Before I get into breaking the habit of anxiety fixation, let me first explain what that is.
Now, I’m pretty sure you have a good idea what I’m talking about since you’ve been through it yourself, or you’re still going through it because, if not, you probably wouldn’t be reading this post. If you are reading it to help someone else, then I am very grateful 🙂
Let me get into the specifics of anxiety fixation so you know what kind of behaviours are keeping you in the cycle. Please feel free to use this guide as much you as possibly can so it can help you to stay on track.
The behaviours which kept me in the cycle of anxiety
So, the behaviours which kept me in the cycle of anxiety were things like constantly – feeling sorry for myself, researching into the condition, spending time feeding my mind with negative forums, talking about how anxious I felt to the people around me.
For me, talking about it was one of the worst habits I got into because this one really made me feel more anxious. I’ll explain why.
When I talked about how anxious I was feeling to the people around me, this kept me on edge and made me feel even more anxious because after telling people, I would expect them to ask me how I was feeling.
Can you see how this made me more anxious? It was anticipatory anxiety. The brain is constantly scanning for danger or for anything that could be perceived as a risk. This is what keeps us focused on our inner world of anxiety.
Think about it, I was feeding my brain anxiety provoking signals/information because when do we usually ask people how they’re feeling? When they’re unwell or have a problem.
So, not only was I fuelling the anxious habit by talking about it, I was living in a state of hypervigilance because my anxious mind was waiting for people to ask me how I was feeling. My guard was always up so to speak.
This tells the brain that there must be a problem. How does it cope with and decode these problems? Through the release of more adrenaline which puts us into the fight/flight mode. This is why it’s imperative that we eventually break this habit of talking about how anxious we feel.
I’ve mentioned all the other behaviours before, but I’ll go more into detail with them now for the sake of this post and for the sake of reminding you because there’s nothing ever wrong with reminding people of what I perceive to be really important information.
So, researching into anxiety, googling the symptoms that we may be experiencing at present may be reassuring, but we usually go down the rabbit hole and feel worse off for doing so.
We go in feeling anxious and come out convinced that we have about 2 months to live. This is what too much google does for us because there is so much mis-information online.
Get that reassurance from a doctor to ease your mind that it’s anxiety, and anxiety only. Then, I highly recommend giving up on the researching as this will only reinforce the fact that you have anxiety and it will pour more fuel into the fire.
None of this is going to be easy, even if it looks easy typed out on a screen. There will definitely be times where you’ll experience the symptoms and feel the urge to google them and there will be times when you experience new symptoms and ask google what they could possibly be.
It’s important to let you know that experiencing new symptoms is perfectly normal and expected during anxiety. Our over-active imagination quickly jumps to worst-case scenarios and thinks that this symptom or sensation we’ve never experienced before could be something else.
Anxiety recovery is all about reprogramming your brain. Carrying out behaviours which do not feed the anxiety. Researching is one of the biggest culprits in perpetuating the disorder.
The vicious cycle is created when our brain activates more anxiety to keep us safe even when we are safe, when there is absolutely no need to be anxious.
The only way this can happen is if we show our brain through our behaviours that there is a danger and how we interpret our thoughts and sensations through fearing and fighting them.
Going on forums is another way we fuel the fire of anxiety. Again, whilst it’s reassuring to know that we are not alone with our troubles, it’s actually keeping us locked into the cycle.
Especially when the forums are all toxic. Meaning that there is not even a hint of recovery focused material on there. There really is nothing beneficial in reading about how other people are suffering. It just makes us feel even more down and anxious.
Spending our time obsessing over our anxiety by trying to work out why we’re suffering in the first place is a great mistake we anxiety sufferers make. Even though it means well and sounds completely logical, this is another behaviour that forces us down the rabbit hole.
Fixation and obsession are the habits we’re trying to break here and behaviours such as spending our time dwelling on why we’re feeling the way we are and trying to work things out is not conducive to actually recovering.
Honestly, the sooner you let go of this behaviour, the better you will feel. It’s a vicious cycle because it’s totally understandable to think that spending time wondering where on earth it came from and working things out is helpful but we actually create more anxiety as a result.
