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Published on April 21, 2021

7 Types Of Emotional Baggage And How To Deal With Them

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7 Types Of Emotional Baggage And How To Deal With Them

Have you ever had that feeling you’re trapped in circumstances out of your control? Like you’re repeating the past? Do you find yourself in conversations, relationships, and jobs that aren’t what you hoped, thinking, “hang on, haven’t I been here before?” If you have, then you could be suffering from some emotional baggage that won’t let go of its grip on you and your future.

Here are seven types of emotional baggage and what you can do to get rid of them so that they never hold you back again.

1. The Scared Child

The scared child tells you absolutes, like “I can’t do this”. They base every opportunity or obstacle on the theory that they’ve already failed because evidence from the past proves this, and they don’t think to override this.

A scared child is not always scared, nor does this emotional baggage showcase itself so obviously. A lot of the time, the scared child hides behind confidence and actions that mask the real issue(s). The challenge is that the scared child holds on to outdated beliefs about what is possible.

If you realize that you have a frightened version of yourself hanging out inside, think back to a time you felt truly loved. It didn’t matter what happened just that you remember how that person was there for you.

Imagine that you are four years old and really want to learn to ride a bike. Some of us are lucky enough to jump on, wobble a little, and fly off, never to look back at riding a bike as an obstacle. On the other hand, others will wobble and fall, and wobble and fall.

How does the wobbler get up and keep going? With love, the right people, and the right words.

As that voice says “you can’t do this,” along comes someone that loves you who says “you’ve got this.” Even if you haven’t, they give you the self-belief to say “come on, let’s try again.” Look for those that nurture, love, and support you.

A word of caution—don’t wait for the outside world to help you overcome your scared inner child. It’s highly unlikely that no one got you washed and dressed today, interpreted what you said to get you breakfast, or brushed your teeth and hair for you. You have plenty of evidence that says you are not the child of your past because you’ve already achieved so much. Look for that evidence!

2. The Overbearing Parent/Teacher

“You will never amount to anything” or “Why won’t you apply yourself” is what they tell you. (See below for the opposite that can be just as disastrous for you to hang on to.)

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Having negative people around that berate you can impact you for a long time. They may have meant well. They may have hoped their harsh powerful words would inspire you, not appreciating how they cut you down and made you feel like a failure. But that doesn’t give those words power—you are doing that.

What do you believe to be true about your capabilities that need to be challenged? I’ve heard clients tell me that they’re rubbish at maths or aren’t creative or have a left dominant brain and thus, it’s impossible for them to be good at certain tasks.

People still love personality tests that help them prove why they are good at things or bad at others, even though it’s been proven to be scientifically inaccurate. People will still hold on to pseudoscience unless it supports what they want to believe.[1]

You may have been a messy teenager or a lazy intern, but that doesn’t define who you are in the future. You get to do that.

The opposite end of this scale is the people from your past who told you that you can do anything. How many have sat through a shocking rendition of a piece of music only to see the parent proudly waving and cheering with a phone in hand saying, “in 20 years, my little Sam will be the best musician in the world!”?

If you aren’t getting the results you want in life, then it could be that you’re holding on to baggage that says you rock at something when clearly, you need a reframe on that thought to be able to upskill and retrain. It takes guts to look at what you believe and ask, “Is this really true?”

You need to know that you are doing a good job, so if you are or not, getting the right feedback can enable or inhibit growth. According to a study, “78% of Gen Xers believe performance reviews are formalities that do not offer constructive opportunities for growth.” So, be mindful that you are seeking out quality feedback and not feedback that just reinforces what you already believe.[2]

3. The Long-Gone Bully

Many have suffered at the hands of bullies at school and in their careers, and it can be hard to not let that emotional baggage stick around. With the long-gone bully, it’s less about what they say to you and more about what you wished you’d said to them.

