Do you ever lie in bed, particularly on a Sunday evening, and suddenly feel overcome with anxiousness but you can’t quite put your finger on the source?
Sometimes it can feel like you’re having an out-sized reaction to the reality of the problem, but even the reassurance of “I can solve that first thing by sending off an email” doesn’t seem to abate the sense of impending doom. And so you begin to wonder if there’s something else you ought to be concerned about and the cycle begins again. It’s like feeling sore and bruised without any memory of being punched.
But it turns out that it’s your anxiety that keeps your brain performing at a much higher level and enables you to work through both personal and work issues quickly and thoroughly. Psychologists are actually calling anxiety the “shadow of intelligence”.
According to David Barlow, author of Anxiety and Its Disorders, anxiety “motivates you to plan your approach to these challenges in such a way that you feel prepared.” So long as this anxiety is something that ebbs and flows rather than constantly preys on your mind, it’s actually a very useful tool. Anxiety propels you to get ahead of the problem and prepare a solution before it’s actually forced upon you, enabling you to “accomplish more, perform better, and act in more appropriate and fruitful ways for having been anxious”.
The key to nighttime anxiety is to recognise and understand it. While anxiety is good at helping you overcome obstacles, when it starts to affect your sleeping pattern you need to take control. Nighttime anxiety often results because your brain is over-stimulated, usually because you’re either double- or triple-screening (TV, computer, phone) right up until the point you get into bed. As hard as it might be, try not to bring any electronics into the bedroom, even just leave your phone to charge in a different corner of the room so you’re not mindlessly scrolling.
So next time you get that queasy feeling in the pit of your stomach and your mind starts whirring, recognise that it’s there for a reason and it has played no small part in your successes. And watch out for those anxiety-free people and their devil-may-care attitude. They may look like they’re having a great time but really, they’re just winging it through life. Just the thought of it is making us nervous.
And if you feel like your anxiety is starting to overwhelm you, then it’s time to seek help from your GP.