Your question: Why do I get random bouts of anxiety?

My reply:

Hi, I hope this message finds you well. My name is Cesar Guedez, a psychologist trained in cognitive behavioral therapy.

Anxiety is necessary in life in moderate doses, since it allows us to act according to a situation that demands a response. For example, feeling anxious about an exam can motivate you to prepare adequately, organizing and studying enough to have a successful final result.

However, anxiety becomes a problem when it is too intense and recurrent, as well as when it presents itself as random episodes of anxiety at any time of the day. This happens for different reasons, but the common thread is that your anxiety is no longer adequate.

When you experience random anxiety episodes, your mind is perceiving threatening situations that are either not real or are exaggerated. This causes you to constantly be in a reactive and sensitive state that makes you respond startled at the slightest thing or feel worried without knowing why.

It is a frustrating experience, but there are ways to solve it so that your quality of life improves. First, you need to find the source of your anxious episodes, which may seem random, but always have a cause.

Why does your anxiety feel random and what is its origin?

One of the symptoms of anxiety is the difficulty to concentrate and make decisions. For this reason, many people find it difficult to identify the reason for their anxious episodes. Therefore, anxiety does not occur “randomly” or “for no reason”, but the feeling of anxiety itself does not allow you to locate or identify the cause.

Anxiety occurs from anxious thoughts that trigger a series of physical and emotional symptoms in your body. These thoughts are automatic(1), i.e. you cannot prevent them, they just appear, and they are dysfunctional, i.e. they have no logic or reason and almost always generate emotional discomfort.

It is possible that the cause of your anxious episodes are automatic thoughts, which appear abruptly and suddenly during the day. There are many types of automatic thoughts, the most common are related to work, education, family and self-worth.

Then, during the day, suddenly, you may have an automatic thought that tells you “you are not good at your job”, this thought will cause the anxiety symptoms that you consider random. In this way, during the day several automatic thoughts can generate the feeling of anxiety.

How to deal with your random bouts of anxiety?

It is necessary to first do a mental exercise to identify these thoughts. You must make them conscious and question them, in order to alleviate the anxiety symptoms caused by these thoughts. There are different strategies you can implement, and additionally, seeing a therapist will help you define your goals and feel better about yourself.

Emotional recording

This strategy consists of keeping a record of every time you experience sudden anxiety in your daily life. In this diary you will write down the events related to the anxiety sensation, specifying where you were when it occurred, what activity you were doing, and with whom you were surrounded.

At first you may not identify a specific pattern, and you may feel that your anxiety occurs in more than one context. In that case, your anxiety has more than one cause, and is closely related to dysfunctional thoughts that make you feel anxious. It is important that in this diary you rate from 1 to 10 how much anxiety a specific situation generates in you. In this way you will know which aspects of your life generate the most anxiety and therefore will be the main ones to address.

Question your thoughts

Thoughts are not facts even though they feel like facts. One of the most overwhelming things about anxiety is the lack of control you have over the dysfunctional thoughts that trigger anxious symptoms. Therefore, you need to stop to observe and question the thoughts you have when you are going through a period of anxiety.

For example, if your cause of anxiety is academic and the thought you have is “I don’t have time to do everything and I will fail”, you should try to give a logical answer to that thought: “I can organize my agenda to have time to solve everything”, or “this allows me to learn to have a better organization in the future”.

Make time for yourself

It is necessary that during some time of the day, you find space to devote to hobbies or activities for personal enjoyment. Daily life demands a lot of time, and this can be stressful and generate anxiety eventually. This is why moments of solitude, dedicated solely to you and your tastes, are valuable for coping with anxiety. Whether it’s going out for a snack, visiting the movies, or taking up a sport you enjoy, recreation is necessary, and will help you decrease the intensity and frequency of your anxiety.

In my experience…

Anxiety has an origin, although it may be unconscious for the person because the same anxiety emotionally blocks them from perceiving it. It is important to learn to identify and control automatic thoughts, because these are, commonly, the main causes of anxious episodes. Although they cannot be prevented, you can learn to respond to them, finding a more functional and healing perspective, based on your capabilities and achievements.

Remember that you have the ability to improve your psychological state, even if during moments of anxiety or depression you feel hopeless. We can always make small changes that will pay off in the long run. The fact that you are contacting me to seek professional attention in psychological counseling is already a step, and I recognize and applaud you for that. You are already doing something and wanting to change always leads you in the right direction

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