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ANXIETY IS NOT YOU, AND YOU ARE NOT IT.
Recovery is well within your control.
A SIMPLE 3-STEP GUIDE TO HELP MANAGE YOUR ANXIETY
There are various types of anxiety disorders, more than what is listed above… and even more possible reasons to why anxiety is experienced by so many individuals worldwide.
There are countless categories, symptoms, diagnostic features and criteria within the field of anxiety. So many so, that it would be impossible to cover all aspects within 10 articles, let alone one. Therefore, my sole purpose here and now is to focus only on the management of this intrusive issue, a tool I’ve put together to help all individuals who experience anxiety, no matter what category or degree.
IN ORDER TO MANAGE YOUR ANXIETY, YOU FIRST NEED TO UNDERSTAND IT.
THE 2 TYPES OF ANXIETY TRIGGERS
Anxiety can come on as a result of various life stressors and/or changes within. Many common conscious triggers can include; Work stress or changes (including loss of employment), pregnancy, giving birth, bereavement, violence, a big life event such as getting married or moving home, relationship issues and/or separation, trauma, abuse, being around strangers or even being on public transport.
Obviously, it’s easier to identify the conscious reasons behind your triggers, but gaining insight into the unconscious reasons that ignite your triggers will dramatically help you to gain a level of control and ability to manage your anxiety. Unconscious triggers may be the result from issues relating to; Health, illness, ageing, being late, not being in control, loss of security, uncertainty, changes to your body, arguments, conflict – most of which will be the result of past experiences and family influences.
ACKNOWLEDGING YOUR ANXIETY
The best starting point into gaining an understanding of your anxieties, is to acknowledge your triggers – What are those first key factors that ignite your feelings of anxiety?
If you are ready and willing to make changes, I highly recommend that you write down all your anxiety experiences.
LISTEN TO WHAT YOUR BODY IS TELLING YOU
Allow yourself to tune into your body and it’s emotional and physical responses when you feel anxious. Recognise your feelings of anxiety and write them down as soon as you can. When you start to feel anxious, take time to acknowledge the changes happening within yourself. Noting all the various responses will be of great benefit within the near future. Examples to identify and journal are:
What emotions did you feel?
What rational/irrational thoughts did you have?
Where were you and what happened?
Did your anxiety start due to another person? If so, what was said or done?
How did you react to this situation? Did your behaviour change?
How long did your feelings of anxiety in this situation take to subside?
It may help to date the events for later reflection.
PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS EXAMPLES:
Pounding heart, palpitations, sweating, sweaty hands, stomach upset, nausea, shortness of breath, muscle tension, headache, feeling tired suddenly, irritability, psychical weakness, dizziness, tunnel vision, dry mouth, chest pains and feeling faint.
EMOTIONAL / MENTAL SYMPTOMS EXAMPLES:
Overwhelming feelings of fear, sadness, apprehension, confusion and/or constant worry, poor concentration, irrational thoughts, a desire to withdraw from current situations or people, insomnia, emotional numbness, and a craving for an unhealthy coping mechanism i.e- drink/drug abuse.
The more experiences you record, the more self-aware you will become. The more self-aware you become, the sooner you will be able to understand the reasons behind your triggers and therefore, you will now start to gain an understanding into your anxiety and it’s triggers. As you keep writing about your anxiety experiences, periodically reviewing your noted events, you will start to notice common themes.
UNDERSTANDING YOUR ANXIETY
By reflecting upon your reasoning’s behind the triggers causing your anxieties, will help you to recognize when your thoughts, behaviours and mood begin to change, and how/why they have changed. Start to link these processes to your experiences of anxiety, acknowledging when they occurred and why. Think about what happened just before you began to feel anxious and begin to put the puzzle pieces together of your anxiety triggers.
Think about any life stressors you’ve encountered throughout life, and reflect back to how they may have affected your anxieties today.
REFLECT ON YOUR PAST EXPERIENCES IN LIFE & FAMILY INFLUENCES
For most, many of our anxieties occur as a result of our past negative experiences and significant relationships. Just one primary event in life will create multiple unconscious secondary implications.
Bereavement – Fear of you, or others dying, fear to love/depend on another, PTSD, fear of the unknown, uncertainty and being left alone, changes within beliefs and perceptions in life, or being unable to cope.
Abuse – Attachment and relationships issues, low-self-esteem, trouble communicating, loss of interests, feeling neglected, dissociation, sleeping difficulties, or fear of wrongdoing.
