When I think about my anxiety and what triggers it, I get instantly overwhelmed. It is so deeply intertwined with my life and personality that it’s hard to imagine who I would be without it. When I finally started to get help for my mental health nearly two years ago, I didn’t even know where to start.
I still don’t know everything there is to know about my mental health and what makes me tick. I don’t think I ever will and I’m working to accept that. But one thing I have been able to do is to start recognizing when my anxiety is starting to increase and try to sort out the cause. Usually, I realize it’s something much smaller than my brain is making it out to be and I’m able to tackle it fairly simply.
Here are some simple steps that have helped me in recognizing my anxiety and it’s source.
1. Identify physical symptoms of anxiety
For me, when my anxiety is mounting, I feel a fluttering in my chest, a tightness in my stomach and/or quickened breathing. It took me a long time to realize that this was associated with my anxiety, though. It’s helpful to reflect on your anxiety after the fact and see if you can recall any physical symptoms that came along with your anxiety. It might take a while, but try to keep track in whatever way works best for you. Sometimes, I find it helpful to write thoughts down in a note on my phone.
2. Take a few deep breaths
This is one of my favorite pieces of advice when it comes to anxiety. It still stuns me how something as simple as closing my eyes and taking a few deep breaths can help me refocus. When you realize that your anxiety is mounting, try to stop, drop and breathe! Close your eyes, slow your mind as much as you can and take a few long, deep breaths.
3. Catalog your feelings besides anxiety
Now that your mind is (hopefully) a bit clearer, sort through your feelings outside of being anxious. Do you feel sadness? Do you feel anger? Do you feel lonely? Understanding what else is going on beneath the anxiety can help you in the next step.
4. Narrow down the cause
When my anxiety bubbles over, it feels like every emotion is in overdrive. But in reality, there is usually one thing in particular that is making me feel anxious and it’s just amplifying everything else going on in my head. When I have the headspace ready to analyze what’s triggering me, I try to sort out my emotions and find the actual issue that’s causing my anxiety.
5. Determine simple solutions
Your mental health issues are not going to be easily solvable – trust me, I know! But you can take small steps to quell your anxiety in the moment and work toward not letting your trigger take control of your emotions. It could be that someone on Instagram is making you feel bad about yourself. Don’t feel bad for unfollowing them! Or maybe a family member is causing negative thoughts. Try to distance yourself from that person a bit, or reach out to other relatives so they can back you up. Take time to find small, simple changes you can make to lessen your anxiety over the same source again.
6. Keep reminding yourself of what helps
Reflect on what is helping, and what isn’t, when you confront your anxiety. It’s helpful to have those strategies in your back pocket so once you start breathing, you can try to implement them. The more strategies you can find, the more options you’ll have to work through your feelings. Small steps are key!
And that’s all for today, friends. See you next time!