Happy Wednesday everyone
Lately my anxiety has been through the roof. I am unhappy at my workplace and it is affecting other parts of my life. When I first started my job there was so much lack of structure. The organization was all over the place. Since then the poor attempts to clean up the chaos has only left me more stressed out. Unfortunately, I am looking for another job and isn’t happening as fast as I would like. In a perfect world, I’d be able to work for myself but right now that isn’t the case.
I have spoke about the 6 week Understanding Your Anxiety class I took at Kaiser last month. Well this week, I want to dive into some other the exercises and techniques I learned in the class. This is a great way for me to revisit everything I learned in the class.
Let’s start by defining Anxiety.
Anxiety is a nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks.
ANXIETY IS A FALSE ALARM!
Everyone’s body has an alarm that is activated when there is real danger. This alarm makes us very uncomfortable until we get out of danger. When we have anxiety or panic, our alarm is activated even though we’re not in danger. It’s like a false alarm. In hindsight always being paranoid or on edge is a form of anxiety. Worrying and stressing can also be triggered by anxiety. Feeling emotional and not being able to relax can also be a sign of anxiety.
Avoidance is also something we can experience as a result of anxiety. Here are some ways people with anxiety avoid:
- They tell themselves it’s going to be OK
- They pray for the anxiety to stop
- They seek reassurance from others.
- They leave work early.
- They pull off the freeway.
- They try to relax.
- They drink/smoke.
- They stay away from situations that make them feel anxious.
Doing these AVOIDANCE behaviors only provides short-term relief. Then the anxiety comes back again later.
The best way to do the opposite of avoiding with is approach.
This will most likely not work immediately and you’ll probably feel more anxiety by deciding to approach. DO NOT GIVE UP. The goal of anxiety is to make you feel like you are in danger. By approaching instead of avoiding, you might break this cycle. Dealing with your anxiety head on will help you learn you are not in danger. Be willing to feel the anxiety.
It’s safe to feel all of your feelings now.
Now let’s get into some causes of anxiety —
- Difficult experiences during childhood
- Ongoing stress
- Family history: anxiety disorders can run in families
- Medical conditions: asthma, heart, or thyroid disease
- Drugs or alcohol misuse
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy –
A technique to broaden our thinking, so we won’t get stuck in negative thoughts. Asking ourselves: Is there another way to look at this? We’re not trying to totally get rid of negative thoughts; we are trying to see what other thoughts may be possible so that we have other choices.
Brains are naturally formed to have negative bias. Naturally we look for the negative for survival reasons. Staying alert and protecting ourselves from threat or danger. Challenging ourselves to consider other thoughts is a way to exercise our brain.
Common thinking traits
Fortune Telling — Fortune-telling usually involves predicting a negative future outcome.
Magnification (exaggeration or catastrophizing) — Exaggerating reality in your thinking magnifies anxiety in your body. Magnification is enlarging your problem to an irrational extent. The worst outcome rarely happens.
Mind Reading — “I can tell he doesn’t like me” “They think I’m anxious and falling apart” “I’m looking so anxious people will think I’m stupid”
Emotional Reasoning — The unspoken reasoning is that, “If I feel it then it must be true.” Feelings are not facts. Don’t use feelings as evidence!
All-or-Nothing Thinking — “They will hate me or love me” “I will be a great success or a miserable failure” Operating in the extremes creates additional emotional stress. Practice moderate thinking.
Perfectionism — No one performs perfectly all the time. Trying to be perfect actually drives anxiety.
Negative Filter/ Discounting the Positives — Negative filtering is looking at what is going wrong in your life rather than what is working. Stop discounting the positives. Simply refocus on what is working well in your life. In short, stop looking at the hole instead of the donut.
Control Fallacies — Can you control the weather to suit your needs? Can you control what your kids, your spouse, or your boss say to you? Can you control the flight of time?Trying to control things create anxiety.
“What If” Thinking — “What if this happens, what if that happens” can generate much worry and anxiety. Most of the things we “what if” about never actually happen!
Most of our class was spent on exercises to reverse these negative thoughts, calm down, and replace our worried thinking. Everyday our homework was activities to help us relax aka self care.
Here are some self care exercises:
Relaxation Practice – Doing things that are relaxing, revitalizing, rewarding, or just plain old fun makes you feel better. Doing more things can get you out of the anxiety cycle.
Mindfulness Meditation – There is a way to cope with anxiety: you can cultivate mindfulness skills.
- Diaphragmatic breathing – https://youtu.be/kgTL5G1ibIo
- Body Scan – https://youtu.be/dsmfIAyiois
- Mind Watching – https://youtu.be/6kVVrE_sCNA
Balanced Diet – Get plenty of fruits and veggies, whole grains, healthy fats.
Physical Activity – Research show that exercise can measurably improve anxiety. Work up to 30 minutes every day. Yoga, take a way, go to the gym, or take a class.
Adequate Rest & Sleep – Too little sleep affects mood, contributing to irritability and sometimes depression. Vital functions occur during different stages of sleep that leave you feeling rested and energized or help you learn and forge memories.
Gratitude – List 3 things you are grateful for everyday.
- Gratitude helps you live well in spite of anxiety even though it doesn’t completely remove anxiety.
- Gratitude is a natural awakening of your ability to see past what’s making you anxious, not a feeling that is forced or superficial.
- Gratitude is a way of thinking and being every day, not a mere technique.
- Being grateful is a shift in how you view yourself and the world. It changes your focus from what is wrong to what is right.
All of my information is from Kaiser’s Understanding Your Anxiety Participant Workbook.
If anxiety or fears cause you a lot of trouble or distress, call the Department of Psychiatry. They have professionals who are trained to treat anxiety.
Go to Health Education or visit My Doctor Online at kp.org/mydoctor for resources
I know this was a long blog but I hope it was helpful!
Thanks for reading & we’ll talk more next week!