Anxiety presents in many forms and tends to show in particular ways for each of us individually. When quite heightened anxiety can be debilitating - disrupting sleep, impacting our decision-making capacity and causing us to withdraw.
As a part of my work as a therapist, I encourage clients to become familiar with their own anxiety signals. We explore what behaviours and experiences they observe in themselves as they become anxious.
You can do this too …
Become familiar with your own anxiety signals
For the next 7 days try one of the following:
- keeping a notebook with you and dot-point your anxiety signals you observe in yourself over the course of the - morning / noon / night
- noting down anxiety signals on a series of post-it notes and stick them on a wall, building a visual mind-map over the course of the week
- reflective journaling about your anxiety experiences and what you noticed in your behaviours every day
- on a large piece of paper, draw a mind-map of anxiety signals that you experience to as the week progresses
Some examples of what anxiety signals can look like
- mindlessly consuming as a place of avoidance (food, social media, drugs or alcohol, shopping, gambling)
- frequent checking - emails, socials, the locks
- obsessively thinking & ruminating about a single topic
- unnecessarily picking at skin
- feeling restless or edgy
- easily tired
- difficulty concentrating
- easily irritable
- unexplained perspiration
- avoiding situations or people
- sudden changes in body temperature
- disproportionate fear
- unexplained pain in the body
- nausea or pain in the stomach
- increased desire to urinate
- shortness of breath
- increased heart rate
- a constant desire to bring order to your world
Often in this process, we start to discover patterns
I think of these patterns as signals that we may be moving towards a more activated anxious state. I talk about these signals in therapy as ‘flags’ that are quietly fluttering in the wind, letting us know what direction we are heading. Unless we take note of these flags and respond to their signal in a meaningful way, we can find ourselves getting into more challenging terrain.
Like a wild-fire - once anxiety takes hold it can be hard to contain; however, if we take action to be with it early there is much to understand about ourselves and in this way, the experience can be quite regenerative.
Check-in each day
Having become familiar with our own personal signalling, my invitation is to take time each day to pause and check-in and notice what is there. For some of us this may look like meditation, for others it may be journaling and for others again it may be enough to simply place their feet on the ground and take a long gentle breath and notice what is there. Go with what feels right for you.
Develop a ritual
However, you choose to do this I invite you to develop a ritual that supports you in this process of knowing where you are.
Currently I am enjoying spraying my Room & Pillow Mist around me, and as I breath in the calming scent, I connect to myself and the ground in my meditation practice.
Come to know how you best listen to yourself and let your practice evolve as you do.
Become an active witness
As you connect with yourself over time, you may find there are rhythms to your experience that are associated with the seasons, times of year, certain triggers, and even your cycle. Observe and become an active witness to yourself in these shifts.
The more we come into relationship with self, the more ease we tend to experience in life.
Develop meaningful self-care supports
Furthermore, once we become familiar with our signals, we are then in a much better position to take action to support ourselves with meaningful self-care.
As an example of how this can look for me …
Over the course of COVID there have been times where I have found myself frequently checking for news updates - this flag is often signalling to me that I am struggling with the uncertainty of the world.
My meaningful self-care response in this moment, is to ground and with long gentle nasal breaths connect to the here and now, whilst looking out at the garden. Once I have connected with where I am at, from here I might choose to shift my experience by doing some yoga, going for a walk or mindfully brewing a cup of Calm Tea.
As you come to know your anxiety, I invite you to move slowly, gently and with care as you engage in this process of self-discovery. This process takes time.
Wishing you ease as you come to know your experience and what supports you.
Love Sarah xxx