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Causes of anxiety often turn out to be the very ways we are responding to it. One of the best ways to help ourselves with anxiety and stress is to determine what our habitual response to anxiety is, and break it.
All of us react to anxiety and stress differently. To explore what we can do to help with our anxiety it is important to understand how we typically react to anxiety, and then change that pattern.
Generally there are three ways we respond to anxiety and stress. Each of these responses are actually causes of anxiety, because they block of from experiencing our anxiety fully, understanding it, and coping with it.
You know who you are, those of you who feel out of control, unsure of things in your life ,your relationships or you future and because of your fear you take it out on other people or yourself. Beneath anger is always fear. Anger corresponds with the stress response of fight. When we were cavemen, and another caveman or animal tried to harm us, we needed this response to survive. Now, this is evolutionary not adaptive. It fuels our stress response, often alienates others and distracts us from dealing with the true issues that need to be addressed.
Some of us get busy trying to control what we can. People with eating disorder may go on a diet, or begin to obsessively exercise. Workaholics work. Substance abusers use their substances. Perfectionists get to scheduling, planning, goal setting, list making. Pick your poison. Unfortunately, if you have anxiety about something in your life, losing weight, making lists, or using drugs is only a temporary way to numb yourself out. This corresponds with the stress response of fleeing. We needed to be able to run from danger when it was there in order to survive.
Some of us shut down. We avoid, stay in bed and feel we cannot fulfill our responsibilities. Our friends and families start to worry about us. We cant make decisions or solve our problems, so we just don’t. We become victims, and we respond by shutting down under the pressure of it all. Obviously , this just makes things worse. This is the deer in the headlights response to stress.
These are all forms of fight flight or freeze. The way our bodies are wired to react to stress, fear or danger. These are underpinnings of anxiety. Luckily, we can overdrive our natural inclination to deal with things in our life in these ineffective ways. Overcoming these habitual responses can help us to begin the process of exploring our lives: our thoughts, behaviors, and life strategies that keep us from being happy and joyful and trap us in fear and anxiety.
Here is a Four part formula for working on discovering your pattern and beginning to change it. Put some time aside to do this exercise thoroughly.
Think about the thing in your life that causes you the most anxiety and stress right now.
1. What are you worried about? What are you afraid of? What are you thinking. What other emotions come up.
2. Write down your thoughts.
3. Pay attention to what happens in your body and how you want to react.
4. Write it down. Put it away.
Number 3 is the key to discovering how you typically respond to your anxiety.
Did you want to get in bed? Lash out? Get busy? Pay attention to what happens after you do this exercise.
This may help you discover your got to response. It is natural for us to try to rid ourselves of uncomfortable emotions. Unfortunately, this is what drives at maintains all anxiety disorders. Interacting with your anxious feelings and thoughts in a different way is what is required. Fighting, running, or shutting down doesn't do much to help yourself with stress or anxiety, in fact it makes it worse. The good news is you can become mindful with your experience and discover the pattern that is keeping you anxious. Once you uncover it, you can begin to see more clearly how you are exacerbating the stress in your life.
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This page is about how self-compassion and mindfulness and skills such as forgiveness, kindness and compassion can help us with depression and anxiety.