We talked about how to deal with relationship anxiety a few posts ago and as promised, I’ve written a follow-up.(Yay for keeping promises!) This time, we’re integrating cbt for anxiety.
In the previous post, we went over some super common anxious behaviours you’ll see from the *anxious* party in the relationship.
This post is written with you in mind. The anxious one, the “afraid I’ll ruin the relationship and send them packing because of my overthinking, worry-wart tendencies”.
Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links, which allow me to make a small commission should you purchase something. For full disclosure see here. I am also not a mental healthcare professional, please seek GP advice for any formal diagnosis.
“Anxiety is ruining my life!”
I’ve certainly had days like this. Periods of my life when I dealt with panic disorder and I was never sure when the next panic attack was going to strike, I felt almost immobile with fear. My relationships suffered as I was so preoccupied with my physiological responses to fear that I couldn’t even keep up with conversations.
Feeling the same? Or not really sure?
Here’s what to do.
Determine what kind of anxiety you have.
“The shit kind” is not a valid response.
Is it ever-present (generalised anxiety), only when you’re out and about (social phobia), in response to a particular place or object (phobia), sudden onset that floods you with physical feelings too (panic attacks)?
You’ve probably heard before that anxiety is our bodies natural mechanism to keep us safe from a potential threat. Uh, what now?
Using myself as an example, my body thinks:
Unfamiliar shopping centres
Eating at places haven’t “pre-approved” (aka looked at the menu online & reviews)
Most of my peers
Are a potential threat….like to my life. Bit dramatic eh?
In the times of cavemen and women, at the sign of a threat, we would take flight (run) stay and fight or freeze to protect ourselves and our potential offspring from being killed off.
The majority, if not all of the symptoms of panic attacks can be explained.
Lightheadedness? —> Caused by hyperventilating and vasoconstriction (your body sending blood elsewhere)
Churning stomach or other GI issues? ——-> The bodies response to “flight”, trying to make you lighter to flee
Sweating? —-> Cooling the body off
But where does that leave you?
Firstly, knowing your biology can be helpful in the first place – just knowing that all of these symptoms don’t mean that something is horribly wrong with you.
CBT skills for anxiety
CBT or cognitive behavioural therapy is the gold standard for treating the various forms of anxiety (and depression). Above, I asked you to identify what kind of anxiety you have. No matter the type, CBT skills can be used as one of the tools to help combat and aid you.
A quick rundown. CBT runs on the ABC method (so many acronyms, I know!)
Now, to show you the ABC model in action, we need an example. Let’s say I’m out shopping and spot a friend across the street.
I wave but I’m not sure they see me. They keep walking.
Let’s write it into the thought diary using the model but try and include “D” for “dispute”.
What are we disputing? Our original beliefs about the activating event.
As you can see, its basically a way of reframing situations for yourself. It’s dealing in facts and taking out the emotive component that sometimes rules our thought process.
CBT for anxiety can be tricky to get your head around if you’re attempting to teach yourself, so I’d advise seeking out online courses if you can’t get into a group program or one on one therapy.
Try keeping a thought diary, just for a week at first, to see if you notice any patterns emerging.
What fuels an anxious mind?
Plenty of things! For now, we’ll focus on two of the biggest “psychological kindling” to the fire that is anxiety. Rumination and Procrastination.
Definition of ruminate
1: to go over in the mind repeatedly and often casually or slowly
As an anxious person by nature, I tend to ruminate at nighttime. When I’ve nothing left on my plate, no chores left to do and all I have to do is shut my eyes and let sleep take over.
Cue the worries. Now’s the time I start thinking about what I said in the 6th grade to Aaron Taylor. Or what I should have done about this or that.
Nothing positive or productive ever comes from rumination. So how do we end it?
1# – Be proactive (this ties into our next topic about procrastination and anxiety). Tackling the day proactively means approaching your to-do list however you see fit for your personality. Making a list in the first place in a great way to create a physical manifestation of all the jumble going on in your head.
