Updated: Feb 23
Anxiety. The thief of joy. Eliminator of happiness. Can't live in the moment, but can't let go of the past. Already scared about the future, and it hasn't even happened yet!
Do you have that fearful, churning feeling in your stomach?
Do you get so scared that when you focus on your breathing, you've realised you haven't breathed at all?
Sweaty, clammy palms?
Racing, overwhelmed thoughts that can't keep up with?
Heart pounding out of your chest?
That sudden "drop" rushing all over your body? (that's cortisol being pumped, rushed and circulating in your body in what feels like less than 0.0001 seconds btw)
The feeling that you're going to die?
So now that we have established what Anxiety can look and feel like, how do we understand it & apply it to our own experience of having it. I have based this blog post from Psychology Today's 12 Things you Need to Know to Free Yourself from Anxiety (all credit is to the work of Bill Knaus Ed.D.) to help you familiarise yourself with Anxiety.
1. Anxiety is On a Time Scale.
When you feel beset by fear the danger is right before you. Anxiety is different. It is an anticipation that something fearsome is about to happen. This can be seconds or months away, or never happen. You still have time to prepare. Between now and then, do reality checks on your perspective. For example, can you be 100 percent sure of what you predict? If you can’t, why speculate? Here is something else to do. Make plans to combat what you fear.
2. Anxiety Hinders Coping with Situations that Evoke the Feeling.
Anxiety can feel so painful that you don’t think you can cope. You feel helpless. You feel vulnerable. You find refuge in any place that you can. Sadly, the relief you get from avoiding what you fear rewards avoidance. To break this vicious cycle, reward yourself for coping. For example, if you enjoy a cup of coffee, reward yourself with a cup after five minutes of working at coping with your most pressing anxiety.
3. Anxiety Can Mix with Real and False Alarms.
Some events are objectively threatening. Your Doctor finds a lump that could be cancer. You feel anxious while you wait for the results. If you start catastrophizing about dying from cancer, you piggyback an irrational dread onto a natural concern. Catastrophizing can take this form. “I know I have cancer.” “I’m going to die.” “This is horrible.” “Woe is me.” By catastrophizing, did you eliminate the risk? I don’t think so. A better option is to suspend judgment until you get the facts.
4. Anxious Thoughts, Feelings, and Actions Work Together.
It is often simpler to deal with this complicated interactive process by working on each part separately. Let’s say your anxiety thinking feels most oppressive. You believe you’ll never stop feeling anxious. You feel helpless. Can you fix this “forever anxious" belief? Use the "where’s the evidence" technique. Reflect and you’ll find you don’t always feel anxious. Maybe you are anxious that your anxiety will keep coming back. The "where is the evidence technique" gives you cause to pause to think of what you can do to prevent anxiety from coming back. Use the following eight points as interventions for prevention.
5. Anxiety is in Your Thoughts.
Exaggerate a threat and you’ll feel like you think. Use this opportunity to think about your thinking. Listen to the words you use when you feel anxious. Are you dramatizing? Do you exaggerate with words like awful? You can dial down this thinking with word softening. For example, can you honestly substitute the word, unpleasant for anxiety amplifying words like horrible? Do you tell yourself you are powerless to cope? Can you honestly substitute the phrase it’s challenging for me to cope for I’m powerless to cope? Practice word softening techniques when you feel anxious, and you can prevent yourself from amplifying your anxious feelings.
6. Anxiety is Worse When you Fear the Feeling.
You make yourself anxious over feeling anxious. You believe you can’t control your anxious feelings, and you feel worse. Test three phrases for creating a different perspective and see if this helps: “The feelings are what they are.” “I don’t have to like them.” “I can tolerate what I don’t like.” (Tolerance lessens tensions.)
7. Anxiety Affects What you Do (and what you do affects how you feel and think).
Anxiety numbs your drive to thrive, such as making new friends because you are socially anxious. Your curiosity fades. Your ambition withers. You go for what is safe. That is no way to live your life. Use a flip technique to go after what you want. Figure out three corrective steps to take. Push yourself to do them in their logical order. Decide on three more and do them in their order. See if you feel happier and more in control than you did before.
8. Anxiety Powerless Thinking Can Flow Over to Depression.
Believe you are powerless to defeat your anxieties, and this thinking raises your chances for depression. Show yourself that you have the power to buck your anxieties and you’ll feel better about yourself and your life. (Anxiety and depression can have other common features, such as self-doubts and rumination. Disrupt one of these linked conditions and you are on your way to fixing a mixed anxiety and depression problem.)