Unfortunately, the number of people being cyberbullied rose by 37% between 2007 and 2019, and with growing anxiety, depression, and mental health issues on the rise around the world, the bully is not something that we get to easily outgrow.[3]

If you have baggage on the things you wish you’d said, it may not be in your distant past. It could be something trite or unkind that someone said only recently that you wish you had spoken up about.

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I often see this in workplace coaching. People hold on to old, outdated frustration where someone has let them down and they wished they told them what they really think. The important point is that past bullies can impact your future relationships and results, especially if you assume that the person before you today is speaking to you in the same way, with the same meaning, and wanting the same outcome as the bully from five, then, or 20 years ago.

Before you say anything, check that you’re not adding your own tonality or meaning to words, conversations, emails, or situations. I call these hot buttons. Words that hold meaning to you but may mean nothing special to the person you are talking to. Sometimes, it can be enough to write down your feelings and what you wanted to say, then burn it or delete it (so it doesn’t get accidentally sent on a bad day!).

Is this person really bullying you? Or are you adding an outdated interpretation to the conversation?

I worked with a team of people where there were hidden frictions that some described as bullying. When we bought the subject up in a safe, non-judgmental conversation, all parties were able to communicate how they felt and how it impacted them, their performance, and even their stress levels.

The surprise was that there was no bullying! The issue was that one person perceived another person’s actions differently and held on to old ideas on what this meant. It was impacting a team of 240 people!

It’s scary having difficult conversations, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. If you struggle, you can try to learn how to have difficult conversations and get the results you want. Remember that getting the outcome you need doesn’t mean the other party will not get an outcome they need too.

4. The Inner Hater

There are no limits to what the inner hater can do to you. They’ve been in your mind, actions, and results for so long that they probably feel like a part of you. If you find you judge yourself harshly compared to everyone else, look for the hater. They will be able to list every occasion that you made a mistake, didn’t act quick enough, let someone down, or failed.

Every human fails, makes mistakes, gets it wrongs and lets, someone down. It’s important to remember that this doesn’t need to define your future. If you find that you are poor at hearing compliments or accepting you are doing brilliantly, test whether your inner hater is silenced.

The quickest way to do this is to take the “Why I’m Awesome” strategy from the book, Taking Control of Your Mind: Life Hacks to Resilience, Confidence, and Success. Then, write a large list (two sides) on why you are awesome. It may seem indulgent and pointless, however, we often find that emotional baggage is held on to when the facts are dismissed for the accepted beliefs.

So, if you want to ditch the emotional baggage and get what you want in life, then write that list. And make sure you pin it up somewhere, so you are reminded of just how awesome you really are.

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5. The Angry Monster

Anger can be a piece of emotional baggage that is hard to get rid of. Anger can come from:

  • what people did
  • what you did
  • what you didn’t do
  • what they didn’t do
  • what the world looks like
  • even for your inability to queue without getting so mad that it ruins your day

Look for the anger in your life. It may not present as anger. You may not go red and look like steam is pouring out of your nose to have past anger damaging you. Holding on to hate is hard work and draining.

It doesn’t even have to be something that would warrant anger. A client had a real hatred of administration, it ruined their week. It was a hated necessity. They were one of life’s doers who hates to be tied to a desk. They hated school and the restrictions that came with early adulthood and loved the career that they had created. It honored who they are, their energy and passion for life—admin went against all of that.

Holding on to this anger was hard work. They would procrastinate on emails, put off phone calls, and delay paying bills until guilt reared its ugly head. Helping them see the damage it was doing helped them change.

Anger can stop you from dealing with your past and stop you from moving forward into a more positive state. Allowing the past to invade our daily lives can have damaging consequences. This quick action can be enough to jolt you into a more positive way of thinking, reacting, and acting.[4]

6. The Unloved

Everyone has been ditched. If you feel like you aren’t good enough or can’t get things in life, are you holding on to beliefs about who people think you are? What people think you are like? That feeling that you aren’t good enough and unloved can be detrimental to every part of your life, even preventing you from finding love.

I coached someone on finding a partner, which they achieved in six months. They discovered that they were holding on to outdated ideas on what was possible and what people would think of them.

