Awareness of Your Anxiety Helps You Take Back Your Life
When you intentionally cultivate awareness of your anxiety, you develop knowledge and power that will allow you to reclaim yourself and your life. Mental Health Awareness Month is in full swing, and part of celebrating it is spending time with your worries. Rid yourself of anxious worry by cultivating awareness of your anxiety. (Oh, and if you’re catching this outside of May, you can still develop insight to beat anxiety. There isn’t a time frame for beating anxiety.)
Three Ways to Cultivate Awareness of Your Anxiety
Why is it so important to cultivate awareness of your anxiety? One of the many problems with anxiety is that it can be vague. It’s possible to feel intense anxiety symptoms but be unable to pinpoint exactly what’s happening let alone know what to do about it. This is why developing awareness of your anxiety is crucial. When you move from an ambiguous (but very real) feeling that “everything is wrong” to a distinct knowledge of what you’re experiencing, you have something concrete to work with.
Increase your insight into your experiences with anxiety by:
- noticing when something feels wrong or off
- stopping what you're doing
- assessing what's happening
Pay attention to anxiety in your body.
Close your eyes, take several slow, deep breaths, and then deliberately scan your entire body. Starting with your toes and mentally travelling upward, notice every part of your body. Are you holding tension in your muscles? How does your gut feel? Your chest—any pain or breathing difficulties? Do you have a headache? Be thorough and take note of where anxiety is showing up physically. Then, rather than feeling terrible all over, you can pinpoint what to tend to.
Note your anxious thoughts.
Creating awareness of your anxiety includes paying attention to your anxious thoughts. What is happening in your outer life, those people and circumstances around you? Children, because of their developmental age, have a hard time separating an isolated event from the big picture. A fight with a friend means that they have no friends. A bad grade means they’re stupid. Adults do this too. Everyone does. It’s known by terms like catastrophizing and overgeneralizing, and it allows anxiety to take over.
Pay attention to your anxious emotions.
How can you reduce anxiety when it’s about “everything?” To increase awareness of your anxiety, notice your emotions. It’s similar to the body scan, but with the words you’re telling yourself and the feelings you’re having. Identify them, question how rational they are (if you were just corrected by your boss, is it really likely that you’re going to lose your job, or are you a good employee and this is one incident that is now over?
This time turn your attention inward. What is happening in your inner world? Many times, anxiety is caused by our inner workings. The brain perpetually needs certain things to be healthy, including mentally healthy. When you notice your anxiety rising, ask yourself:
- Am I sufficiently hydrated?
- Am I drinking water and avoiding sugary drinks and caffeine?
- How long has it been since I last ate?
- Am I eating healthy foods and avoiding processed junk?
- Am I getting adequate sleep (7-8 hours nightly)?
- Am I taking time to de-stress and create enjoyment?
It’s amazing how much self-care influences anxiety. Ask yourself these questions regularly, and when the answer to one or more of them is “no,” do something about it right away.
Checking in with yourself throughout the day will increase awareness of your anxiety and your reactions to it. By cultivating awareness, you gain the knowledge and power to take specific actions to reduce anxiety and take back your life.
Peterson, T. (2018, May 12). Awareness of Your Anxiety Helps You Take Back Your Life, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, September 23 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2018/5/awareness-of-your-anxiety