your GP to recommend a psychologist.  Many healthcare schemes can offer a certain number of sessions at a reduced rate depending on your circumstances.  There are also a growing number of online resources to help you understand what may be causing your anxiety or depression, and what steps you can take to control it.

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3. Don’t focus on yourself too much

When you’re constantly facing a barrage of things to worry about, you can easily become self-absorbed or use it as a crutch to avoid getting out of your comfort zone.  This is not to say you’re a self-centred or weak person for having anxiety, but you can affect others by constantly finding nothing positive to talk about or focussing only on the negatives.  These thought patterns don’t help anyone, least of all you!  I’m guilty of falling into this trap, and it was only by recalling past conversations to my psychologist that I began to see that I was becoming a person I wouldn’t want to hang out with.  You can turn things around simply by being kind to yourself and others – post or tweet about something inspiring or beautiful, keep tabs on your nearest and dearest; organise a dinner, catch up over coffee or suggest a group activity you haven’t tried before.  Alternatively, you could try volunteering for a cause you feel passionate about.  When you hear news of your friends’ successes or tales of daring-do, don’t be envious – be happy for them!  This proves that if they have the power to create their own happiness, so do you.

4. Don’t let anxiety define you

When I was younger, I let my anxiety stand in the way of a lot of my goals in life – namely to travel overseas by myself.  Well, I’m happy to say that I have now completed 5 months’ worth of travel around Europe with my sister and on my own!   While it wasn’t completely anxiety-free, it all worked out fine in the end and I am a stronger person for it.  Each year since being diagnosed with anxiety at 24, I’ve set myself challenges to help me develop and broaden my perspective.  Take a look at what’s blocking you from your goals and start taking action by breaking those goals down and assessing what’s really stopping you from achieving them.  If you’re worried about how anxiety might prevent you from a rewarding career, consider this – all the people I know with anxiety have been some of the most talented and hard-working people I’ve come across.  Anxiety still has an unfortunate stigma attached to it causing some ill-informed, upper-management types to think that an employee with anxiety can’t handle pressure.  Think of it this way – you’re already lion-taming this beast and compiling that end of year report due Friday at the same time.  Pressure?  You eat it for breakfast!

I hope these tricks help you calm the farm!  However, any mental disorder can and should be dealt with before it takes over your life.  There are a number of ways you can address the effects of anxiety and no two journeys to recovery will be the same.  To find out more about this condition, there are few great online sites such as Beyond Blue, Headspace and Mind.org that will help you understand the symptoms and causes and where you can go to find help.  I hope you make 2016 the year to kick arse!

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Published on April 7, 2021

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

Some of the most manipulative people are so good at what they do that their words and actions can convince you into thinking they truly care about what’s best for you when in reality, it’s quite the opposite. The most common signs of a controlling person are rarely obvious to outside observers. And for someone enmeshed in a controlling relationship or friendship, it can be incredibly challenging to stay away from this toxic person, even if you’re aware of their emotionally abusive tendencies.

While it’s ultimately up to you to decide whether to preserve or leave a lopsided, unfulfilling relationship, it’s nevertheless critical to understand the following six signs of controlling people so you can better advocate for yourself and mitigate the influence of their manipulative tendencies in your own life.

1. They Push Their Own Personal Agenda

Do you know someone who always tries to micromanage the words, behaviors, and attitudes of people around them? Does this person act like they have the right to know anything they want about you, including your location, what you’re doing in a given moment, who you’re talking to online, or any other private information about you? And when planning events and special occasions, does this person dominate conversations, steer plans in their own preferred directions, disparage others’ suggestions, and refuse to collaborate with anyone who might disagree with them?

If you answered “yes” to some of the above questions, then those are clear signs of a controlling person whom you absolutely need to be cautious around. Controlling people are reluctant to even consider alternative ideas, let alone enthusiastically work with people who have differing views. They prefer to be the captain of every ship—regardless of how much or how little an issue personally impacts them—and they have an arsenal of manipulative tactics to deploy if someone stands in the way of them achieving their own personal agendas.

In long-term relationships with controlling people, you may feel constantly pressured to meet their demands, follow their schedule, and focus on whatever they feel is most important. It’s not an exaggeration to say that these people act like the universe revolves around them, which can be exhausting to deal with for their family members, friends, and colleagues.

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2. They Make Everything Transactional

Controlling people aren’t always self-centered, but they’re not too empathetic either. Empathy for them tends to appear in the form of strategic concessions they use as a means to get what they want. They typically view interpersonal relationships as transactional opportunities to extract more value from people surrounding them, which can have a draining effect on those they interact with.

For example, one sign of a controlling person may be their insistence on “keeping score.” This can involve doing nice things for you with the ulterior motive of demanding something from you at a later date in exchange for what you thought was just an act of kindness or a friendly support.

Perhaps they shower you in praise (also known as “love-bombing”) or gifts then blow up at you if you don’t intuitively know they’re expecting something back from you. None of us are mind-readers, but controlling people behave as though everyone else should think and act like they want others to and those who fall out of line are punished for failing to meet their impossible expectations.

