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Understanding your Anxiety

by | Anxiety, Blog

Do you ever wonder why anxiety is happening to you? Are you the only one experiencing such intense fear and worry?

Anxiety has no barriers

Anxiety is like a cold, everyone has it at one point or another. And there are some who have it for longer periods of times and at different intensities.

Anxiety happens across all ethnic groups and every culture. It just looks different on each person.

Anxiety has a physiological presence

Ever notice how your body responds when someone pulls out in front of you or when your late to work and know your boss is going to say something. Maybe you have heart palpitations, or feel sick to your stomach. Perhaps you went straight from the physical symptoms to the thoughts- ‘I almost died’ or ‘I’m going to get fired.’

Anxiety is based in our flight and fight response (There is also a freeze response but we will save that for a different post). This acute stress response comes out of our sympathetic nervous system; reacting to a perceived attack.

This is not our only reason for our anxious reactions but it plays a huge role. Hormones and neurotransmitters play a role too.

How our autobiographical memory plays a role in our physiological response

Autobiographical memory is how we recollect our experience mentally, physically, and emotionally. It’s our file cabinet in our brain of our own experiences.

When one has had an negative experience that produced the above flight/fight response- The autobiographical memory calls up that previous experience and reminds your body there is danger. So repeated negative events may increase our anxious responses.

Environmental Factors that play a role

Situational factors can play a large role in anxiety- financial stress, work pressure, transitions in life, even loss. Social media and the news are some of the biggest factors in anxiety in individuals today! Living in areas where the weather does not produce enough daylight hours or altitude changes can impact our oxygen levels enough to create anxiety.

Certain medications and/or medical issues can create anxiety. Using illicit drugs can create anxiety as well. The parallel’s between many medical conditions and anxious responses is documented in numerous medical journals.

Were your parents or guardians anxious? Any modeling of anxious behaviors onto another person can lead to learned anxious behaviors especially with repeated exposures.

Is it Normal Anxiety or Anxiety Disorder?

Everything above contributes to anxiety but what translates over to actually being a disorder. When the anxiety disrupts everyday life including things like work, home life, relationships it can often fall into the category of an anxiety disorder. Sometimes it impairs those parts of our life dramatically and sometimes just enough.

To truly be diagnosed one should talk to a medical provider or therapist. From there triggers and causes can be explored along with the best treatment interventions.

Self Care to reduce Anxiety

Life gets busy, often leaving no time to pay attention to our bodies. Engaging in some simple self care strategies can help even just a little bit.

Checking in on yourself each day, paying attention to what’s going on in your body is a simple self care strategy of just noticing.

Finding a calm place to be when you notice your anxiety is higher can be helpful.

Simple Action Steps

Here are some simple action steps you can take to learn to notice yourself and reduce anxiety:

  • Take a look around the room you are in: Remember to breathe while doing this exercise. Start with just noticing a shape throughout the room (i.e. circle, square, rectangular). Look around the entire room for just that shape. Now move onto one color (i.e. blue, red, silver). And just notice that one color within the room. And lastly just look around the room for an object (i.e. picture, pen/pencil, rugs). Just notice them.
  • 4 Square breathing: Visualize a square with 4 quadrants or look at a picture frame and divide it into 4’s. Now the first quadrant you focus on breathing in, second quadrant-out, third quadrant-in, and fourth- out. It’s super simple but feels really good. Here is the trick with breathe work, you need to learn how your body handles certain breathing experiences. Some people cannot handle deep breathing, some cannot handle short or the longer breathing activities. Go with what feels good and what does not increase your anxiety.

How to scale and self soothe

  • We want to find something that you can self soothe with: Think about your 5 senses and what one do you enjoy the most. Could it be that you really love the smell of a good candle or awesome lotion. Do you like texture on your skin like a blanket or pillow? Do you find sucking on a lollipop or a cough drop soothing? What about watching the waterfalls or animals in the wild? Take some time and maybe create a list of those things that you find soothing. Then fill yourself up with them when your not anxious as well as when your anxiety is increasing. The trick is to do it enough when things are somewhat normal for you so that they are easier to remember when you really need them.
  • Learn to scale how you are feeling throughout a given day: So the scale should be 0-10 with 0 being no anxiety and 10 being extreme anxiety. Now I want you to think about what can you tolerate. Can you get to a 3-4 without needing to do one of the above? What number do you start to forget the tools? Once you figure this out, now you need to think about scaling yourself throughout the day, even if you have to write it down (i.e. 6am-0, 8am-4, 10am-7, 12pm-3, 3pm-8). This can be so helpful because it will be the catalyst to helping you notice where you are with your anxiety and where you want to be.

Check us out at www.turningstonecounseling.com for more information.