Understanding and Managing Anxiety

September 19, 2023

A Personal Reflection Guide to Understanding Anxiety

If you’re reading this, it means you’ve taken the first step towards understanding and managing your anxiety. In this article, together we will explore the roots of anxiety and learn effective ways to navigate it.

Understanding anxiety

Anxiety, though often a silent companion, can have a profound impact on our daily lives. The shaky hands, racing thoughts, and queasy stomach may be just the tip of the iceberg, masking deeper fears and uncertainties.

Understanding the root cause of anxiety is crucial for effective, long-term management. To better manage and understand anxiety, it’s helpful to embark on a self-reflective journey. This article will guide you through a series of questions and prompts to help you gain insight into your anxieties, fears, and habits.


Why Anxiety Exists

understanding anxiety

Anxiety is not merely a surface-level reaction; it is a messenger, a signal that something within us requires attention. It can be an indicator of unresolved conflicts or traumas. Moreover, it may be a sign of underlying medical conditions that necessitate professional support. Recognising the root cause empowers individuals to confront their fears and find sustainable strategies for a more serene, confident existence.


Reflecting on Anxiety

The first step in understanding anxiety is to become familiar with your own experiences. Take some time to reflect on moments when you’ve felt anxious.

Keeping a Kind Mindset: Approach this process with compassion, curiosity, and patience. Treat yourself as you would a dear friend, seeking to understand rather than judge. Consider visualising your anxiety as a separate entity or a younger version of yourself, and proceed with gentleness.


Understanding Anxiety – Use a journal to take note of the following:

When Your Anxiety Happens:

Journalling anxiety patterns

Begin by identifying the specific situations or triggers that lead to anxiety. Is it during social interactions, work-related tasks, or other specific circumstances?

Where It Happens:

Consider the physical locations where you most commonly experience anxiety. Is it at home, at work, in crowded spaces, or during specific activities?

What’s Happening at That Time, Physically and Mentally:

Pay attention to your body and mind during anxious moments.

Are there physical sensations like tension, rapid heartbeat, or shallow breathing? What are your thoughts and emotions?

How Long the Anxiety Symptoms Last:

Note the duration of your anxiety episodes. Is it a fleeting feeling, or does it persist for an extended period?

Unmasking Anxiety Triggers

Once you’ve identified when and where anxiety tends to surface, focus on the ‘why’. Dive deep into your thoughts and feelings. Are there recurring themes or situations that consistently provoke anxiety? Understanding these triggers empowers you to confront them head-on.

Recognise Thought Patterns

Anxiety often stems from specific thought patterns. Pay attention to negative self-talk or catastrophic thinking.

Negative thoughtsAsk yourself:

Are there certain phrases or beliefs that tend to accompany your anxious moments?

Do you tend to assume the worst-case scenario in situations?

Are you overly critical of yourself?

List Your Fears

Fears and anxiety

Listing Your Fears: Begin with the phrase “I am scared of” and let your thoughts flow without judgment.

Don’t worry about how it might look or sound. This exercise allows you to confront your anxieties head-on.


When Do I First Remember Having This Fear?

Reflect on the earliest memory associated with each fear. What was happening at that time?

How Long Has It Been Since I Felt Differently to Now?

Consider the timeline of your feelings towards each fear. What significant changes have occurred in your life recently?

What Has Changed in My Life Over the Last 3 Months, 6 Months, or Year?

Evaluate the events and circumstances that may have contributed to your current feelings of anxiety and fear.

Are There Other Times in My Life, Past or Present, Where I’ve Felt the Same Way but the Situation Was Different?

Explore if there are recurring patterns in your emotional responses. Is there a common thread between different situations?

understanding anxiety

Diving into the Fear Rabbit Hole:
Name the anxiety-provoking situation and repeatedly ask, “And then what will happen?

This practice, akin to exposure therapy, aids in dispelling irrational fears.


What Were My Family Relationships Like?

Reflect on your family dynamics.

Were there instances where you felt dismissed, shamed, ridiculed, punished, or afraid?

Did you ever feel like you weren’t good enough or were a burden?

These reflections can unveil deep-seated triggers.

Did I Feel Like It Wasn’t OK to Express Myself?

Consider whether you felt restricted or inhibited in expressing your emotions within your family environment.
Would it help to talk to a trained professional about some of this?


Exploring Habits

To gain insight into your habits and their potential impact on anxiety, ask yourself:

Has My Anxiety or Its Intensity Increased Lately?

Reflect on any recent changes in the frequency or intensity of your anxiety.

Pinpointing a Pattern: Reflect on how long it has been since you felt differently, and consider significant changes in your life over the last few months or year. Identify recurring feelings of anxiety and discern any common threads.

Have My Habits Changed?

Honing in on Your Habits: Recognise that anxiety may not solely stem from psychological factors. Consider lifestyle habits, like sleep quality or substance use, which may be exacerbating your anxiety. Self-reflection on these areas can lead to valuable insights.

How’s My Sleep? Evaluate the quality and duration of your sleep. Are there any noticeable changes in your sleeping patterns?

alcohol and anxiety

Have I Been Drinking More, or Feeling Progressively Worse After Drinking?

Assess your alcohol consumption and its potential correlation with your anxiety levels.

There are plenty of phone apps which can help you record and track your alcohol intake and allow users to take more control over how much they consume.


Self-care ideas to Manage Anxiety

Cultivate Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a powerful tool in managing anxiety. It involves being present in the moment without judgment. Practice deep breathing, meditation, or grounding exercises to anchor yourself during anxious moments. This practice helps create a sense of calm and reduces the intensity of anxious thoughts.

Establish Healthy Habits

A well-nourished body supports a healthy mind. Ensure you’re getting regular exercise, a balanced diet, and enough sleep. Avoid excessive caffeine or alcohol, as they can exacerbate anxiety. Small lifestyle changes can have a big impact on your overall well-being.

Practice Self-Compassion

Be kind to yourself. Understand that anxiety is a natural response to stress, and you’re not alone in experiencing it. Treat yourself with the same compassion and understanding you would offer a friend going through a similar situation.


Seek Support to Understand and Manage Your Anxiety

You’re not alone in this journey. Reach out to friends, family, or a mental health professional. Sharing your experiences can provide invaluable insights and support. Together, you can explore coping strategies and develop a toolbox of techniques to manage anxiety.

Claire at Insight Counselling has helped many people who are experiencing difficult levels of anxiety which are having a negative impact on their lives. Do get in touch if you’d like to work through some of these issues. This could be in person therapy in Hove or online if you are not local to Sussex. Here’s the contact form. 



Understanding and managing anxiety is a journey, not a destination. It requires patience, self-reflection, and a willingness to embrace change. Embarking on this self-reflective journey can provide invaluable insights into the roots of your anxiety, fears, and habits. By understanding these factors, you can take proactive steps towards managing and alleviating anxiety, ultimately promoting a greater sense of well-being and peace of mind.

Remember, seeking professional support, especially from a mental health specialist, is advised throughout this process.