Lately, I’m taking the time to learn from my anxiety, and I’m trying to pay more attention to patterns. One big thing I’ve noticed is that my own mind can be my worst enemy during a period of high anxiety. My thoughts tend to run rampant and, unfortunately, they often make things worse. By taking the time to acknowledge the thoughts I tell myself time and time again, I’m working to create space to learn how they aren’t serving me in the long run.
Below I am sharing eight problematic thoughts I’ve had during an anxiety episode, and how these thoughts negatively impact my mental health.
I need this to stop right now: I am incredibly impatient with myself during an anxiety episode. I want the negative feelings to stop instantly because they make me awful and I’m scared for my anxiety to escalate into a full on attack. But, the reality is that it usually takes a little bit of time to work through a heightened anxiety period. Telling myself to stop feeling the way I am, only makes me more upset, because I can’t do it! It sends me into this bad loop of anxiety causing anxiety.
I must be doing something wrong: I’m pretty critical on myself, especially in the midst of an anxiety episode. My logic (or lack thereof) is that if I’m feeling bad, it must be something I am doing wrong. Unfortunately, there are so many factors that can cause my anxiety and while yes I do have some control, beating myself up doesn’t make me feel better. This thought instead makes me feel like I am failing.
How can I make sure this never happens again? This thought focuses on coming up with actions that I can take in the future so that I can never feel this poorly again. I have perfectionist tendencies, so I don’t want to ever repeat a mistake. Here’s the problem- I will feel like this again. Sure, it’s not the best news, but it’s the most realistic mindset. There are steps I can do to reduce my anxiety episodes, but it’s a journey. There is not one change I can make to ensure my anxiety never comes back.
I can’t describe what’s going on: In the middle of a bad case of anxiety, I often struggle to explain what’s going on with my mind and body. I tend to be a verbal processor, so I crave a way to put my feelings into words, but it’s often a challenge. The fact that I can’t share exactly what’s going on, causes more anxiety for me. If I can’t even breakdown how I’m feeling, are the feelings real? Yes, they are.
No one understands: When my anxiety is high, I start to feel super alone. My brain starts telling me that no one will understand what I am feeling, or they will think I am acting dramatic. Loneliness and fear of judgment make all the terrible feelings more intense. Good news, I’m beginning to learn that while my experiences will always be unique to me, there are others who are coping with similar situations.
Don’t Cry: Yep, crying is almost inevitable when I’m in the midst of an anxiety episode. It’s no problem if I’m at home, but if I’m somewhere in public, I immediately start repeating this thought around not crying. Have you ever tried to stop yourself from crying? It seriously sucks… and telling yourself over and over again to hold it together definitely helps... not! I'm learning to let myself feel.
It’s so hard to breathe: If my feelings of anxiety start to get really bad, they can lead to an anxiety attack. My brain starts telling my body that I can’t breathe and it escalates to panic. This thought makes me start gasping for air, and I feel entirely out-of-control.
These feelings aren't fair: My anxious thoughts are exhausting and draining. By the end, I do tend to feel frustrated by the fact that I have to deal with all the emotions. It seems unfair that everyone else gets to be happy and I’m over here full of anxiety. The reality is that everyone is fighting their own battles.
Our brains are powerful, and, unfortunately, the thoughts that come out of them aren’t always super beneficial. By taking note of my negative thought patterns that come up during an anxiety episode, I hope that over time I can learn to talk a little nicer to myself and create change. Ugh, even writing that sounds exhausting. I so wish there was a magic re-train brain button, but this is our reminder that it does take time.
Every day is another chance to work towards a healthier mindset. I encourage you to take some time to think through your thought patterns. What thoughts are you telling yourself? Are they serving you?