What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness or unease about a future outcome being distressing, uncontrollable, or unpredictable. It’s triggered by the activation of an underlying fear and is always future-oriented. This means that anxiety is about the "what ifs" (worries about what might happen down the line).
Anxiety is uncomfortable, and so naturally, most of us try to avoid it, push it away, or act like it isn't there. However, acting like it doesn’t exist, doesn’t help- at least not in the long term.
The First Step to Changing Your Relationship with Anxiety
To change your relationship with anxiety (and decrease its symptoms) you must first understand it. When I say understand it, I don’t mean memorizing a generic definition of the term. Your experience with anxiety is unique and will not be the same as others. Because of this, there is no single definition that you can find online that will fully describe your experience. You’re the expert on how anxiety shows up in your life and so you’re best suited to map it out.
To change your relationship with anxiety (and decrease its symptoms) you must first understand it.
If you’re like most people, you’re probably still wondering, why you need to map out your anxiety. You want to resolve it, not get to know it. And I completely get that logic. But here’s the thing, the first step to change is awareness.
You will be more effective at reducing the intensity and frequency of your anxiety if you first have a solid understanding of it. That includes knowing some of the fundamentals, such as what your triggers are and which symptoms show up the most for you.
This is where working with a mental health professional comes in handy.
Side note: if therapy is something that you have been considering, you can explore counselling options by clicking here.
If you're not quite at the stage where you're thinking of therapy, no worries- I still got you. I've put together 8 questions that'll help you with this stage.
8 Questions to Help You Understand Your Anxiety Better
Anxiety is… (describe anxiety in your own words)
I know that I’m anxious when… (list the symptoms your notice when you become anxious)
I tend to get anxious when… (list the people, places and situations that trigger your fear)
Some thoughts that show up when I am anxious include… (list the what if scenarios that play through your mind)
The scariest part of this all for me is… (identify the aspect of the future outcome that is most worrying. Is it the thought of the outcome being unpredictable, uncontrollable, or too distressing to handle).
When I get anxious I tend to… (what do you tend to do when you get anxious? Do you avoid or procrastinate, drink, smoke etc)
What effects have my coping mechanisms had so far?
What is one small thing that I could do differently that might have a positive outcome? What impact would making this change have?
I do recommend writing your answers out because seeing them organized on paper is often more impactful than thinking them through in your head.
I hope this helps.