We feel more anxiety at night for the same reason we practice emotional eating at night.
We Slow Down
The anxiety is always there, throughout the day and night alike. During the day we have lots to do which is the same thing as saying we have lots of natural distractions from it.
We also have many ways of changing our body chemistry to “feel better” so that we don’t experience the anxiety (or anger) as much.
Tasks – We have work, chores, errands and similar tasks throughout the day to throw our nervous energy into and keep our mind distracted from the anxiety underneath.
People – We interact with many different people (in person and on the phone) to connect, confront, hang out with and sometimes just to say “hi.” Being with people is also a way to distract from ourselves even if it’s healthy and something that’s good for us.
Our Fixes – I don’t mean narcotics or prescription medications here. I’m talking about the dopamine hits we seek out everyday. Things like TV, internet, social media, checking emails, YT vids etc,.
Addictions – Drinking, gambling, shopping, working and eating.
Everything above takes us away from our anxiety temporarily.
Then night comes along and we slow down with less things to do. Or perhaps we’re in bed with literally nothing to do. Then the anxiety is right there, with nowhere for us to hide.
Two Ways to Deal with Anxiety
The first way is to avoid it. At night, in bed we can avoid our anxiety by taking pills, meditating, using relaxation exercises, day dreaming and just trying our best to ignore it in general.
Some of these things are helpful and even good for you, but they’re not the best way to manage the anxiety. In fact avoiding anxiety is the best way to increase it. When we avoid our anxiety it grows and grows to the point where it becomes an even bigger problem.
Most of us do this because we don’t know how to deal with it so we try anything we can to get some relief. Completely understandable.
The second way is to confront it. This is the correct way to deal with your anxiety. We all know that we are supposed to “face our fears,” and when we think of that we conjure up scenes from movies where a guy finally asks a girl out or where a girl goes back to her childhood home etc.
Movies have conditioned us to believe that you need one, big, scary confrontation and you are cured. Your life moves forward from that point on and everything works out great. In truth you do need moments like those larger, dramatic encounters to move forward but they are not enough.
Creating a Relationship with Anxiety
What you need to do to confront it properly is to first create a relationship with it like the boy above. Become curious about what your anxiety is trying to communicate to you because that’s all it is, information.
It’s telling you to avoid something that you perceive is threatening.
If a drunk man looks like he may be violent then your anxiety is telling you to avoid him and in that case it’s a good thing your body is giving you that information.
But if you feel anxiety about telling your friend you don’t want to go to their party because it may hurt their feelings and you don’t want to create tension, and you can’t say no, then you have a problem.
It’s still a good thing you’re getting the information though.
In the first scenario you’d rightly avoid the drunk man to keep yourself safe. In the second you are wrongly avoiding the confrontation to avoid the tension that would be created if you said, “no.”
The problem with the second scenario is that those types of situations, ones in which you have to say what you want, tell people how you feel and do what you want, happen everyday. If you’re the type of person who has a hard time with them, then you’ll be feeling anxiety all day long.
Every encounter no matter how big or small, with almost anyone (and even alone) will make you feel the anxiety of anticipation.
– What’s if the neighbor wants to talk and I need to run?
– What’s if I see Joe at work and he asks me to do some work I know isn’t mine?
– What’s if someone comes to the door asking for money for a good cause and I don’t want to?
– I want to change the decor in my house but what will my mother/friends think?
– I want to say this or that but my spouse doesn’t like when I do.
The list goes on forever. Anxiety all the time, even in circumstances when nobody is around. And, when you avoid all of these situations, the anxiety grows. It gets to the point where you are laying in bed at night, anxious to the core and you don’t even know why.
Ask the Right Question
What am I avoiding?
The grumpy cashier, my boss, a date, a family reunion? Ask yourself what you are avoiding and you’ll start to create the relationship with your anxiety. The information is there in the anxiety itself.
Simply sit and settle yourself (or if you’re in bed just close your eyes) and ask what you are afraid of. You can ask the question in different ways. Ways that make more sense to you like, “Who scares me?,” or “What am I uncomfortable with?”
You need to ask because most of the time what you are avoiding is unconscious. If it wasn’t you wouldn’t feel anxiety everyday and not know why.
You may or may not get immediate answers when you do this but do it enough and answers will come. Once you know what you are avoiding then the next step is to confront it.
Tell your boss you need a day off, even if they don’t like hearing it. Go return that broken item you bought at Walmart and face that sour employee. Do what you NEED to do. That’s how you confront the anxiety. You’ll feel nervous but go forth anyway.
Do this 1000 times over the next few years consistently and you’ll slowly see your anxiety diminish from the very first attempt. Note this; you ARE going to screw up, chicken out and look weak some of the time, or even most of the time.
As long as you continually move forward you are making progress, no matter how bad you look doing it.
It’s all about creating the relationship. Get in touch with the anxiety, don’t avoid it. Become curious about it and ask what it’s trying to tell you by asking the right questions. What are you avoiding?
Then go and confront the situation. Or, if you chicken out then make a mental note of that. Act like it’s no big deal, but that you’ll try next time and that you do need to confront it at one point, the sooner the better.
Say no, ask for things, paint the house yellow in spite of the neighbors, just do something at least once a day. That’s how you manage your anxiety and how you change the relationship with it.
Over time, the intensity of the anxiety decreases and you feel better. It will still be there but this time as a friend who gives you valuable information rather than an unbearable monster that is suffocating you.
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