So there you have it. That’s one of my anxiety locations. So what? you might be asking.
Well, this is the what.
Once you know the location where your anxiety spikes, then you can do something about it. It’s only after an issue has been brought to awareness that it can be resolved.
I’ll walk through two different scenarios.
Scenario 1: My thoughts get the best of me, and I pick at my skin
I’m still a bit ashamed to admit this, but when it’s night and I’m all alone and I’m worrying about the world, I have a tendency to pick at my skin. It’s something that started when I was in middle school. It’s an obsessive-compulsive symptom that I have. I know that now. But still it happens.
Doing this almost makes me disconnect from my mind. Before I know it, I’m wandering to a mirror and picking at my skin. Why am I sharing this with you? To let you know that it happens to more people than you think. To learn more about this reality, visit the TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors.
This is what happens–not as much anymore, but it happens–when I let my thoughts get the best of me. I move into a mindless pattern of negative thinking and self-doubt.
Scenario 2: I use self-awareness to remind myself that it’s just anxiety
But there’s another way. And it starts with being mindful of my anxiety locations.
When I’m mindful of an anxiety location, I can be prepared. I can know in advance that I might have trouble, and I can have a clear plan for how I want to use my time.
I think one of the big issues with being alone at night, is that I’m tired, and my willpower is down at that point. Quite simply, it’s been exhausted from a day of work and energy-emitting. Also, with no one else around, I’m not as self-conscious of how I look to others. So I pick at my skin or do something else that is destructive. This can be a bad habit trap, as I’m sure you know.
But by being mindful, by knowing I’m in a problem context, I can take action. I can choose to occupy my time. I can tell myself, “This is anxiety. This is OCD. This is not who I am.” Simply announcing it, whether internally or out loud, is often enough to stop the snowball before it starts.
But if that doesn’t work, I also do this.
I remember that I have coping skills. I can breathe deeply 5 times. Taking deep breaths changes your physical and mental state. Everyone can do this, but it’s hard to remember to do it. That’s where the awareness piece of this comes in.
I might also change my position. If I know that I tend to get anxious sitting on a certain part of the couch at night, then I’ll move to another area to sit. It’s amazing what changing your physical location can do for your mental state. I’ve found that mixing up where I sit actually changes my mental patterns. It doesn’t allow any one pattern to become too deeply ingrained in my brain, which is key.