A controlling person may also threaten to withhold support if you don’t adhere to their demands, but they do so in such subtle ways that the guilt they impose blinds you from the unreasonable nature of their behaviors.

Some statements to be wary of include:

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  • “I did ___________ for you. What do you mean you can’t do ___________ for me?”
  • “Remember how I helped you with ___________? That took a lot of time and energy from me, but I guess you didn’t appreciate my help.”
  • “I always give you ___________. Don’t you care about my needs too?”
  • “You’re so selfish!” or “You don’t care about me at all!” (gaslighting if you respond with hesitation or politely decline their request for help for perfectly valid reasons, such as not having enough time or resources to assist them)

3. They Criticize Everything

One of the most common telltale signs of a controlling person is their capacity to criticize anything and everything, even small things that seemingly don’t matter. As with many toxic traits in relationships, these problems typically start out so small that you may not even notice. At first, you may even agree with their criticism or at least be able to understand their perspective when they bring up an issue.

However, the criticism tends to get more intense, more constant, and more perplexing for people who maintain relationships with controlling people. You’ll likely notice how they rarely seem to criticize something they do. It’s almost always other-oriented and these types of people are so manipulative that any rationale they offer can seem plausibly legitimate.

Some warning signs of a controlling person who’s overly critical to the point of abusiveness include:

  • Criticizing things about you that you have little to no control over (e.g., appearance, disability, family)
  • Criticizing your personal choices and interests, such as educational pursuits, career, clothing, favorite music, time spent on your hobbies, etc.
  • Punishing you for expressing vulnerability by invalidating thoughts and feelings you share with them
  • Attacking you whenever you express an opinion counter to theirs

4. They Balk When Someone Criticizes Them

We all know the adage, “what goes around, comes around.” But this statement doesn’t apply as much to toxic, controlling people. They’d much prefer to dish out criticism without ever having to take it in return.

For instance, if your friend constantly talks about your appearance with little regard for your emotions but flips out if you make just a single comment about their appearance, there’s a possibility that they could have some hidden controlling tendencies left unchecked. Remember, these people aren’t just controlling in their behaviors towards others. They’re also actively trying to stay in complete control over every aspect of their lives, which includes how others view them.

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This seemingly insatiable desire for control can prompt them to lash out against even the smallest bits of criticism, leaving people around them too weary or scared to speak up again in the future. While it’s possible they may suffer from something called rejection sensitivity dysphoria, this does not excuse them from the consequences of their words and actions. They should seek professional help to better manage their reactions to criticism.

5. They Socially Isolate You

Not all controlling people do this, but for manipulative narcissists, socially isolating victims is a go-to strategy for maintaining control because it’s effective at preventing people from truly understanding how toxic their partner, family member, or friend is treating them. Think of it this way—if you don’t talk to many other people in your life, there’s less of a risk that you’ll damage their reputation by revealing their abusive tendencies.

Socially isolating others also gives the person more control over you and your life as it becomes more difficult to break away from them if you don’t have other healthier channels of communication and interpersonal support to turn to.

This process doesn’t happen overnight, nor is it something you can readily recognize as abusive. At first, it may seem reasonable, such as asking you to stop engaging so often with family members with whom both of you disagree on major social or political issues. As the social isolation progresses, they may suggest cutting people out of your life—especially if they don’t like that person, regardless of how you personally feel—or even conjure up high-stakes problems like “it’s me or them” under the guise of saving you from people in your life whom they don’t like for whatever reason.

In a controlling person’s life narrative, they’re always the protagonist who’s incapable of any wrongdoing. The blame is always redirected at someone else, whether that’s you or other people in your life. The more they isolate you from other supportive people in your life, the more susceptible you’ll be to falsely believing that they’re right and you “don’t need” your other friends and family when you have someone as perfect as this person.

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6. They’re Emotionally Abusive

It’s hard enough to be in control of your own emotions but when someone else is constantly belittling you and your interests or leveraging guilt and shame to manipulate you into saying or doing what they want, this can make it even more challenging to stay in control of your own life and emotional well-being.

Emotional abuse is another sign of a controlling person that is often overlooked in relationships. After all, human personalities vary widely in terms of passivity, and it’s not uncommon for one person in a relationship to be significantly more passive than the other. This becomes an issue when the controlling partner or friend exudes signs of emotional abuse, which can start subtly and become much more pronounced over time.

Concerning signs of emotionally abusive language or behavior to watch out for include:

  • Dismissing your needs and/or belittling your interests in counterproductive ways
  • Privately or publicly shaming or humiliating you
  • Making you feel as though you can never live up to their expectations or do anything right (according to their own vague, subjective standards)
  • Gaslighting you into thinking they said or did something that never actually happened (making you question your own reality)

Final Thoughts

It’s sometimes hard to see the negative things about someone with whom we have a relationship. We may sometimes unconsciously overlook the signs of a controlling person, especially if that person is someone we have known for a long time or are close to us. However, cutting them off your life is the best thing you can do for yourself. Just watch out for these six signs of a controlling person and take immediate action when you spot them.

More Tips on How To Deal With a Controlling Person

Featured photo credit: Külli Kittus via unsplash.com

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