Of all the fears I see impact happiness and success, the fear of what people will think of us can hang out in so many fears. You can stop this from happening by defining how you see the world.

Remember that what goes on in your head is personal to you. No one can own it or be involved in it without your permission. Start here and then, look around you to discover how this manifests in your life.

For my client, we discovered that they didn’t even have a room in the closet for another person’s coat and shoes, let alone their belongings. Becoming aware of the way they were living helped them adjust to being open to a new and better way of moving forward that would remove the feeling of being unloved.

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7. The Unlucky

The unlucky will be able to tell you how they’ve never achieved a promotion, never won a competition, or be chosen first. Okay, so during basketball practice in your teens, you may have been chosen last, but that doesn’t mean you are going to keep that level of luck for the rest of your life.

With that in mind, holding on to outdated beliefs on your luck makes you the victim of your life. And if you are the victim, there’s nothing you can do about it.

This doesn’t just work on luck. If you work in the public sector or fit any popular media story (having a long-term illness, stressed, overworked, parent, teen, etc.), then, you are likely to be bombarded about how poorly paid you are and how the government, public, and media don’t appreciate you.

When working with these demographics, I often find that this is detrimental baggage that stops people from finding better ways of working so that they reduce stress and enjoy work more, often working fewer hours.

So, if you want to hold onto that baggage, what will you be accepting? As a parent or teen, you can feel like you are constantly being put upon—if you were to flip that, could you see that you are also trusted and relied upon? That you are loved and valued?

For any of these, look for the feelings you get as a result—do you feel guilty? Frustrated? Regretful? Unappreciated?

Final Thoughts

Learn more about what’s impacting you and start asking yourself:

  • What do I want to feel from now on?
  • What changes do I want to see in my life, thoughts, and happiness?

Change needs something positive to work on, and that’s a lot easier to achieve when you know what your emotional baggage is doing to you. As Wilhelm Reich famously said, “The less he understands something, the more firmly he believes in it.” Let me know how you get rid of your emotional baggage and the impact it has.

More Tips on How to Deal With Emotional Baggage

Featured photo credit: Naomi August via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Britannica: Are There Really Right-Brained and Left-Brained People?
[2] LinkedIn: Data is Power. In HR too.
[3] DoSomething.org: 11 FACTS ABOUT CYBERBULLYING
[4] Mandie Holgate: Hanging on to Sh*t

More by this author

Mandie Holgate

International Coach, Best Selling Author & Speaker inspiring people around the world to success.

50 Words of Encouragement for Moving Forward 7 Types Of Emotional Baggage And How To Deal With Them How to Control the Uncontrollable In Life 6 Types of Fear of Success (And How to Overcome Them) Self Awareness Is Underrated: Why the Conscious Mind Leads to Happiness

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Published on October 15, 2021

Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why?

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Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why?

When you think of anxiety, several scenarios may come to mind: the endless tossing and turning of a restless night, dread over potential future events, pandemic-related overwhelm, or full-blown panic attacks. Even if you’re not diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, you’ve likely experienced anxiety symptoms at some point in your life. In these situations, you might feel a queasiness in your stomach, racing heartbeat, excessive sweating, chest tightness, some tension in your jaw/neck/shoulders, or worrisome thoughts as you prepare for the worst possible scenario. But does anxiety also make you tired?

After experiencing these symptoms, you may indeed feel fatigued. The sensation could fall anywhere on the exhaustion spectrum, from feeling like you just ran a marathon and need to sleep for two days, to just a little worn down and wanting a quick nap to recover.

Below are 7 ways anxiety zaps your energy and how to restore it.

1. Stress Hormone Overload

Anxiety can make you tired via overloading your body with stress hormones. The “fight or flight” response is a key connection between anxiety and fatigue. In fact, this process is made up of three stages: Alarm, Resistance, and Exhaustion. Anxiety triggers our body systems to go into high alert. This is a natural, involuntary reaction that developed in the human brain for survival.

