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Anxiety Journal

Updated: Dec 2, 2021


1) Understanding Anxiety

Let's start by breaking down what anxiety really means.


Anxiety is your body's response to a perceived threat, it evolved to help us become more perceptive to danger. Anxiety ignites the flight, fight or freeze response. This is why it leads to many physiological symptoms i.e. heart racing, sweaty palms and shortness of breath. Thousands of years ago this would have been incredibly important for survival.



However, fast forward to today and anxiety still ignited the same stress response but instead the treat is less likely to be a matter of life or death; yet we still feel it is. This is why it is very important to understand anxiety is not your fault it is a physiological reaction that once served you well.



Anxiety disorders are incredibly common but it is still unknown why some people experience this more than others. It is understood that genetics and environment factors have a role to play.



2) Self-Compassion

Understanding the threat


I want to help you to develop some self-compassion in relation to anxiety. You may feel frustrated about why these feelings are coming up but the likelihood is that something important is feeling threatened. Take some time to think about a recent experience of anxiety and explore which of the below it might have related to:


  • A threat to my safety ?

  • A threat to the safety or wellbeing of a loved one?

  • A threat to my job or finances

  • A threat to my reputation or social status

  • A threat to my health

  • A threat to my relationship ?



3) Self-Awareness

Understanding the trigger


There will often be a trigger that causes anxiety, this might be a thought, an image, a physiological change or an event. It can be helpful to reflect on a recent time you've experienced anxiety and notice what have been the initial trigger.


Examples: a stressful situation, thought about yourself, caffeine increase, an email etc.


Anxious thoughts can quickly snowball, they can start with a single 'what if..' and begin to increase into more and more anxious thoughts. It can take you to a place where you feel that the worst case scenario is inevitable. However you are not alone in this, so many people struggle with anxious thoughts.


Examples:

  • ' it's going to go so wrong I know it'

  • 'what if something bad happens to someone i love?'

  • what if i can't do it? what if everyone thinks I'm a failure?'



4)Thinking Styles

Unhelpful thinking


Unhelpful thinking styles or cognitive distortions are thoughts that contribute to feelings of stress and anxiety. Take a look below to see if you recognise any of these thought patterns in yourself:


  • All or nothing - Seeing things as good or bad, right or wrong 'if i'm not perfect then i've failed'

  • Mental filter- Only paying attention to certain types of evidence for example, noticing only your failures

  • Jumping to conclusions- Believing we know what others are thinking, being certain of a future outcome which you do not know yet

  • Emotional reasoning- Assuming that if you feel it then it must be true 'i feel embarrassed so i must be stupid'

  • Labelling- Labelling ourselves and others 'I am stupid, I am a failure'

  • Over-generalising - 'Everyone thinks I'm a bad person'

  • Disqualifying- Writing off positive experiencing as a fluke rather than appreciating them

  • Personalisation - Believing something is your fault or that you are always to blame


Re-phrasing the thoughts


Learning to re-phrase thoughts before they even start to snowball can be really helpful and a great way to self-sooth and manage feelings of anxiety. This is not about thinking positively, it is instead thinking more logically and rationally. Sometimes anxiety can steer us away from thinking in a balanced way. Here is some examples below of how you can start to rephrase your anxious thoughts:


Original thought: 'I've messed up at work, i'm such a failure'


Re-phrase: I've made a mistake at work, I'm human and that happens. I'm not a failure because there's many other things I've succeeded at.'


Original thought: 'I'm never going to be able to do this, I'm useless'


Re-phrase: 'I'm feeling useless because I'm stressed right now, I know in reality that's unlikely to be totally true. I just need to take a step back and figure out a solution when I'm ready'




5) Anxiety and the Body

Sometimes anxiety will persist regardless of how much we try re-phrasing our thoughts. This does not mean that re-phrasing is not helpful ( practice can be really effective in the long run) but it is usually a sign that your nervous system is too fired up to be soothed rationally.


Many clients state that they know the thought is not totally logical but that their body is still feeling anxious and a state of anxiety. This is because anxiety ignites the sympathetic nervous system (the part of our autonomic nervous system that is responsible for detecting threats).


Therefore, when anxiety fires up it is the body that needs reassurance. Below are some examples of how you can re-regulate your nervous system.


  • Breathing exercises

  • Yoga and meditation

  • Aromatherapy

  • Acupuncture

  • Reflexology

  • therapeutic massage

  • Grounding techniques (focusing on your 5 senses)



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