Well-Being//

Why You Still Feel Anxious When Life Is Going Well

Here’s how to get out of the “what if” spiral.

Balancing happiness while dealing with anxiety can sometimes add even more anxiety. Why? The feeling both exhilarates and terrifies you. Mostly, it’s downright confusing, because even when you think you should be at your best, your body might not be responding the same.

You may enter the “what if” spiral: What if I don’t deserve it? What if the new job that makes me so happy falls through, and I’m back to square one? What if anxiety strikes and I self-sabotage? What if I get blamed for my paralyzing anxiety? What if I just got lucky?

Maybe you cry to let it out, but it keeps coming back because that’s what anxiety does. However, you don’t have to let anxiety interfere with the good things that happen to you. The best thing to do is understand why anxiety is trying to sabotage you and take steps to combat it.

Are You Afraid to Be Happy?

Why can happiness skyrocket your anxiety levels? It comes down to a fear of happiness.

Researchers use a “fear of happiness” scale to determine correlations between happiness levels and fear of something bad occurring. There were a few key findings.

Perfectionists can fear happiness because they may associate that time with unproductive activity. Many people, even absent anxiety, experience this type of association and tend to remember stressful or unfortunate experiences more clearly than good times. A common depression symptom involves sufferers socially withdrawing from activities that could bring happiness, but it reinforces the worry that that eventual joy could lead to a letdown.

Afraid to let yourself down? You may not know how to handle your anxiety when life circumstances change. In this mode of thinking, your brain races back and forth between the feelings of happiness and potential for growth, and the fear of change, worries of self-sabotage, and wanting to stay where you are. Talk about feeling stuck between a rock and a hard place!

Anxiety Exhausts You

When things are going well, you may feel like you’re running on fumes because you’re expending more physical, mental, and emotional energy to pursue and achieve your goal. Typically, this isn’t an issue if it’s helping us fulfill our basic and professional needs. However, it can start to affect your health and mental wellbeing if you work too hard to reach our goals.

It’s important to note that maintaining a work-life balance is critical to mental health. Researchers note that working over 39 hours poses a risk to your well-being, and overwork boosts the risk of stroke by five times. The standard workday actually increases your risk of premature death, along with a higher likelihood of anxiety and depression. While exercise helps, more people need to stand up for a real work-life balance when pursuing your goals and when life is going well.

Understand Your Body and Give It the Best

Accomplishments and positive life events can be stressful because they often bring more responsibility. When happiness strikes, you need to give your body the best environment possible to succeed and feel supported.

Many people rely on coffee to push through important work, but coffee can give you the “jitters” and negatively affect your sleep. Take it easy on the stimulants by limiting yourself to 400 milligrams per day, or one to four cups. Four cups may still be too much, but if you find you can handle it, do what makes you feel best. Delay your first cup, and take it with protein to lessen the impact of those jitters.

A 2014 study looked at bacteria from 55 participants and discovered depressive patients were more likely to have certain bacteria. Further research found that a Lactobacillus rhamnosus-enriched broth made despairing mice swim longer, offering more insight into how gut biome affects our mental state. Healthy bacteria increases levels of GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter that decreases stress.

While celebrating your victories make a healthy meal plan for the week ahead. Focus on good fats, such as avocado and olive oil, and fermented foods, like kimchi and yogurt, which add good gut bacteria to your diet.

Find a Good Sounding Board

It’s OK to ask for help, even when things are going well. Friends and loved ones may not understand why you’d seek help when you’re at your peak, but they will let go of assumptions if they truly want you to succeed.

In addition to learning to delegate, you can take any stress off your plate and hire an expert to talk to. Find a therapist or counselor that is a good fit, gives you tools to work through problems, and offers you the space to talk through everything. Once you sound off, they can help you find the validation you need within yourself.

Some Stress is Good Stress, but Don’t Let Anxiety Go Unchecked

It sounds counter intuitive, but even when things are going well you may have to make an effort to keep showing up as the best you. You’ll still feel valuable and find meaning in what you do on a day-to-day basis, even if you have to go at a slower pace or shake up your routine.

Change is inevitable and good change preferable to bad. Anxiety likes to barge in, but just make sure to give yourself a positive environment and a little reinforcement. Even better, you may find, over time, that you’ll be happy, productive, and more than just OK with that.

Originally published on Talkspace.com

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