Unwinding Anxiety – How we can release habits that may habituate our anxiety
Map Out Anxiety Habits
Anxiety exists inside the habits that make up our everyday lives. Spend some time observing your anxiety-related habits. Your habits can exist in loops that consist of a trigger, behaviour, and a result.
Trigger: We feel anxious (tightness in chest, increased heart-rate, sweaty palms, tightness in stomach, closed throat or wanting to run away Behaviour: Binge eating, Chewing gum, substance use, binge watching, social media consumption, excessive sugar consumption, irritation, aggressiveness or other behaviours
Result: Distracted from anxiety
Ask yourself, is this habit helping me in the long run? Does it end up decreasing or increasing my anxiety? What’s stopping me from sitting with the anxious feelings?
Sometimes distraction is all we can do in the moment and it's important to be kind to yourself. Do observe your behaviour. Recognize ‘Oh here is my anxiety again. I must be anxious about something as I eat lots of snacks right now. What am I anxious about?’
Observe the Anxiety and create new habits that reward you in positive ways
If you’re anxious and you start worrying about the future, make a mental note; observe the tightness in your chest, the lump in your throat, how little you get done at school or work that afternoon. This is an opportunity to learn about yourself and what triggers that anxiety. Start with noticing what it feels like, where you feel it in your body, and what thoughts are coming to mind. What are the habits you do when you worry, if you notice reaching out for that sugary snack or phone, stop, breath and leave. Think and write down one action you can take that can help release your worries. Who are the people that could help? Then think about what new habit you could set in place that could increase self esteem instead and creates a positive connection to your brain. This leads us to our 3rd step:
Creating New Habits
By creating healthy behaviours in response to anxiety we can then release old anxiety triggering habits. Which leads us to, what healthy habits are out there amongst others?
Curiosity and mindfulness: Rather than judging yourself for being anxious, or wondering about where your anxiety is coming from, just get curious. What does it feel like, and where? How does it change? Say “Hmmm!” out loud to yourself, to encourage that sense of curiosity and say great I can learn more about you and get to know more.
Breathing: Tune in to the breathing sensations in your body. Breathe into places where anxiety shows up, and breathe out anxiety. See how things change.
Exercise: Go outside, take a walk. Work up a sweat to get your blood pumping to reset your current body state and mind. Validate yourself and move your body.
Trigger: Feeling Anxious
New Behaviour: Going for a walk, listening to music, giving yourself some space
New Result: When feeling anxious, body and brain know we will go for a walk and calm down