When humans lived with the real, imminent threat of being attacked by a predator, it made sense for our bodies to spring into action without much preparatory thought. Such dangers are rare in modern times, but our brains continue to respond in the same way they did thousands of years ago.

The hormones and chemicals that flood our bodies to prepare us for safety can both affect and be affected by several body systems, and this interaction itself contributes to exhaustion. Adrenaline and cortisol are the two most notable hormones to address here. First, adrenaline is sent out, tensing the muscles and increasing heart rate and blood pressure in preparation to run. Later in the stress response, cortisol is released, enhancing the brain’s use of glucose. This is one of our main fuel sources, so it’s no wonder this contributes to fatigue (see #2).

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You can regulate baseline levels of these stress hormones by regularly practicing yoga, breathwork, meditation, and/or engaging in aerobic exercise.[1] It’s easier to lean into these routines for relief during stress when you’ve already mastered using them during times when you feel calm.

2. Elevated Blood Sugar Levels

Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), which is shown to be associated with anxiety in diabetic patients.[2] Many people who experience hyperglycemia report feeling tired all the time regardless of their quantity or quality of sleep, nutrition, or exercise.

Although this connection has shown more prevalent and prolonged effects in diabetics, it also occurs with nondiabetics exposed to psychiatric stress.[3] In fact, for all people, the natural stress response elevates blood pressure and heart rate as well as cortisol levels, all of which increase blood sugar levels.[4] This means that anxiety causes a double-hit of exhaustion related to blood sugar fluctuations.

Instead of reaching for comfort foods like chocolate during times of stress, take a calming walk around the block. Gentle movement alone is a great stress reliever that incidentally also helps to regulate blood sugars.[5]

3. Negative Mindset

Anxiety can also make you tired because of repetitive negative thinking (RNT), which is a common symptom of anxiety. RNT involves continuous thoughts via rumination (dwelling on sad or dark thoughts focused on the past) and worry (angst regarding the future). Some researchers argue that having a longtime habit of RNT can harm the brain’s capacity to think, reason, and form memories.[6] While the brain is busy using its energy stores to fuel negative thought patterns, the energy available for these other more productive endeavors is thereby reduced.

Negative thoughts can also disrupt or prevent healthy sleep patterns, keeping our minds racing at night and effectively wreaking havoc on daytime energy. (See #7)

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Reduce these patterns by reframing your feelings over anxious thoughts. Instead of staying stuck on “what if,” focus on what you can do in the here and now. What activity can you engage in for five minutes (or more) that brings you joy? What are you grateful for, no matter what’s going on around you?

4. Digestive Issues

It’s common for people to experience both intestinal and mental issues simultaneously. This suggests a strong connection between the central nervous system and the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which is known as the gut-brain axis.[7] Simply put, what happens in our digestive tract (and as a result of what we eat) affects the brain and vice versa.

The gut microbiota is a complex population of GI tract microorganisms. When its balance is altered, the body can develop conditions that affect the gut-brain-endocrine relationship. The endocrine system produces and manages adrenaline, for starters. And the gut bacteria’s production of feel-good hormones (serotonin and dopamine—see #5) ties into this relationship as well.

GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptors are also found in gut bacteria. GABA is a natural brain relaxant that makes us feel good by helping the body to unwind after a stress-induced neurotransmitter release (e.g., cortisol and adrenaline). When GABA activity is low, it leads to anxiety, depression, insomnia, and mood disorders. These are just a few of the manifestations that demonstrate how gut bacteria influences behavior. All of these contribute to feeling both physically and mentally tired.

You can minimize the symptoms of depression and anxiety by keeping your gut microbiota balanced with probiotic-rich fermented foods. Yogurt with live cultures, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, kimchi, miso soup, and tempeh are great foods to include in your diet.[8]

5. Depression

Anxiety and depression often go hand in hand. Research continues to indicate a complex relationship between depression and decreased serotonin—a key neurotransmitter for regulating mood and feelings of wellbeing and happiness. Anxiety is also a direct symptom of serotonin deficiency. Serotonin helps with healthy sleep, mood, and digestion.

