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Anxiety: overcoming the “sinking feeling”

One of the commonest subsets of generalised anxiety is “social phobia”. In a group setting, we may feel we are being judged by others, which makes us afraid to speak out. 

Picture the scene. You’re having a conversation with somebody, and you’ve just taken a different stance from their opinion. Immediately you feel a “different energy” – their facial expressions are changing, as is their tone of voices. In some cases, they may even lash out.

The calm before the storm

In the anxious mind, there’s a hive of activity going on before this reaction even occurs. We call this the “sinking feeling” – the knowledge that you may have said something that’s likely to cause judgement. 

The sinking feeling can present in many ways:

  • Nausea or “butterflies” in the stomach
  • Pangs of pain like “barbed wire”
  • A feeling of heaviness.

Dealing with the sinking feeling

Nobody likes to deal with conflict, or indeed, the feeling that they may have upset another person. But when that sinking feeling hits, it’s important to remember the following:

By speaking your mind, you have stuck to your principles.

They say that silence can mean complicity. If you’ve demonstrated that you’re brave enough to share your views, you need to be proud of that – you’re championing that which is important to you.

Their reaction is a reflection on them, not you.

You cannot control how others react, only how you react to situations. So, if they have chosen to react aggressively, that shows their unwillingness to compromise. The sinking feeling is because you feel under attack, not because you have done something wrong.

They are attacking because you challenged their expectations.

As humans, we are hardwired to resist change – so when someone disagrees with us, we may blow up. Recognise that this is a good thing, a chance to discuss your conflicting views and reach an amicable conclusion.

Sink or swim – stick to your beliefs

Many anxious people have an overwhelming desire to please and oblige, often at their own expense. This presents a moral dilemma when it causes us to challenge our principles.

If you feel passionately about a cause, you should never back down simply to “please another”. You may feel a sense of relief at having avoided conflict in the short term, but it will be more damaging in the long term. You should never have to question your own self worth as a result of keeping other people happy.

Embrace the feeling

The simple fact is that, by staying true to ourselves, we will come across that “sinking feeling” now and again. Many self-help gurus will tell you that the “feel-good” benefits of pleasing others are key to self-development. This is wrong. By challenging others and looking at different points of view, you will grow as a person. Over time, you’ll also see those anxious feelings slowly subsiding.

Contact us to discuss your anxious feelings in a judgement-free environment.