Breaking the Vicious Cycle of Anxiety

upward spiralIn a previous post, we looked at the vicious cycle of anxiety, in which an anxiety-provoking events triggers an anxiety-related thought, feeling, behaviour or physiological symptom, which generates additional anxious thoughts, feelings, behaviours and physiological symptoms.
 
One of the keys to overcoming anxiety is break this cycle before it begins to gain momentum. We often don’t have control of our initial response to an anxiety-provoking situation, but once we become aware that something has triggered an anxiety-related thought, feeling, behaviour or physiological symptom, then we can choose how we react. Mindfulness, and congitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or cognitive therapy, are effective ways to help you stop these cycles before they can build.

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The Vicious Cycle of Anxiety

downward spiralAccording to the cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) approach to anxiety, one of the reasons that overcoming anxiety can be so difficult is that anxiety generates vicious cycles involving your physiological, cognitive, behavioural, and emotional domains. We looked at these four components of anxiety in a previous post. Now we’ll look at how they act together to form vicious cycles that create and maintain anxiety.
 
In the cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) model of anxiety, the vicious cycle begins with an anxiety-provoking situation. This situation can be something external such as a work commitment, a trip, a social engagement, or any other event happening in the future that you’re worried about. Anxiety can also be provoked by something internal such as a physiological sensation, a thought about something you’re dreading, or an unpleasant emotion.

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Following Your Breath Mindfully

man meditating

Free Clip Art (CC BY-SA 4.0) from Wikimedia Commons

In a previous post about our breath we looked at the difference between abdominal breathing and breathing from your chest, and how abdominal breathing can help alleviate stress and calm your body, mind and emotions.

It’s as simple as bringing your attention to your breathing for a few minutes, or even just a few breaths. This is easier said than done, however, as our minds tend to wander a lot at the best of times, and when we’re in distress, it’s even more difficult to stay focused on our breath.

In the next few posts we’re going to practice some exercises to help keep your mind focused on your breathing, starting with Following Your Breathing By Counting Your Breaths.

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Abdonimal Breathing to Calm and Relax

When you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, one of the most effective ways to calm your body, mind and emotions is to pay attention to your breathing. When you focus your attention on your breath, things start to slow down. Physiologically, your heart rate slows, your blood pressure drops, and any tightness or tension you feel tends to relax. Breathing mindfully also calms your emotions, making them more manageable, and helps slow down a racing mind.

In the next post, we’re going to learn a few techniques to help you follow your breath, but first, it’s important to ensure that you’re breathing in a way that helps calm you, rather than in a way that can increase your level of stress.

 

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