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Serotonin is produced in the gut, almost exclusively, at an estimated 90 percent. However, a small quantity is also produced in the hypothalamus, an area of the brain that is pivotal for transmitting energy balance signals. This small cone-shaped structure receives and relays signals transmitted via the vagus nerve from the gastrointestinal tract. It has a central role in mediating stress responses, regulating sleep, and establishing circadian rhythms. It senses and responds to a myriad of circulating hormones and nutrients, directly affecting our mood and energy.[9]

Dopamine is another mood-boosting neurochemical that is depleted in depression. It creates feelings of alertness and wakefulness and, when the body is operating normally, is released in higher amounts in the morning (allowing for daytime energy) and lower at night (preparing for healthy sleep). Stress is one factor that can deplete dopamine, thereby leading to depression, sleep disorders, and fatigue.

Studies show that dopamine levels in the brain can be elevated by increasing dietary intake of tyrosine and phenylalanine.[10] Both of these amino acids are naturally found in protein-rich foods like turkey, beef, eggs, dairy, soy, peas, lentils, and beans.

6. Breathing Problems

Breathlessness and anxiety are closely linked, and this is one of the ways anxiety can make you feel tired. Anxiety can lead to shallow breathing, which can cause shortness of breath while feeling breathless can exacerbate anxiety.[11] It’s a vicious cycle that often leads people to take rapid and shallow breaths, breathing into their upper chest and shoulders.

This type of breathing minimizes oxygen intake and usability. Despite comprising only two percent of the body, our brains consume 20 percent of the body’s oxygen supply. Oxygen is fuel for both mental and physical tasks. When breathing patterns compromise healthy oxygen levels, this can cause considerable fatigue.[12]

End the anxiety-fatigue cycle with focused breathing exercises. It’s important to practice this regularly while you’re not experiencing anxiety or stress, as this will help you to be prepared should a moment of breathless anxiety hit unexpectedly.

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There are several different styles of breathing exercises. There’s an easy one to try, called “Resonant Breathing.” Simply breathe in slowly through your nose as you count to five, then exhale for a count of five. Repeat this for a few minutes. It’s helpful to bring your awareness to any tension, deliberately relaxing your neck, shoulders, and jaw in particular.

7. Sleep Issues

Most of the elements we’ve already discussed inherently tie into sleep issues, which is often the reason why anxiety can make you feel tired. But it’s important to note that this is not always a directly linear cause-and-effect process. Much of it is cyclic. If we don’t get enough quality sleep, we increase our risk of excessive cortisol production, elevated blood pressure and blood sugar levels, depressed mood and mindset disorders, and dysregulation of appetite/craving hormones that affect our digestive health.

Sleep is obviously the number one antidote to feeling tired as a result of anxiety. But at the same time, many of these elements—including anxiety itself—lead to less-than-restorative sleep. We can improve our energy levels by addressing each element discussed here, as well as taking a proactive approach to our sleep health.

One simple habit to help recalibrate your circadian rhythm for healthy sleep patterns is to get outside in the morning. Sunlight exposure in the early hours of the day regulates melatonin production, helping us to feel sleepy at night.

You Don’t Have to Live Your Life Anxious and Exhausted

Times of extreme stress, like driving in heavy traffic or nerve-wracking situations like public speaking, can easily induce an anxiety response. Even “normal” everyday stressors, like feeling overwhelmed with work and home responsibilities, can build up to anxious feelings over time.

Our bodies’ response to stress and anxiety affects many of its functions in complex ways. When we unravel the interconnections of these processes, we can see how each part plays an intrinsic role in contributing to fatigue. By addressing each element individually, we can make simple lifestyle changes that resolve anxiety and diminish the ways it makes us tired as a result.

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More Tips on Coping With Anxiety

Featured photo credit: Joice Kelly via unsplash.com

Reference

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