Listening to yourself, to the voices in your head, is a very good way to figure out what causes your anxiety to ramp up.
Sometimes we don’t realise that our anxiety has been getting worse until it’s really got a grip – I know in the past I’ve certainly not recognised anything was wrong with me until the moment I felt my stomach drop and panic fill me. I know now that that feeling means that my body is preparing to run away or fight – all the blood is moving out to my arms and legs and my system is flooding with adrenaline because I have (usually unconsciously) believed that I am at risk from something dangerous. But I haven’t actually been at risk: it was the voices in my head that had set my body up for that extreme reaction.
By learning to listen to what I was telling myself I was able to figure out what I was perceiving as a threat, and then decide what to do about it. Here’s how you can do the same:
- For the next couple of days, do your best to write down your thoughts. You won’t be able to get them all and that’s ok, that’s not what this exercise is about. It’s important that you write down the thoughts you become aware of though – evidence shows that it’s best done by physically writing notes on paper, but capturing them on your phone or laptop is ok too. What you’re after is a record that you can look back on.
- It’s particularly important to do this if you find yourself in a moment where your anxiety is growing – do your best to capture the thoughts and feelings you were having just before you started noticing your increasing anxiety, and the direction the thoughts have been taking as your anxiety has grown
- Once you have a couple of days’ worth, look back over the thoughts you have captured and identify your “absolute” statements such as “I always…”, “they never…”, “we can’t…”. When you think like this you are creating a false narrative and shutting off any alternative options.
- Now reword your false narratives and open yourself up to new, more empowering thoughts, by change statements into questions. Here’s an example: Your usual false narrative absolute statement goes “There’s nothing I can do about climate change” . Change it into an open question by turning it into something like this “What are 3 (or 2, or 4) things I can do to make a difference in the area of climate change that concerns me the most?” The more you do this, the easier it will get
- You might notice that your anxiety ramps up in particular situations or with particular people. And you may also find that those situations or people remind you of something or someone from your past. Noticing those reminders can be a powerful aide in overcoming your anxiety.
If you would like to talk through any issues arising from this download please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange your free no-obligation coaching session with me.
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