If you are deeply troubled by anxiety or have an anxiety disorder, you know the struggle.
The amount of hardship is hard to imagine for someone who hasn’t experienced it. Not just do you feel emotional and mental distress, but it can also bring physical discomfort which heavily impacts your overall wellbeing.
Today, let’s break down the anxiety cycle and use a simple approach to understand and help ourselves to break free from the cycle.
Table of Contents
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a normal emotion. We all will feel anxious, just like we will feel happy, sad, angry, and so on.
It is a natural response to stress. You will feel anxious about uncertainties or fear about what is to come. I am deeply anxious over exams when I was a student. In fact, I got a panic attack during one.
If you are in fear of not being able to do something well, or you are worried about the potential consequences and outcome of your action, you will most likely feel anxious about it.
People may feel anxiety differently. I usually feel super stressed mentally, can’t concentrate, and can’t sleep at night. There is often more discomfort following those symptoms. For instance, when I feel stressed, I tend to get bad headaches.
A bad headache will affect my productivity. Worse, I can’t concentrate when I am feeling anxious, which makes me feel more irritated and negative about myself, more distressed, and more headaches, and more…
The cycle just continues.
What is Anxiety Disorder?
Anxiety disorder is like the enhanced version of usual anxiety. The feeling of anxiety is much more intense.
More distress mentally and more discomfort physically.
Anxiety disorder is nothing uncommon anymore. In fact, it’s the most common mental illness today. Just in the United States, there are over 40 million adults having an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorder is not just feeling extremely anxious a few times, but the fear can be with you all the time.
Anxiety disorders sometimes come with other few types of disorders, such as hypochondriasis (fear of getting an extreme illness,) obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), social anxiety disorder, or depression.
I struggled with a few types of disorders when I was younger, but mostly OCD. I am constantly distressed and extremely anxious from unwanted, uncontrollable harmful thoughts.
If you are coping with OCD or having loved ones in similar situations, you can check out these posts on my personal journey with harm OCD and intrusive thoughts. Hopefully, I can bring some light to you.
How does Anxiety Disorder Start?
Anxiety disorder doesn’t just happen suddenly. It’s the accumulation of long-term stress.
Some of us have certain personalities and are more likely to feel anxious than others. For example, having low confidence in yourself, or having a pessimistic mindset will likely accumulate negative emotions throughout the time.
People that are highly sensitive might also pay attention to their thoughts and feelings more than others, and are more likely to be affected by the negative emotions.
Other scenarios such as long-term lacking love and support, feeling detachment from community, and trauma from the past, could all lead to the negative emotions pilling up.
If you haven’t found a way to release these emotions, these long-term accumulations will lead to change in our nervous system and the development of anxiety disorder.
How did the Anxiety Cycle form?
From the illustration, we can see how the anxiety cycle is formed.
We fall into the vicious cycle of fighting the anxiety which creates more anxiety and stuck in the loop.
How to Break the Anxiety Cycle?
Now we understand how the cycle is formed. We can simply break the cycle by finding the biggest culprit that leads to the cycle and work on this segment.
The reason why the anxiety persists is due to our attitude towards it. We constantly see it as a threat and fight hard against it. We try to suppress, stop and run away from anxiety.
However, while we are trying to suppress and fight the emotion, we are instead triggering more stress responses which lead us to feel more anxious and stressed.
What we need to do is give up the fight, recognize our emotions and change our attitude towards them.
1. Do not see our anxiety as a threat
We need to understand that anxiety is a normal emotion just like other emotions. We do not have to suppress or fight it. Instead, we adapt and adjust ourselves just like how we handle other emotions.
For example, when you are sad, you will find ways to cheer yourself up, such as watching a movie or listening to your favorite music. We can do the same for anxiety.
The first thing we need to do is to give up fighting anxiety and suppressing our negative emotions.
The more we try to fight, the more fuel we are adding to the fire.
Change a perspective on how we see anxiety. I see anxiety as a calm reminder and the start to self-healing.
Anxiety is a reminder that you have not taken care of your mental health. It is a warning that you need to change the old way of thinking, and take care of yourself more.
It is the start of a new life and journey. You will understand yourself more in the process, and welcome a new way of thinking and living which will improve your overall well-being for a lifetime.
2. Be patient with yourself and practice self-care
Your emotions are just like the weather. Let them be.
Some days will be sunny and some days gloomy. You don’t have to focus on the weather.
Instead of focusing on the emotions, put your attention on self-enhancement or self-care activities.
Read a book to understand yourself better.
Go for a jog to get some air.
Do a few sets of deep relaxation exercises.
Keep a mindfulness journal.
Do a guided meditation.
All these will help you to relax and calm your mind.
Regardless of how hectic your schedule is, don’t neglect yourself.
Continuously practice self-care. When you need a break, give yourself a break. Always put your mental health as a priority.
Lastly, be patient with yourself. Give yourself some time on this journey of self-healing. Everything will be alright.
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