If you have struggled with anxiety for a long time, you may feel that you have little or no idea why it shows up in your life. You may even be in a pattern of waking feeling anxious immediately before you have even begun to engage with the day ahead.
However, anxiety is not random, and your experience of anxiety will be triggered by different stimuli.
When we feel that anxiety is random, it can be even more frightening, leaving us wondering if and when it will rear its ugly head once more but if we can recognise triggers in our life that lead to and add to anxiety, we will regain some control which in itself will lower our anxiety.
The next time you feel anxious, sit with it for a moment and ask yourself a series of questions (if you would like a pdf version of this, please email us and we will send you a copy).
Firstly, score your anxiety out of 10, of course this is subjective but it can help in order for you to get an indication of where you are in this moment.
Then ask yourself:
· Where am I? – Does your anxiety show up more in a particular place?
· Who am I with? – Are there certain people who make you feel more or less anxious when you are around them?
· What can I see? – Have you become anxious as you have seen something which has previously made you feel unsafe or has a familiarity to something that has made you feel unsafe?
· What can I hear? – Is there a certain song in the background or does the sound of the 10 o’clock news theme tune cause anxiety?
· What can I smell? – Our sense of smell is very powerful in causing us to evoke emotions and feelings, maybe the smell of petrol reminds you of a stressful car trip or a certain food smell triggers an anxious feeling?
· What can I taste? – Can you taste something right now? Does the taste of a certain food or drink bring up anxious feelings?
· What am I touching? – Are you physically touching something which is causing the anxiety, maybe the feel of a certain fabric?
· What am I feeling? – Asides from the obvious anxiety, are there other feelings and emotions going on? Do you feel sad, afraid, guilty etc?
· What thoughts am I having? – We tend to believe all of our thoughts and yet most of our thoughts are based upon pure conjecture and opinion and very few are based upon actual facts. Pay attention to your thoughts and notice what they are saying to you as if you were an observer of them.
· Is there anything making the anxiety worse? – Does it feel worse when you scroll social media? Speak to a certain person? Withdraw from people?
· What could make me feel better right now? – Do not look too far ahead, just in this moment, what could help you rather than hurt you? Maybe taking some slow deep breaths, going for a walk, calling a friend or even having a nap.
Whilst it may feel challenging to ask yourself all of these questions, there are multiple benefits to doing the exercise. It will not only help you gain clarity and insight into your own triggers but simply the act of doing the exercise will move your attention from your survival brain and into your calmer and more rational Prefrontal Cortex.
If you believe your anxiety is getting out of control, please seek some help today. Of course you can reach out to your GP but there are also other resources which can help such as:
•Anxiety UK – www.anxietyuk.org.uk
•No Panic – www.nopanic.org.uk
•OCD Action – www.ocdaction.org.uk
•Employee Assistance Programme - Does your employer have such a thing? If so, you are often able to receive some confidential telephone based counselling sessions.