Have you ever over planned because of anxiety and worry? I did it yesterday.
There is a woodland walk close to where I live, each time I think of visiting, I worry I'm not going to know where to park or how to find the walk, so I put it off. Yesterday I decided that was the walk I would do. So, I took my husband along.
I researched the parking and route. I made sure I had the maps in my photo album on my phone just in case I didn't have mobile reception. I asked my husband to look at the maps and see if he recognised the car park. I scoured the map for places I recognised. I’m not very good at reading maps, so even when I found the cafe I have been to many times, I couldn’t work out where the car park was (eye-rolling at myself now).
I could feel the worry and doubt creeping in - maybe we shouldn't go. I might not have the right place! What if I have misunderstood where the car park is? Maybe we will get lost? Previously I would have decided to go on a different walk. Waiting until someone who knew the walk could come with me.
Instead, I used the skills I have learnt since having hypnotherapy and CBT. I have learnt to manage these feelings and dispute thoughts with logic. I asked myself where the evidence was that I couldn't find the car park -there was none! Have I got lost before and not found my way home - nope! This disputing helped me to keep my thoughts under control and the best way to prove to my worrying mind that I am in control was to do the walk.
The walk was beautiful. We wandered along the footpath through the farmland and saw sheep grazing and the farmer cutting trees. We meandered through the woodland, where the bluebells are starting to flower, and primroses are greeting passers-by with their cheerful yellow faces—the river flowed through the woodland with grace and strength, surrounded by magnificent trees.
My husband and I talked and laughed as we found our way from start to finish, safely and with no wrong turns. My anxiety and worry didn't win. I won, and I enjoyed a beautiful walk in the woodland, as my husband and I chatted. I shall be revisiting the woodland very soon, knowing my past experience will help keep the anxiety and worry at bay.
Why do we get anxious and worry?
Anxiety is a normal human emotion. The primitive part of our brain uses past experiences to keep us safe. When we are doing something new, or something that has caused us to feel anxious in the past, our mind will look for a reference point to judge what we should do in this new situation. With a new experience, our mind has no past reference point. This can bring about fear and worry. Worry is our minds way of trying to find a solution to a problem. But we can get caught up in the thoughts, which then spiral and cause us to feel more anxious. When we feel anxious, our sympathetic nervous system, otherwise known as our fight or flight response, is activated.
Symptoms of when our fight or flight system has been activated can be:
Feeling nervous, restless or tense.
Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom.
Having an increased heart rate.
Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
Over analysing and worry about a situation.
If anxiety and worry stop you from doing things you enjoy, my top tips are:
Breath in deeply through your nose
Holding for 4 seconds
Breathe out slowly through your mouth
Hold for 4 seconds.
Repeat this until you feel calm.
Question your thoughts
Our mind creates stories around our anxious thoughts. Take a moment to step back from the thoughts and ask yourself if they are based on 'fact or an opinion. If it's an opinion, opinions are not fact.
Avoid the avoidance trap.
Anxiety doesn't feel comfortable, and it can be all too easy to avoid doing the things that bring about these anxious feelings. The more you avoid doing these things, the bigger the fear becomes until you eventually avoid more and more situations.
Try breaking down the situation into small chunks. For example, avoiding meeting friends at a café for fear of talking to groups of people. Try meeting one friend to start with. Then slowly build up the number of people until you can manage a group of people together.
Anxiety is a normal part of being human. Accepting that there may be times when you feel anxious is normal. Just like we accept that sometimes we feel sad or angry. If anxiety starts to take over your life and you avoid more and more of the things you previously found enjoyable, seeking professional support can help get your anxiety under control.
I have appointments available at Blackstone Therapy Room, Blackawton and The Devon Clinic, Paignton.
For more information on how I can support you, please contact me by clicking here.