“What I am going to do from here is to locate five examples of instances where I go into an anxiety reaction. I am doing this in order to learn how to slow myself down enough to be able to pin point the moment where the anxiety is triggered. I will then use that moment as an opportunity, instead of a falling point. It will be my opportunity to choose who I will be and how I will be and handle the situation, instead of letting my auto-pilot, unconscious mind, default-mode way of thinking direct me, my personality and my actions. – See more from this post: How and Why we Build Up Anxiety
I continue in this blog with walking my process of anxiety, in order to develop the self-will and self-direction to walk myself out of the anxiety reaction and into grounded and practical action as a self-willed decision.
The following five examples are of instances where I go into varying degrees of anxiety reactions. (As a side note, ever since I have been keeping track, I have managed to become more aware of my anxiety, and significantly reduce its occurance in similar situations). Please read on.
Example 1) Anxiety + Overwhelming-ness
My first example is in relation to food preparation. It starts when I begin to think about organizing meals and food for the next day or couple of days, or as I begin cooking. It’s a simple task that I think I could actually enjoy, if I didn’t become bombarded with thoughts that become overwhelming. Thoughts such as: what to make, how to make it, the ingredients involved, the quantity I should make, how I can use the leftovers during the week, whether I should get groceries now or later, whether I have the most efficient plan with regards to money/time, will it be good or will I get sick of it, will my partner like it, is it healthy and how can I prepare the ingredients in such a way to keep their utmost nutritional value, and is the quality of the food any good… and then I will branch off into worries about the environment and the chemicals in the food, and also about money and how to eat healthy on a budget, and so on.
The anxiety in this situation is amplifying the sensation of overwhelming-ness. It starts as I am cooking, and sometimes I ruin the meal because I have become so frazzled, or I start so many different meals and ideas that I spend hours in the kitchen and end up exhausted. This is obviously not normal and is the result of how I subject myself to the disorder in my mind, affecting my everyday life and complicating things that should be straight forward. Physically I experience a racing mind, blurry vision and difficulty breathing.
Example 2) Anxiety towards authority – Anxiety + Panic
I was driving on a dark road and thought I had a turn coming up, but I noticed it was a bit farther down the road, so I veered back into my lane. It was late Friday night so the police officer probably thought I had been out drinking, and for the first time in my life I got pulled over. The big lights lit up my entire car from behind and this silhouette walked up to my window. I understood what had happened and I knew I had nothing to hide or worry about, yet I was so anxious that even the officer commented on my trembling hands.
The physical sensation of being hot and constricted and feeling pressure in my solar plexus happened in the past when I was called into the principal’s office at school. I had been watching as my friend threw paper airplanes out the window. Three of us were called into the office and we were questioned one by one. I was so nervous I kept choking because my throat was closing up. I figured they would just assume it was me because of how guilty I was acting.
Even when I talk to figures of authority in the workplace, I get this anxious feeling inside of my chest area. I haven’t had any particularly horrible or abusive bosses in my life, yet when they even approach me to chat I become anxious and hot and feel surges of energy within me. I feel like I have to act a certain way or hide a part of myself and I feel panicked that something will be found out about me or used against me and I will lose my job, even when I know this is a completely unreasonable way of thinking.
3) Public Speaking – Anxiety + Fear
As soon as I know I will be speaking in front of a group I begin to feel the effects of anxiety. I start to feel like I’m in a bubble and everything surrounding me becomes like a blur. The sides of my face burn and I begin by speaking extremely fast. My thoughts race and my words can’t keep up with what it is I am trying to say. If I lose my wording I get flustered and sometimes start making points I didn’t intend on making. I can feel everybody’s eyes on me and it feels as if they are expecting something more than I am giving. When it’s over, it takes a while before my heart rate slows down and my face stops feeling flushed, and after when I feel fine again I end up wondering what the big deal was.
4) Anxious about Being late – Anxiety and Worry
My fourth example is being late. Even when I have left myself enough time I tend to leave things to the last minute. Lots of time makes me uncomfortable and I feel like I move in slow motion to use up the time, and often times I end up picking if I have spare time. Only when it becomes last minute do I feel the motivation to move forward and take control of myself and my direction and only then do I get ready efficiently. When I see that I am getting close to the time when I will have to leave, or I see that I am cutting it close, I start to feel energized. My heart beats fast and my breath is shallow and my thinking become very clear. But soon thoughts creep in about how my late-ness will affect others and how I could ruin the night because everyone would be waiting. I begin feeling guilty and becoming mad at myself for not being ready on time. I picture everyone mad at me and I feel like I have been disrespectful. I become very impatient with everyone around me, as if my getting to where I am going is the priority and I will have to hold myself back from driving too fast and tailgating. When I final get to the location I will feel tense and stressed and not very relaxed at all.
5) Making Mistakes: Anxiety + Fear
I work in the banking sector where mistakes are grave, and I am human, and I make them. What I’ve noticed, however, is that when I go into an anxiety reaction I am less effective and more prone to making a mistake. I’ll make a mistake and once I realize it’s like my entire insides drop out from under me, like this internal falling sensation followed by intense self-judgment and regret. I am not excusing making mistakes in itself – it is necessary to learn and develop means to avoid the same mistakes in the future. What is unnecessary is the internal reaction play-out that accompanies the mistake, because when I experience this sometimes my whole day or week can be affected, where I will not be able to focus, wherein it feels like I cannot think rationally or reasonably and use common sense. Smll concepts become seemingly too big to grasp, and I have major back-chat and internal conversations about how I am not good enough for the job and I just don’t get it etc…. However, when I am not in an anxiety reaction, I am quite quick to learn, I am sharp and on point, and I am capable of organizing and doing many things at once, sometimes taking on more than my fair share of responsibility.
So there we have it, my five examples of when and as I fall into detrimental anxiety reactions. And for those that do not suffer an anxiety disorder, this will be like a glimpse into what it is like to live with one.
An interesting experience developed after having written down the examples of my experience. As I mentioned, I am following the steps from an interview recording, and within it one is instructed to be very detailed with the examples, especially regarding the physical reactions and the exact moments when they are triggered. Within being so detailed, I really had to look at the examples closely. I had to place myself back into the situations and re-play them in my head, remembering how I experienced myself and everything I went through. I realized that my anxiety is more intense than I thought. In reading my descriptions, it felt like someone else had written them and they seem somewhat extreme, as if I do not believe myself to be quite this reactive and anxious as they portray. As I re-read the examples I find myself judging them wherein if someone else had written them I would think “wow – this person has problems.”
However it is beneficial to have a sobering look at one’s own reality. This has been proven to me this week, in the fact that on several occasions these same play-outs happened again in my life (cooking, making mistakes, being late etc…). This time, I was able to recognize the moments where the anxiety was beginning, I saw some of the triggers as they were happening, and was able to recall my own writing and slow myself down enough to talk myself out of it, so to speak, wherein I was actually able to see the pattern and prevent it. I could actually stop it from occurring – I stopped an entire anxiety play-out that would have accumulated within and as me and later lead to a picking session. I can now see that, with a lot of practice and paying attention to myself, I can greatly reduce my daily anxiety.
In my next blog I will cover the next steps in the process of how to manage preventing and releasing anxiety in the same or similar situations, as a process that can be walked by anyone, step-by-step, as a true act of self-love and self-support.