Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Controlling Anxiety: Mapping Anxiety

Working out the root cause of Anxiety can be a difficult task. Anxiety is such an overwhelming and dis-empowering experience that it can all too quickly become another thing to feel anxious about. "I'm anxious about going to the supermarket because I just know I'll feel anxious once I'm there". It may take some time to get to the root cause of your anxiety, especially if you have been experiencing anxiety for a long time. But it's absolutely achievable. Every single one of us has the power to gain control over anxiety without the use of medication.

Things to remember:
1. Anxiety cannot hurt you.
2. You are not having a heart attack
3. It will pass

The first step is to try to map out what's happening when you experience anxiety. Documenting the severity of anxiety, the situation where you experienced anxiety, what you were thinking and what you were feeling. Automatic thoughts are usually driven by the emotions you are feeling and fuel your anxiety. By identifying them and replacing them with helpful thoughts you can start to train yourself to respond differently. Identifying the emotions your feeling will also assist you. Sometimes when my anxiety is particularly intense I feel like I want to cry. It took my awhile to realise that it was, in part, a response to the sheer helplessness I felt whenever anxiety took hold. Once I started to understand my anxiety more, I started to realise that I could beat it and that made me feel less helpless.


Below is an example I completed myself about a year ago. I thought it might be more helpful to see a completed exercise rather than just the template.

Anxiety Map - Identifying unhelpful thoughts.

Score out of 10: 7

Situation: Going to the supermarket on the way home from work because I'd forgotten to get stock cubes.

Automatic Thoughts: I need to go to the toilet, I'm going to have an accident, this is a nightmare, I don't want to be here.

Emotions: Frustration, fear, helplessness

Helpful Thoughts: Getting upset will not help me, I will make it to the bathroom, it's just over there. I am strong, everything is fine.


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