My Anxiety is Dictating my Life

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Are you living in fear? Do you *flop on plans with your friends because you feel so anxious to go? This one is a classic… you agree to plans that were made days in advance, but hours before, your anxiety feels debilitating, you begin to catastrophize and you cancel. Then instead of trying to enjoy your time alone after cancelling, you think about how lonely and isolated you feel. You then blame yourself, end up wishing you had gone and feel worse having cancelled.

Another common scenario is right before a shift at work. You feel anxious to go to work, anxious to see your managers and coworkers. You begin to ruminate on scenarios that have happened at work in the past. So hours before your shift you decide that it’s best to call in “sick”. Then instead of having a productive day after calling in “sick”, you reflect on your unprofessionalism and end up feeling worse than how you would have felt if you had gone in.

These anxious thoughts are dictating our behaviours to the point where we can’t do simple tasks that we might need to do. Doing groceries gets put off because you’re scared that people are watching what you buy, going to school is daunting because you’re afraid of what others think of you or you’re stuck thinking of a situation that happened in school years ago, you fear taking exams because you believe you will fail. The list of situational examples can go on and on.

Self blame, ruminating and catastrophizing have been shown to be positively associated with symptoms of anxiety.

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3 Reasons My Anxiety is Dictating My Behaviours:

1. Self Blame:

Self blame is when we put the blame of things we have experienced on ourselves. Suddenly we are personally responsible for everything that happens around us.

2. Ruminating:

Ruminating is when we are continuously consumed with the same thought over and over. Ruminating is usually associated with reliving negative and unpleasant moments through a series of thoughts. This can cause people to relive emotions and feelings previously experienced. Additionally, this can cause deep feelings of guilt, shame, regret and can lead to more severe consequences such as chronic depression or anxiety.

3. Catastrophizing:

Catastrophizing is when we believe that all situations have negative outcomes. This results in emphasizing the terror in the outcomes we believe to be possible. We believe that the worst will happen to us no matter what the situation.

How To manage Anxiety IN 3 Steps:

1. Awareness/Acceptance:

Becoming aware of our negative thoughts is really the first step towards finding peace. Being able to pause and realize “my thoughts are really spiralling out of control right now” is a skill that seems so easy but is actually very tough. By accepting negative thoughts that are related to negative events we can reassign ourselves to what has happened instead.

Instead of ruminating about what has happened and catastrophizing about what will happen, we can accept situations that we have dealt with and begin to move on to the next step.

2. Refocus on Planning

A refocus on planning can allow us to take a step back and refocus on the steps we need to take to plan and take action of how we are going to deal with negative events. How am I going to direct my thoughts towards a better direction? How am I going to go grocery shopping comfortably and not catastrophize about what is going to happen? How will I take an exam and not catastrophize over what my results will be?

An example of this can be that you will create a grocery list before you go out so that you can map out your path and know exactly how long you will be there for. This allows you to be actively working towards relieving catastrophic thoughts about spending too much time in the grocery store.

Additionally, studying for an exam weeks in advance, feeling prepared and trying your best should diminish catastrophic thoughts, as you are taking action towards obtaining a positive outcome and your thoughts are refocused on studying.

3. Positive Reappraisal

Practicing positive reappraisal allows us to create positive associations and meanings with negative events. This can allow for self-growth and realizations in the darkest of thoughts.

For example, when dealing with a break-up (romantically or with a friend), concentrate on how you can refocus your negative thoughts towards growth that was experienced as a result of that relationship or that you will experience as a result of accepting the end of the relationship. Through acceptance, planning and positive reappraisal, negative or difficult events can always result in positive associations and moments of growth.

So don’t flop on plans with friends because you’re catastrophizing about what might happen if you do go, or because you’re ruminating on a previous negative experience. Don’t let your anxiety dictate your life!

*Flop = A slang word for when someone bails on plans at the last minute.

Have you ever found yourself to be catastrophizing, ruminating or placing blame on yourself? Comment down below if you can relate to these symptoms of anxiety! Also please comment some additional ways that helps you to improve your mental state in times of anxiety.

APA Citation:

Legerstee, J. S., Garnefski, N., Verhulst, F. C., & Utens, E. M. W. J. (2011). Cognitive coping in anxiety-disordered adolescents. Journal of Adolescence34(2), 319–326. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.adolescence.2010.04.008