1) You Avoid Anxiety Triggers
Oftentimes an event, a person or a thought triggers your anxiety.
Many times your anxiety has no trigger.
This mistake is only matters when your anxiety has a trigger.
Once you know the trigger for your anxiety, your mind remembers the trigger and makes you avoid it next time.
Of course, the experience of anxiety is awful and you don’t want to go through that.
But every time you shun the trigger, your mind reinforces the negative relationship to the trigger. The circuits in your mind that remember “this stuff is bad, I hate it and I don’t want to face it” becomes stronger, because you avoided the trigger.
Take an example. Let’s say you have a fear of spiders. When you spot a spider you may scream and go crazy.
And if you or someone else zaps and kills the spider, or removes it, as soon as they can, you shore up the idea in your mind that spiders are bad, scary and to be avoided. You will continue to fear.
Have you heard of ‘Extinguishing through exposure’ or ‘desensitization’? When you avoid you make yourself more sensitive to the trigger.
Challenge: When the trigger is present you blow up so fast that you totally forget not to avoid it.
How to overcome the challenge: You can only do this slowly. Next time you try to stay with the trigger a bit longer. If it takes you a while to take the next step, that is okay.
You may take two steps forward and one step back and that is okay. The path is going to be crooked.
2) You wait for anxiety to be over before engaging in positive emotions
Anxiety can be overwhelming. You may feel depressed and become a naysayer.
You may feel like not doing anything. You may feel like being left alone.
That is normal and expected. But here is the thing, you don’t have to fully recover from your anxiety in order to do something good or feel something good.
Even when you are having anxiety, if you can express positive emotions it helps reduce the anxiety.
Take an example.
While you are having an anxiety attack, even if you don’t feel like if you write an entry in gratitude journal it can help.
While having an anxiety attack, if you can help out someone in the need by doing a small favor it can boost your self-image and help reduce anxiety.
Your friends are going for a fun trip and if your anxiety strikes right when it is time to leave for the trip. You may feel like not going. You may fear that your blues will mess up the trip for everyone.
And yes may muck up the trip for everyone. But taking the trip is more likely to flip your anxious mood, even if you start unwillingly.
Challenge: When having an anxiety attack, it can be hard for you to do anything positive.
How to overcome challenge: Even if you feel phony trying to have fun, do something good or show gratitude because inside you are still anxious it is worth a try.
Remind yourself the purpose of trying positive emotions is to actually get relief from anxiety.
3) You take deep breaths when you feel anxious
This is a big one.
It is almost a common wisdom that when you feel anxious first thing you do is to take deep breaths. You’ve been told many times, “breath” or “don’t forget to breath”.
While you have to continue to breathe, deep breathing actually hurts anxiety. This may surprise you but when you are feeling anxious it is more helpful if you slow down your breathing. Doing exactly opposite of what you think you should do.
When you take a deep breath you flush out Carbon Dioxide (CO2) from the body and now there is less of it. This causes the blood vessels to shrink because CO2 relaxes and expands the vessels. Shrunk blood vessels make you feel tightening in the chest and makes your symptoms of anxiety worse.
Challenge: You may not believe in this advice. It can be hard for you to change the habit of deep breathing.
How to overcome the challenge: Educate yourself. Research the effects of deep breathing on anxiety. Study Buteyko breathing method. Remind yourself even when you don’t have anxiety attack to not breath deep. Try to patiently unlearn the deep breathing habits.
Have you made any of these mistakes?
Do you disagree?
Let me know in the comments.