2# – Meditate. I know you’re sick of hearing people tell you to meditate. It seems to be the answer to everything. Sore foot? Meditate. Anxiety ridden? Meditate. That’s simply because facts don’t lie. Meditation has been proven to reduce rumination and psychological distress.
3#– Write? it ?down?. The simple act of writing down your worries allows you to regain your power. It can help put an end to rumination right then and there.
Now procrastination. How does that even come into play? I’ll tell you how I feel when I procrastinate and see if any of it resonates for you:
- A little guilty, like I should be doing what I’m supposed to but I’m slacking
- Sometimes, numb
- Worried about what will happen if I don’t get this done!?
Doesn’t sound awesome because it really isn’t awesome. Why do we procrastinate? Plenty of reasons.
a) Something else is more gratifying in the immediate future and we’d rather do that
b) We’re not convinced of our ability to perform whatever we’ve set out to do
c) We’re lacking in wilfulness or we’re just plain tired
Sometimes it’s of the above.
I’d like to highlight “b” and how that relates to anxiety. Almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy, procrastination, like with social-phobias and other avoidant type behaviours feed into itself.
How much harder is it to do something once you’ve put it off for a few days?
How to heal that procrastination anxiety? Here are some tips.
1# Don’t eat elephants.
AKA break it down. You wouldn’t try to eat an elephant, so neither should you attempt to devour a mammoth task all in one go. Break it down into bite-sized chunks to help ease you into getting it done.
2# Pobodys Nerfect
This includes you!
Your project/task/assignment/housework doesn’t have to be the best ever oh my gosh in order to be “good enough”. It won’t be anything if you don’t at least start.
Releasing those inner expectations takes a lot more work than some stranger on the internet simply telling you to, I understand. So I encourage you to check out the following book linked below on embracing “good enough”.
So… I’ve got social media anxiety?
Probably! Honestly, it’s 2020, there are people making six (and even seven) figures by coaching others over what to put in their Insta captions or how to “captivate an audience via Instagram stories”. The lines blurred ages ago as to who is a business and who is an individual on the platform. As for influencer? Don’t get me started on what the does to a regular person just trying to heart some photos. Golden rules to navigating and surviving on social media (as someone with anxiety).
1# Don’t go snooping
This can be hard when you’re anxious. You’re paranoid and searching for answers. It comes down to basic respect of your partner and the bond you’ve created. Honesty is the best approach in moments where you’re tempted to invade their privacy. Let them know you’re feeling vulnerable and work on it together. There’s generally a triggering emotion or event (feeling insecure, unsure) that has lead to the desire to “check”.
2# Know that it’s a fabricated environment
Deep down, we all know this about places like Instagram and Facebook. No one would post photos of the house a mess, the toddlers sobbing with teething pain, the cats pooping on the new rug (yes, recently happened).
It’s gotten to the point where social media is so sly that even that #honestmotherhood tag on Instagram is filtered and captioned and hashtagged to perfection. Remember of social media, these photos may not have been taken today, these people may not have it all together. But even if they do – it does NOT make you less.
3# Protect your vibe
When my daughter was a few months old, Facebook was the place to be. I joined approximately 10,000 private groups on a range of subjects (breastfeeding, attachment parenting, baby development). What happened in a month’s time? Aside from having my phone constantly blowing up with notifications from these groups, I was being bombarded with information at a rate that I couldn’t possibly keep up with.
It’s a situation that isn’t exclusive to just mothers either. Belonging to online groups is something that many sufferers of chronic illness talk of the benefit of. It’s convenient and reduces isolation. I only warn against allowing too many people into your circle.
Just something to think about if you’re easily overwhelmed.
4# Just Unplug
At the risk of sounding like a total boomer, just turn your phone on silent for a bit. Ways to do that without feeling completely deprived may be:
-By watching a movie
-Taking a shower or bath
-Doing a yoga class
You feeling information overload? Hopefully I’ve explained cognitive behavioural therapy enough to you that it’s sitting comfortably and you might give it a go to relieve some anxiety.
This Anxious Mum