So what does anxiety mean for you? Would you say that you are an anxious person? Everyone has felt anxiety at some point in their lives, maybe the run up to a wedding or an exam of some sort. During times like these it is perfectly normal to feel anxious. Anxiety becomes an issue when you find it hard to control your worries, and the worries start to effect your daily life.
Symptoms of anxiety can included excess worrying, feeling restless, having trouble concentrating or sleeping, dizziness and heart palpitations. If this sounds familiar then maybe consider speaking to your GP to discuss the symptoms and seek help.
There have been many studies carried out around anxiety, and as a result they have been able to identify different forms of anxiety, such as generalised anxiety disorder, health anxiety and social anxiety. For the purpose of this article we will be looking at GAD (generalised anxiety disorder).
To get to the route of the anxiety it is best to try and break it down in to three sections, Thoughts – Feelings – Behaviors. By doing this we are able to catch our thoughts, and look at out feelings, rather than through them.
Try and think of an occasion this week that has raised your anxiety levels. Writing it down in the format below will help you to see what happened in detail.
Situation – What happened? When did it happen? What else was going on? Have you found yourself in the same situation before? Who were you with? What thoughts or images went through your mind just before or during the incident. If your thought was a question, try and answer it.
Feelings – What distressing emotions did you feel? For example: anger, terror, rage, depression, frustration, guilt, shame, irritable.
What did you notice in your body? With anxiety your body produces adrenaline, which can result in the pounding of the heart, breathlessness, light headedness, dizzy, shaking, hot, flushes, and in extreme circumstances, a sudden urge to run to the toilet. This is the bodies fight, flight, freeze or flop response, it is what we do to protect ourselves, the adrenaline is there to help you to either escape (fly) or fight in a dangerous situation. Unfortunately our bodies are unable to differentiate between actual danger and imagined danger and so we can react in extreme ways.
Behaviour – What did you do? What didn’t you do? How did you cope? For example: you may have started twitching, or withdrawn from the situation both physically and emotionally.
Lets look at an example:
As you can see ‘Abbey’ got up in the morning and was due to meet friends for coffee but as she started to get ready, she started to think ‘something bad is going to happen’ and as a result the adrenaline started to kick in causing her to feel anxious. She then started to feel her heart racing and so she started to plan her excuses.
Once Abbey had planned her excuses she started to become breathless and shaky which made her think ‘I am letting people down, they will be so angry with me’
Which then resulted in her becoming sweaty and light headed and so she withdrew and switched her phone off so no one could contact her.
As you can see, Abbey was stuck in a cycle, where her thoughts fed her feelings and then she behaved in a certain way which then reinforced the feelings and created further thoughts. The thoughts, feelings and behaviours feed off each other.
It will take time to recognise the thoughts, feelings and behaviours but it is worth writing them down to look at them in greater detail.
Watch out for my next blog where we will look at ways of working through the thoughts.