Whilst I know the importance of stories about anxiety and agoraphobia to help you know you’e not alone in your anxiety struggles (and I will definitely share many of these), I really want to focus my blogs on wellness and the tools I use every day to live a happy, independent and healthy life with anxiety. The tools I used to recover from agoraphobia.
That’s what I think will pull you towards your own mental well-being.
So, in this blog, I thought I’d do more than share a tool, but give you an activity to work on how your anxiety brain works.
You’re going to work on your panic attack and anxiety vicious circle.
Working through your anxiety vicious circle also works if you’re going through depression or wanting to conquer any fear, really. It’s a great tool to have in your wellness kit.
It’s also a key to CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) and was one of the first things I did with my doc to work on my anxiety thinking in my road to agoraphobia recovery.
Introducing, the panic attack and anxiety vicious circle…
To the non-anxiety person this thought pattern may look pretty simple. But to us, it’s more likely to be complicated to work out.
We know this thought pattern can circle around within a milli-second and without rationale or warning.
The more debilitating your anxiety, the more your thought patterns get trapped in the circle and it’s incredibly hard to get out of it and stop it.
What’s important for the anxiety brain and your recovery is to learn to cut-off this thought pattern as early to the source (the trigger) as possible. And CBT helps you do that. But that’s a whole other exercise coming.
So, what was my anxiety vicious circle and thought pattern?
Well, first, let’s say vicious circleS because I actually had about a dozen of them at my agoraphobic worse. But here are two I did as my homework with the doc at the time…
1. My anxiety vicious circle: Heart Attack
2. My vicious circle: Leaving home and being alone at night
Well, thanks for this information Megan, but how does this help my anxiety situation and unbuckle my fears?
I’m glad you asked! I know you’ll possibly be looking at this and thinking you already know this anxiety thinking pattern. But do you?
It’s easy to think you know your anxiety thought patterns, it’s another to work on them and see them written out.
And, here’s the kicker: You can’t fix something you don’t know and acknowledge.
Understanding your thought patterns and where they start and cycle into each other is key to helping you cut them off as quickly as possible.
So what you’re going to do is draw and write out your vicious circle/s.
If you feel brave, email it to me. If you feel braver, talk to a support person/s about your thoughts. If you’re seeing a mental health professional, discuss it with them (if you haven’t already).
Do I still get these panic attack and anxiety thoughts?
Yes, I do. I had them in a gym class just the other week when I had chest pains. But instead of reacting to the ‘perceived threat’ which in the past would have increased my ‘apprehension’ and then my ‘body sensations’ and then my ‘interpretation of sensation/s as catastrophic’, I instead thought:
“I’ve had this feeling (chest pains) hundreds (if not thousands) of times before, so it’s unlikely to be anything serious. Oh, and I did have one too many coffees this morning so it’s probably some reflux. And, yes, I’m also pre-menstrual so my body gets twing’y and pain’y then too.”
…and I kept going with the class, trusting I was safe and there were people that would help if I needed it.
Now it’s your turn!
Please commit to working on your anxiety vicious circle and comment below if you have anything to share about what you learned that may help others.
If you are struggling with your anxiety, depression and mental health, promise me you’ll call Lifeline 13 11 14 or beyondblue 1300 22 4636 if you’re in Australia. Remember, you matter!