It’s a scary time for many people around the world. The isolation of numerous lockdowns, followed by the realisation that you’re now potentially afraid to leave your house, your place of safety, has come as an unpleasant revelation to thousands. So often we allow ourselves to be taken in by this fear without even realising it, and that fear then actually becomes a pseudo-support system for you. Just think about the second sentence in this paragraph if you don’t believe me – People became afraid to leave their homes because they had gotten used to being in them all the time. Their isolation became familiar and thus became their safe place. The outside world becomes a place to be feared.
If you live with something for long enough, it becomes normal and your frame of reference then becomes skewed in that direction.
This is how I lived with anxiety for years. Anxiety gave me something that I didn’t think I could get anywhere else. It gave me a warm, comfortable, familiar blanket that I could wrap myself in to escape whatever I wanted. If I didn’t like something that had been said to me at work? No problem! I could simply wrap myself in my anxiety blanket and replay the situation in my mind until I’d gotten to the point where I was so anxious that I couldn’t think about it anymore. I admit, this approach does have its downsides… in fact it is one big downside. There is nothing positive about wrapping yourself in something that you think helps but is in fact self-destructive.
Anxiety isn’t something that should have control of us. It’s perfectly natural to feel anxious, just like it’s perfectly natural to feel joy and happiness, but when we go towards anxiety, thinking that it’s a safe place for us to be, as I used to, that’s something that needs addressing.
Learning how to spot yourself going down an ‘anxiety spiral’ takes practice and time, but it is achievable. I am the living proof of that.
The first step to interrupting the spiral is to start noticing that you are in your anxiety spiral. It does not matter where you are in it, or how deep into your spiral. Just start by noticing and when you do, consciously say to yourself, out loud if you’re able, ‘I’m in my anxiety spiral. I need to stop’. Initially, the effort this takes is enormous and you may even feel silly saying it out loud, but I assure you, this process does work.
The more you practice, the more you’ll notice yourself being in the spiral. And the more you notice yourself being in the spiral, the easier it will become to notice in the future.
With practice, you’ll start to notice yourself higher up in your spiral, such as when you’re in the first phases of wrapping yourself in that warm, comfortable, familiar blanket. By noticing yourself earlier in the spiral means that you can stop it almost before it starts.
With time, spotting yourself in your anxiety spiral becomes second nature, after all, anxiety is a natural emotion, and we all experience anxiety at some point. It’s how we handle our anxiety and how far we then allow ourselves to go down our anxiety spiral that we can ultimately control.