Posted by: Dr. Jennifer Fee | October 9, 2010

3 Critical Reasons for Rating Your Anxiety

Quick (meaning don’t think too hard)–right now on a scale from 0 to 10 where a “0” is completely relaxed and a “10” is a full-blown panic attack, how anxious are you right now?

So whatever your rating is, what do you think it was an hour ago? Lower?  Higher? The same?  Are you wondering why I’m asking?  Well, I’m asking for 3 really important reasons:

1.  So You Can Catch it Early!  If you are going to learn how to control your anxiety, you need to develop a keen awareness as to when it starts to escalate.  Granted, sometimes anxiety escalates at break-neck speed, but the more sensitive you become to your changing level of anxiety, the better you’ll be able to “catch it” before it becomes a panic attack. 

The higher our emotions (any emotion, not just anxiety), the more difficult it is to think.  You are going to be able to calm yourself down from a “6” much more easily than from an “8” or “9.”  And if your anxiety reaches a “10”?  A ten for most people is the “point of no return,” meaning that it is a panic attack.  If you reach this point, just remember that panic attacks don’t last forever, they last 10-15 minutes.  You can try again to calm yourself once the panic attack is over. 

2. So You Can Find  Your Trigger!  Once you become more aware of the changing experience of anxiety in your body and mind, you can start to look for the things that trigger it.  I’ve written about triggers extensively before (and will do so again here), but for now keep in mind that there’s innumerable things that trigger anxiety and some of them are very subtle.  Subtle triggers might range from merely being too hot, hungry, or tired all the way to thoughts, images, and memories that are floating in our mind just outside of our awareness.  Sometimes triggers are linked together–meaning a body sensation might lead to a memory which leads to a thought that raises anxiety.

It may sound complicated, but with a little detective work most people can pinpoint most of the triggers that are leading to their rising anxiety.  But first things first, you cannot look for triggers unless you are aware that you are anxious.  This is why rating your anxiety is so important!

3. So You Can Do Something!  OK, so if you know your anxiety is rising and what might be triggering it, it’s time to untrap yourself from that trigger!!   Anytime your anxiety reaches a “5” it’s time to do something–you want to bring it down below a “5.”  Even if you can only bring it down to a “3” or a “4” that’s an awesome start, it’s movement in the right direction!

So what can you do?  What normally calms you down?  Or, what would “untrap” you from the trigger?  If you’re too hot, take off your jacket.  If you are hungry, eat.  If you are agitated while standing in line at the grocery store, talk to the person behind you or read the magazine covers.  Other things such as abdominal breathing, prayer, visualization, and self-talk are all effective for lowering anxiety—and I’ll write about all of these things later.

So now that you’re done reading, what’s your anxiety rating now?  Is it higher (sometimes thinking about anxiety can raise it)?  Is it lower (maybe you have hope that you can take control of your anxiety)?  Or is it the same?

Thanks for reading!  –Dr. Jennifer Fee

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