Don’t over host negative emotions

Have you ever had those house guests who need loads of looking after but see themselves as easy-breezy? You know the ones who like things ‘just so’ and then make it seem like you’re a bit of a fuss pot for trying to make things just so?

Those guests really bug me and I’m happy to say I don’t know any right now – or at least none who live outside my head!

The “Little Peace of Mind” podcast is where I first heard this idea of over-hosting. Dr Aaron Turner was the guest in Episode 25,”Getting Comfortable with being uncomfortable” and he talked about over-hosting his anxious feelings whenever he experienced them.

What is over-hosting?

It’s checking in too often. Doing too much. Just as you would check on a guest, you check on the feelings.

Are they still there? Am I feeling any better? What’s that sensation? Is that part of my anxiety? Why do I feel so anxious? Why can’t I relax? Let’s see if I can distract myself. Has that worked? Do I feel any better yet? How about now?

I was in just such a state this morning. I had a headache and tight chest and every time I thought about doing anything remotely productive, my heart would beat faster as pointlessness and failure eclipsed any positive thoughts. I honestly can’t say whether the feelings were the product of anxiety, stress, fatigue, a combination of all or something else entirely. The physical sensations and the accompanying feelings have been escalating for a few days but this morning I realised I’m over-hosting them. Barely a minute goes by where I don’t run a little body and mind scan, checking to see whether things have improved or worsened and it occurs to me this might be exactly why I’m gradually feeling worse.

Is it anxiety?

That’s the weird thing. I don’t know. Could there be something physically wrong with me? Maybe. But I doubt it.

What I do know is that every time I get distracted and do something enjoyable for a short while, the symptoms ease. When I get stressed (which takes almost nothing right now) the symptoms return.

So I decided to write this post for two reasons. One, as a distraction. Ironically, even though I’m writing about the feelings, the act of writing places my focus more on the words than the experience itself and that helps. Two, as a reminder to let go rather than over host.

Today I googled, “the difference between anxiety and stress” and found this:

Everyone experiences stress and anxiety at one time or another. The difference between them is that stress is a response to a threat in a situation. Anxiety is a reaction to the stress. Whether in good times or bad, most people say that stress interferes at least moderately with their lives.

Anxiety is a reaction to stress.

To me, that suggests anxiety is the over-hosting of stress. If we’re saying stress is a normal and expected part of life, perhaps those of us who get anxious about it are those who keep checking on it to see if it’s still there, and whether it’s getting worse or getting better.

Maybe we just need to let go. Maybe we need to leave stress alone and let it make its own cup of tea.

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