Updated: Jun 22, 2020
Dealing with anxiety on a daily basis is incredibly difficult. It can leave you feeling helpless and isolated. It can feel like you are stuck with no way of moving forward and living life ‘normally’. When I first started experiencing anxiety, my life very quickly turned completely upside down and it took a long time for me to understand my anxiety and move forward from it.
The first step to understanding your anxiety is seeing where you feel anxious. That will give you an insight into why you feel anxious. For me, it started with exams and then classrooms which was when I realised my anxiety was related to feeling trapped as well as being in a silent environment.
The second step to understanding your anxiety is to analyse your thoughts. The majority of anxiety starts with a thought but it can be difficult to pinpoint. Try and think back to a situation where you were anxious and try to recollect what you were worried about. Were you worried about other people's judgments or were you worried about your health? Once you know the likely thought behind your anxiety, you can move on to the next step.
The third step is challenging those thoughts and behaviours. Again, look back to a situation where you were anxious and write down thoughts that would oppose the anxious ones. You could also try writing positive affirmations that would have perhaps helped you at the time. Challenging the behaviours is more tricky as they usually make us feel better. Whenever I felt an anxiety attack coming on, I would go outside and that would help me calm down. That was only temporary though because it didn’t help with overcoming it in the actual situation.
The fourth step is to test it. Once you have a more theoretical understanding of your anxiety, you need to put it into practice. See if repeating the positive thoughts to yourself helps lower the anxiety. See if you can change the behaviours into something more productive. Don’t expect to not feel anxious right away. One of the hardest things I had to come to terms with about anxiety, is that it takes a long time to deal with and overcome.
The fifth step is to go back to the drawing board and do a quick analysis of your test. What was helpful and what wasn’t? Did you think of something else in that situation that was more helpful? Try to also use some kind of numerical scale of anxiety when analysing it. I use a scale of 1 to 10 when describing how bad it is. It helps keep my mind focused and also it enables me to use certain tips for a certain number on the scale. For example, if my anxiety is at a level 5, I know that keeping my mind occupied is enough to keep the anxiety under control. When my anxiety is at a 7, I know that I may have to practice some breathing exercises and relaxation techniques to stop the anxiety escalating.
The sixth and final step is to repeat. Keeping repeating the testing and analysing until you feel like you understand your anxiety better.
As time goes on and you keep working through the steps, you will become familiar with your anxiety and you will find out ways to keep it under control that work for you. It takes focus and hard work but it is totally worth it when by the end of it, you can live a happy life, not stopped because of anxiety. Understanding your anxiety actually means understanding yourself better, and that can only be a good thing.