One in Three Canadians
What’s the major element in your life that holds you back? Anxiety? Financial uncertainty? Indecision? Career choices? Something else? Or do you find it hard to choose just one? Surveys suggest that we are experiencing heightened levels of stress now more than ever. In fact, nearly one in three Canadians categorize their lives as “highly stressful”, citing work, financial and family problems as the causes, in varying degrees.
What happens when problems start to happen all at once? Well, the effects of compounded issues can be very real. For example, people who reported a lot of stress were more likely to consume alcohol regularly. In fact, 1.7% of Canadians suffer from concurrent mental and substance use disorders.
Face to Face with Anxiety
Some effects are not as easy to measure. Anxiety has been shown to have an effect on decision-making abilities – we have a harder time balancing the positive and negative outcomes, making us less likely to choose wisely. One study even found that simply thinking about financial worries led people to experience more physical pain than putting their hand in ice water.
For many of us, it isn’t the individual problem that terrifies us, but rather the seemingly insurmountable combination. We do our best to cope with each bump in life as it comes, and try to stay just one step ahead of that mountain.
Such was the case with Ben. In his late 30s, he’d been suffering from anxiety for years, and was in regular therapy, which seemed to be working. With professional help, he was keeping his head above water. That is, until he came face to face with a potentially life-changing career option, and found himself utterly unable to decide what to do.
His paralysing indecision exacerbated his anxiety, which led to higher than normal alcohol consumption, which in turn led to depression and a deep insecurity about committing to the career leap he wanted to take. “It was like a pile of fireworks, you know?” says Ben. “Everything seemed stable until that first spark. And then it all just exploded.” It wasn’t long before Ben could feel himself spinning out of control.
Discovering Health Navigator
Sometimes all it takes is a bit of help to stop these vicious cycles. For Ben, that help came from Health Navigator, a health management service included with his insurance. They helped him create a mentoring program to supplement his regular therapy. This included one-on-one advice and telephone consultations with a qualified coach, as well as periodic motivational emails and activities to keep him on track. Sometimes it was a worksheet asking him to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of a big decision; other times it was as simple as rating his feelings for the day on a measurable scale.
In 4 months of coaching, Ben was able to create new pathways to handle anxiety, and adaptive behaviours to help him with his indecision, as well as reduce his alcohol consumption. “Health Navigator broke things down into chunks that seemed attackable,” said Ben. “After a while, when the anxiety would hit me, I would reach for a pen rather than a bottle.” Not only that, Ben was able to assess his financial situation and make choices that would allow him to finally make that career move he had been considering.
Feel Whole Again
The whole, as they say, is greater than the sum of its parts. But sometimes addressing the parts separately can help us feel whole again.
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