Your question: Am I experiencing anxiety?

My reply:

Hi, I hope this message finds you well. My name is Cesar Guedez, a psychologist trained in cognitive behavioral therapy. Through this blog I would like to talk about anxiety, how to deal with it and identify it in your body, as well as give you strategies to cope with it.

Particularly, anxiety is related to automatic thoughts. These occur suddenly and overwhelmingly, generating a feeling of abrupt worry about specific issues. Automatic thoughts do not necessarily have an origin and can affect you negatively in your daily activities (1).

First, it is important to clarify that having anxiety does not mean per se something negative. Anxiety is natural and part of life, an adaptive response to external pressures that generates unpleasant physical and psychological symptoms. Therefore, wanting to never have anxiety is impossible and we must accept it as part of life. The problem is when anxiety becomes very recurrent and intense, causing conflict in the areas of functioning of your life.

How can you identify anxiety?

Each person is different, so your experience of anxiety will be different. People express a variety of symptoms, both physical and psychological, when going through a period of anxiety. Here is a list of general symptoms that are associated with anxiety:

You feel:

  • Very worried or afraid most of the time
  • Tense and on edge
  • Nervous or scared
  • Panicky
  • Irritable, agitated
  • Worried you’re going crazy
  • Detached from your body
  • Feeling like you may vomit.

You think:

  • Everything’s going to go wrong’
  • I might die
  • I can’t handle the way I feel
  • I can’t focus on anything but my worries’
  • I don’t want to go out today’
  • I can’t calm myself down’.

You also experience:

  • Sleep problems (can’t get to sleep, wake often)
  • Pounding heart
  • Sweating
  • Pins and needles
  • Tummy aches, churning stomach
  • Lightheadedness, dizziness
  • Twitches, trembling
  • Problems concentrating
  • Excessive thirst.

If you have several symptoms does it mean you have anxiety?

Possibly. However, the diagnosis of a chronic anxiety problem can only be made by a mental health specialist. It is advisable that you do not self-diagnose and, in general, do not overthink a diagnostic label unless the symptoms are very intense and long-lasting. In that case, it is necessary to see a professional.

But if your anxiety is related to a specific situation in your life, you can focus on how to address those physical and psychological symptoms to improve your quality of life. In summary, anxiety is characterized by the dysregulation of your body, thoughts and emotions. That’s why the symptoms can be so wide-ranging. The strategies you implement are aimed at first identifying the source of your anxiety and then employing measures to make you feel better.

How to find the source of your anxiety?

A valuable strategy to work on anxiety is to keep a self-record of emotions. It is known as a “panic diary” but has many other names. Basically, it consists of writing down in a notebook the situations that make you anxious, detailing what physical and emotional sensations the specific situation caused you. Everything that goes through your body and mind is important to record in this journal, to understand what are the daily events that cause you anxiety and then work on those events to decrease the symptoms.

This journal allows you to focus your attention on the specific situations that are triggering your anxiety. You now know where you need to start making changes, whether in your work or in your interpersonal relationships.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1

This technique consists of using your senses to dissuade emotional discomfort at a specific moment. It is useful when you are experiencing a lot of physical agitation or you feel that you have a lot of unpleasant thoughts, and find it difficult to control your emotions. Wherever you are, you will focus on identifying 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste. Whether you are in your room, in a car or a public place, you can sit and practice this exercise in silence, breathing slowly as you do it as many times as you feel necessary to decrease the anxious symptoms.

In my experience…

Even if you don’t have anxiety right now, this guide will be useful for when you experience it, as it is a vital part of you. The key is to learn not to be afraid of your anxious episodes, as they are part of your lives and by learning coping strategies you can deal with them in a positive and healing way.

I hope that with these suggestions you can improve. I recognize and applaud you for seeking professional counseling, because it shows that you want to feel better and you are on the right path to change the things that make you feel bad. I believe that you have the capacity to improve, although sometimes our mind makes us believe that you have no solution.

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