Attack – Fear of being around certain people or in certain places, loss of trust, impaired decision making, becoming hypervigilant, loss of self-existence and worth.
Being bullied – Depression, eating disorders, self/body consciousness, social withdrawal, inability to make new relationships, self-harm, academic difficulties, or a need to be loved.
If you had a Mother or Father who suffered from a mental illness, was abusive, overprotective, highly critical or controlling, or you grew up within a dangerous or tense environment as a child.
These past experiences could possibly be the result of many of your anxiety triggers today, as it is our experiences and relationships held within our childhood that are to form our personal traits and coping mechanisms within our adulthood. Traumatic/negative experiences and relationships formed with our primary caregivers as a child, would have resulted in many various unconscious issues impacting us today, as adults; Fear of being rejected, unloved, unwanted, not good enough, being a nuisance, feeling insecure, suppressing emotions, holding unrealistically high levels of self-expectations, unable to cope with stress, holding a high level of avoidance, attachment issues, low self-esteem/confidence/value and worth, identification issues, and not to mention – mental health.
Now you are aware of the two types of triggers, and once having noted some occasions when your anxiety was triggered, it’s time to make associations. Think about any bad experiences you’ve had in the past and how they have affected you. Can you relate to why certain triggers may have started in relation to these past negative experience?
ACCEPTING YOUR ANXIETY
It is a natural instinct to avoid and push away our anxieties, but this achieves nothing, other than the possibility of the issues worsening. It is only by acknowledging, understanding and accepting your anxiety that promotes change, and the ability to manage its effects.
Recognising what your triggers are and why they occur, enables you to start predicting when certain situations may and may not occur. Therefore, accepting the event before it occurs, gives you a sense of self-control. This newly found self-awareness will not only help to reduce your anxieties, but also promotes its self-management. You are now able to make a conscious and rational choice; What are you to do? Do you go into this situation/event, or not? If you do, what can you do to reduce the anxieties you are now aware that are likely arise? And how will you implement these?
When you find yourself starting to feel anxious, accept the fact that it is happening. Accepting this fact will make the process pass a lot quicker than it will when choosing to avoid it. In these times, say to yourself, “Right now I feel ———–, and this is related to my anxiety because of my past experience when —————.” The more you become able to rationalise and accept these experiences, the more you will find yourself able to challenge your irrational thoughts and feelings, replacing them with positive ones. By achieving these small and steady challenges, you will find you have possible smashed the hell out of your anxiety issues. Yay!
OTHER SELF-HELP TOOLS TO HELP MANAGE AND REDUCE YOUR ANXIETIES
Challenge your negative thoughts – First, on one side of a piece of paper, write down any negative, anxious, irrational, or self-defeating thoughts you feel about yourself. An example could be “I’m an unlovable person because I have anxiety.” Now, on the opposite side of the paper, write down any factual pieces of evidence to why that thought is not true. Examples could be ”I have the best friend anyone could wish for. They love me for me, including my fears.” ”My partner is my rock, they love me for all that I am and reassures me when I feel anxious.” ”I have great relationships with my work colleges. They are always there when I feel low.”
Ownership – Make a list of all the things you can and cannot control when feeling anxious. By reflecting on these points regularly, will promote positive changes within your cognitive functioning.
Set daily tasks – Having too much time to think, allows your irrational thoughts and feelings to spring into action, creating unnecessary and unwanted havoc. By setting simple new daily tasks, means you are preoccupied and less available for your triggers to arise.
Goal setting – Not only does setting goals and working on achieving these enhance your self-esteem and confidence, but it also gives you a new focus. Therefore, enhancing your self-belief and ability to make changes and achieve your desires.
Exercise – The chemicals released while excising help within your ability and maintain focus, and as a result, being more likely to manage stressful situations and reducing your anxieties.
Avoid judging yourself and your anxiety. If you cannot relate to your experiences, remember, it’s OK. If you do not achieve a goal, it’s OK. It’s only with failure we learn and grow.
Talk to someone. Sometimes your friends and family can help you out. Gain confidence to share your experiences with your nearest and dearest. Sharing your worries can feel like a HUGE weight has been lifted. It really is good to talk.
Work with a therapist. A therapist is trained to help you cope and work through difficult emotional situations. Working with a therapist can be beneficial in identifying your anxiety triggers and helping you manage/overcome them.
IT’S OK NOT TO BE OK
Thank you for reading.