One of the first steps we have to take when we are dealing with anxiety is to become a STUDENT of our anxiety. Only by studying your current behaviors and your reactions to your anxiety can you truly become a student of your anxiety. Doing this does not require that you change any of your behaviors, it simply requires that you begin to notice your behaviors and thoughts and how they are affected by anxiety. Remember, anxiety is caused by physical symptoms that occur in your body, that is the first fear. The second fear, the mental fear is the fear of the symptoms. Only by understanding your current behaviors, physical symptoms, anxious thoughts and fear levels, will you know where to start making changes to take back your life.
The anxiety monster has been making your life miserable. You have been running from the anxiety monster for a long time. It is time to stop running, to turn around and face that monster head on. Sun Tzu said, “Know your enemy.” You must know your enemy before you can defeat your enemy. You must know everything you can about this anxiety monster, learn what it looks like, what it feels like, what it does to you. Then, and only then, will you be ready to begin dealing with your anxiety.
Keep a Journal
One of the best ways to keep track of your anxiety disorder is to keep a journal. Each time you experience an anxiety attack or a panic attack, note the time the date and what activities you were engaged in. If you were sitting on the couch watching TV, then put that down in your journal. Whatever you were doing at the time of the attack, write it down. Write down how you feel. What reactions are you having to the anxiety? Keep track of how long the attack lasts. It is very important to stay organized. Without a journal it is more difficult to notice if you are making progress and improving. A simple notebook that is small and easy to carry will suffice. You are not writing a book or a term paper, keep it simple. Write in terms that you will be able to look at a week later and remember what you were talking about. Also remember, this is your private notebook, so be honest in it. Do not exaggerate or understate your feelings. Be as objective as you possibly can. Stick with it, over time you may notice your anxiety attacks are not lasting as long or you may start to notice a pattern to your attacks. All of this is very useful information while dealing with anxiety.
Assign the following questions a score of 0 through 3.
Not at all = 0, Sometimes = 1, Most of the time = 2, Always = 3.
1. I am a tense person.
2. I worry more than most people do.
3. I have a hard time relaxing.
4. I have unexpected panic attacks.
5. I avoid particular situations, things, or places because of extreme fear.
6. When I am anxious, I have physical symptoms.
7. I find excuses not to do things because of my anxiety.
8. I am embarrassed by the things I can/cannot do because of anxiety.
9. I have horrible thoughts that I cannot stop.
10. I have to do things over and over because of fear or worry.
11. I am usually shy and uncomfortable when other people are not.
12. My work suffers/I cannot work because of my anxiety.
13. Family/friends notice that I am anxious.
14. Family/friends find my anxiety upsetting.
15. I depend on family/friends to do things because of my anxiety.
16. I have lost contact with family/friends because of my anxiety.
0 – 16 May be anxious but unlikely to have an anxiety disorder
17 – 32 Likely to have an anxiety disorder
33+ Among the most anxious of people with anxiety disorder
Try and document your personal history:
- How old were you when your anxiety disorder started?
- What were your first symptoms of anxiety?
- How and when did your anxiety disorder first seriously interfere with your life?
- What treatments, if any, have you tried? Include as much information as you can about therapists or doctors names and dates seen, medications, dosages and results of treatment.
- When was your anxiety at its worst? What were the problems in your life?
- What have you found most helpful in the past in dealing with your anxiety disorder?
- Add any other comments, remembering that you will re-read this history months and even years from now.
Use a fear level scale
0 = No fear at all, completely relaxed
10 = the worst fear you have ever had, pure panic
Keep track of this number over the weeks and months ahead. This will help you evaluate your fear level and will make it easier when you are explaining your situation to a doctor. Also, it can help you keep track if your fear levels begin to drop.
Keeping a journal is one of the easiest ways to track your anxiety. If you want to learn about dealing with anxiety, you first have to put a face on it and know everything you can about it. It is not enough to suffer, you must track it, record it and then you can take the necessary steps to beat it. NEVER GIVE UP!