What Is The Anxiety Circle And How To Break It

What is the circle of anxiety? The circle of anxiety is the loop of actions that take place that cause you to be worried and anxious over and over again.

Although anxiety disorders seem complicated on the outside, the process can be summed up in 3 simple stages;

  1. Thoughts
  2. Feelings
  3. Behaviour

Each of these 3 stages contributes to the next which leads to a circle effect as it goes round and round making it seem like it’s impossible to break.

 

the anxiety circle

 

It can be hard to notice these 3 stages of the anxiety circle when it’s happening to you personally. In my own personal experience with my anxiety disorder, I was never really aware of each of these 3 stages taking place. I knew how I felt, but my mind was always so muddled that I couldn’t see them clearly.

I think you must become mindful and self aware of these 3 processes if you stand a chance at healing your anxiety. I think that by breaking the anxiety down into 3 simple stages, it allows you to start filling in the gaps and gives you that chance you need to start seeing how you feel and behave.

Let’s start from the top;

Thoughts

 

This is the start of the circle. Your thoughts are what start the process off. You begin by thinking to yourself many unhelpful thoughts and worries. Whether someone says something to you that makes you feel uneasy, or you’re worried about an upcoming event, you start to think about all of the different scenarios in your mind.

This is a delicate stage and one that many struggle with. I myself believe that I’m a deep thinker by nature, which doesn’t help of course. This stage is delicate because you’re normally thinking deep into your own mind which allows your mind to conjure up different outcomes to your thoughts and worries.

The human mind is very complex and when we’re suffering from anxiety disorders it can make up images and outcomes to your worries that are irrational. Once we have a thought in our mind, it can easily get stuck in their making us go over and over it until we can get to a positive outcome to relieve our thoughts.

For those who suffer with anxiety disorders, a positive outcome is hardly ever reached and so we keep mulling over our anxious thoughts until we’re exhausted.


Feelings

 

After we have our thought or worry, we then start to get feelings around it. Of course, as anxiety sufferer, you go to what you know. We become more and more anxious which leads to further feelings.

We become so worried about our thought that we find it natural to self destruct. I’ve learnt that being open about my thoughts and feelings can instantly break the anxiety circle, however at the height of my anxiety disorder I also consistently felt other negative feelings. For example, my feelings would consist of;

  • Low self worth
  • self doubt
  • lonliness
  • sadness
  • depression

The list can go on but you get the idea.

The general feeling is a sense of not being good enough or not being worthy. These sorts of feelings can have a devastating effect and lead us onto the next stage of the anxiety circle; Behaviour.

 

Behaviour

 

The final stage of the anxiety circle is behaviour. This is the behaviour that starts the whole circle off again. Now we have our anxious thought, we feel worried, we’re self doubting ourselves, and perhaps depressed, our behaviour starts to change.

This is different from person to person but most anxiety sufferers will go in on themselves and do things that will cause their anxiety levels to go even higher. The main one being thinking too much about it again.

For me personally, I would go into myself, not talk to anyone, become agitated and shut myself off from the rest of the world. I learnt eventually that by doing this I was starting the anxiety circle off again by allowing myself the chance to think even more deeply. In this stage of the anxiety circle, some people’s behaviour might consist of;

  • going into themselves
  • distracting themselves on their phone, TV
  • becoming aggitated
  • becoming angry through frustration

Everyone deals with this stage differently and everyone reacts to their contagious thoughts differently.

So now you know the simple 3 stages of the anxiety circle, let’s look at how we can start to break it at different stages.

 

How To Break The Anxiety Circle

 

1. Do More With Your Time

 

The easiest way to corrupt the whole anxiety circle on a surface level is to catch it before you start having your negative thoughts. Of course, you can’t always stop yourself from thinking but you can allow your environment to engage you.

One of the biggest helps in healing my anxiety disorder was reconnecting with what I love to do. I had ignored these hobbies of mine for years as I couldn’t see any value in them. One day I started drawing again and I started writing. More specifically, I started this blog.

Even if you’re not a creative person, you can fill your time better.

I started living by what I felt my purpose was and defined my values. Have you had something you’d love to start but you always say you haven’t go the time? Don’t use that 2 hours tonight to watch your favourite show but instead use it to do that thing.

One of my biggest turning points was when I realised I was wasting so much time doing meaningless things. I do think you should relax and ‘chill’ from time to time but I do think that there is a chance many of us are doing that far too much.

Like I said, I started to do what I enjoyed. These were also things I loved to do and gave me a sense of fulfilment like nothing else.

Your behaviour in your normal everyday situations is usually what is driving your anxious thoughts in the first place, so if you can change your behaviour in a positive and fulfilling way, you can begin to change your day to day thoughts too.

 

2. Embracing The Bad Too

 

We can also corrupt the anxiety circle by changing how we feel about our negative feelings. Can you see how removing one part of the circle can flatten the rest yet?

A huge turning point for me was when I learnt about embracing the bad instead of always chasing the good. As humans we’re motivated by the need for pleasure and the fear of pain. I stopped fighting against the pain which never lead to any kind of relief in the long run.

Instead I learnt everything about acceptance and commitment, or ACT, which opened my mind up in a massive way. You can read more about it here.

Essentially, ACT teaches us about accepting that bad is part of life and fighting against it is futil. We can move past bad occurances by living by our own personal values. The values that we want to live our life by and that dictate how we react to feelings, thoughts or situations.

When I was overly anxious in my day to day, I had the urge to hide away and stay in my comfy room so that I didn’t have to face anything I deemed ‘negative’.

This caused me huge problems in so many areas much like it does for those who suffer from agoraphobia.

I became;

  • socially anxious
  • unconfident
  • more anxious
  • felt like I could never change

 

3. Get Rid Of Distractions

 

The circle comes all the way back around when we try and change our behaviours. The change our behaviour we can then change our our thoughts and then change our feelings brought on by our thoughts. To change your behaviour when you’re feeling negativity you must get rid of your distractions or coping mechanisms.

These include repeatedly checking your phone, searching for symptoms, and binging on TV. These are the distractions that we use to try and take our mind of the thoughts we’re having. However, these actions often lead to more and more anxious thoughts and behaviours.

Give yourself a chance before you go back to the thought stage by doing something that will engage you and and lead to some kind of relief. This might be self care or it could be reading about positive ways to heal your anxiety like you’re doing right now.

If you can disrupt just one stage of the anxiety circle, you can bring the whole process down.

Fill your behaviour with pro-active actions. Read more here and learn about mindfulness and how practising this exercise can help to put you in a better frame of mind and how it can help you disrupt the anxiety circle.

 

Here’s to your success – Sean

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