I work a lot with anxiety in treatment and some things that show up in treatment a lot around anxiety is underlying disregulated emotions and chronic poor boundaries, This is because we can use boundaries to manage our emotions and help us feel safe., which is what we need most when anxious.
Ask yourself the following questions to see if this post might be helpful to you.:
- Do I feel in touch with my feelings most of the time?
- Do I know what my baseline anxiety is and when it increases/decreases?
- Do I have reliable ways to meet my emotional needs on my own?
- When I have strong emotions can I aknowledge my defensiveness?
- Can I say what is helping me feel safe or unsafe?
If you answered no to any of these questions, you might want to retrain your brain around emotion processing and anxiety awareness a bit. Chances are you have some skills already but maybe these ideas will add to your rep·er·toire of anxiety tools.
Start with daily mindfullness around body responses and active feelings. Spend at least 5 minutes each day alone with a mindfulness journal, and scan your body for tension, shortness of breath, aches and pains. Document what is occuring and explore what Self Care is needed to tend to your body?
Then listen to your thoughts, are they stressful, angry, tired? What feelings can be heard in your thoughts? If you observe difficult feelings, use The 5 Questions to journal about and meet your emotional needs.
Once you have become more aware of yourself, your generalized anxiety will be easier to track. When is it more intense? When is less intense? To track this, use your mindfulness journal to draw a scale of 1 - 10 with one being your least anxious moment (relaxing at home) and 10 being your worst ever anxiety (that car crash in '2010).
You will then add a scaling activity to your daily mindfulness journal to better understand what feelings moves your anxiety around and how it manifests in your thoughts and behaviors.. For those emotions that move your anxiety into the middle of your baseline, you can set boundaries to help you process.
Here is a graphic to represent the process:
Let's say you are having an increasing feeling of guilt that is making your anxiety rise. Based on your previous mindfulness journal entries, how often do you feel guilt,? How intense can that feeling get for you? What kind of needs do you have to make the guilt feel more maneagable and reduce your anxiety around feeling that way?
There are feelings based experiences we have that respond well to boundaries, but triggers are not like that. These feelings are intense, past oriented, often trauma based, and disrupt our ability to function in a regulated way. The goal then is to reduce the frequency of trigger based anxiety by "cleaning out" our easier processed feelings through self care and boundary work, and that leaves more energy for understanding how to handle triggers, which is an entirely different blog post.