Your question: Why do I give myself 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 article I will answer why you have the feeling that you “give yourself anxiety”, emphasizing that it is not your fault to experience anxiety as it is a normal and expected human feeling, and proposing strategies for you to cope with the general feeling of anxiety.

Anxiety is an annoying but necessary sensation for our evolution and development. Thanks to anxiety you can detect potential dangers and act accordingly, either by running away or by confronting them. This is called the fight or flight response.

Much of anxiety is related to dysfunctional thoughts that create misconceptions about yourself or your reality, which generate persistent distress and worry. But also in anxiety, there is the sensation of physical exhaustion by annoying symptoms such as sweating, tachycardia and muscular tension.

In general, anxiety is a cognitive, physical and emotional process. No one is to blame for feeling anxious because it is a reaction that no one would want to have. Therefore, there is no way that you yourself, out of nowhere, can make you feel anxious, as there is always an origin or trigger for your anxiety, even if it is unconscious.

I begin by saying this to reassure you and to keep you from being too hard on yourself. It’s hard enough dealing with anxiety without you feeling guilty for somehow “causing” it.

Why do you feel you give yourself anxiety?

Anxiety is a process that starts in your mind and then moves to your body, generating those annoying and uncomfortable physical symptoms. One study showed(1) that psychological anxiety correlates positively with automatic negative thoughts. These are dysfunctional ideas that you have established about yourself, others or the world.

Automatic negative thoughts create a perception of reality that is pessimistic and catastrophic, making you feel things like the world is against you, that you are not valuable enough, or that the people around you want to hurt you, when in fact you have no valid evidence for these ideas.

As the name implies, these autistic thoughts cannot be controlled, they simply appear and generate unpleasant feelings such as fear or sadness. Although you feel that you are responsible for your anxiety, the truth is that you cannot prevent anxious thoughts from appearing, as they are linked to your self-esteem, previous experiences and way of perceiving the world.

You have the idea that you yourself cause your anxiety because you believe that you have some kind of responsibility for these sudden thoughts that make you feel anxious, which is false. It is not your fault that you feel anxious, but you do have the responsibility and ability to work on decreasing your anxiety and feeling better about yourself.

How to cope with your anxiety?

There are several strategies you can apply to alleviate the intensity of your anxious symptoms, working initially on identifying your automatic negative thoughts.

Emotional journaling

Keeping a record of your thoughts and emotions associated with anxiety is very useful both to help you drain and express yourself, and to find common patterns in your anxiety. In a journal write down the times of the day when you feel anxious, specifying what was happening at the time, where it happened and who you were with. As the days go by you will notice that there are areas of your life that generate more anxiety than others, representing that you should work on those areas as a priority.

Breathing and relaxation

Inhale through your nose for three seconds, exhale through your mouth for another three seconds. This while you close your eyes and feel how slowly the tension in your body decreases. You can apply this exercise for at least 10 minutes a day at different times, and just after experiencing an episode of anxiety.

Connect with yourself

Anxiety can greatly affect your relationship with yourself and your self-esteem, even more so if you believe that you are somehow to blame or responsible for feeling anxious. Therefore, moments of solitude doing activities that you enjoy are very effective in reducing anxiety symptoms. Whether it is writing, going to museums or movie theaters, walking around monuments in your city, dedicating moments of the week to a personal activity that you enjoy doing, will bring you benefits.

In my experience…

It is common for people to think that they “cause” anxiety to themselves, as their thought process makes them feel that they are responsible for their anxious symptoms. The truth is that many times (in most cases I would venture to say) we are not in control of what we think or feel.

However, we do have control of what we do with our lives, seeking to regulate and deal with the things that cause problems effectively. Anxiety has a solution, and it would be very helpful for you that in conjunction with the techniques mentioned above, you go to cognitive behavioral therapy, where a trained therapist will help you to work on your negative automatic thoughts and in general, to become the person you want to be.

I believe you have the ability to improve and heal these feelings of discomfort you are experiencing now. The fact that you are seeking professional help through this message proves it to me, and I applaud you for making that decision and being on track to improve your mental health and overall, your physical health

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