It’s like scratching at a wound that is trying to scab over and heal. The more we pick at the wound, the less chances it has in healing.
Remember, what we focus on, we empower. So, if we spend our time focusing on anything to do with our anxiety, then what are we essentially doing? Empowering it!
Constantly checking our pulse and heart beat is another habit we can get into that certainly fuels the anxiety. Looking back now, I did this most of the time.
Whenever I would get a pain in my chest caused by muscular tension, I would instantly panic and place my hand on my chest just to make sure that my heart wasn’t beating like crazy in the fear of having a heart attack. Of course, what was actually making my heart race was the fear of fear.
So, as you can see, anxiety has become our obsession. It has become our dominant focus, our world. We’ve become completely consumed by it all.
Now it’s time to replace that obsession with a new one. To have a new and empowering dominant focus, a new worldly experience which isn’t tainted by the lens of anxiety. This takes time and a lot of patience to find the things which we can fall in love with.
It’s also about approaching this whole thing with a certain type of mindset which is conducive to the healing process.
How to truly break the habit of anxiety fixation – Finding a new obsession
The truth, from my experience, is that we can’t just break the habit of anxiety fixation and obsession by just stopping the behaviours. Whilst stopping the behaviours is KEY, I believe (know) we need to replace that obsession and fixation with another obsession.
This might come as a surprise to you, it might not. However, what I’m trying to say is that becoming obsessed with something else instead of anxiety plays a big part in recovery – Letting go and moving on.
If being obsessed and fixated on our anxiety only serves to keep us imprisoned, then surely it makes sense to use this same energy of obsession and fixation by channelling it into something else. Something that doesn’t provoke more anxiety in us.
People say obsession is bad. I say it entirely depends on what it is we’re obsessed with. I believe there’s such a thing as a healthy obsession and a destructive obsession.
For example, my obsession with the Netflix TV show, Stranger Things is a healthy obsession in my eyes as I enjoy it very much. My obsession with helping people overcome anxiety and panic attacks is something that I class as a healthy obsession.
My old obsession with anxiety was a destructive obsession. Not destructive in the sense that it was actually dangerous to my health. But destructive in the sense of severely damaging my enjoyment of life.
I forgot to mention that constant fixation and obsession with the anxiety actually makes us more sensitised or at least keeps the sensitisation in place.
So then, by becoming obsessed with something healthy, something emotionally and creatively satisfying, we can allow ourselves to desensitise. This is what Claire Weekes talks about in her book ‘Hope and Help For Your Nerves.’
Claire called it occupation. Occupying our minds with activities that take our attention away from our anxiety.
Whilst I think that general distraction isn’t really enough because it’s temporary. I truly think that finding something you are truly passionate about, something that you are truly obsessed with and are constantly fixated on to be a huge win-win.
It’s a huge win-win because 1) You find something you really enjoy and it satisfies you on a deeper level and 2) It helps you to desensitise because breaking the habit of fixating and obsessing over the anxiety contributes to the healing process.
What’s more, we will be rewiring our brain to adopt new and refreshed patterns of behaviour as opposed to the same anxious behaviour that is strengthened through neural connections.
How is this done? By constantly telling people about how anxious we feel, googling our symptoms for reassurance, checking our pulse and heart rate, obsessing about how we used to be compared to how we are now, feeding our mind the toxicity found on negative, anxiety provoking forums and groups.
How do we weaken these anxious connections in our brain? Through replacing these habits with better ones. Immersing our attention on the things we want to be doing. Whatever it is that you’re passionate about, spend more time on that instead of researching deeper into anxiety.
Whenever you can, do the stuff that lights you up. If you’re currently employed, spend your free time in the evenings and on weekends immersed in your favourite things.
If you’re not employed, spend all of your time doing this as it will help you to desensitise a lot quicker.
Don’t feel ashamed for getting obsessed with something. Even when people say that being obsessed with something is bad, ignore them. Whilst what they’re saying is partially true, it’s not entirely true. Remember what I said earlier, there’s such things as destructive and healthy obsessions.
Choose the latter. It’s much more helpful and enjoyable.
My latest obsession is walking in nature. I absolutely love it.
Again, it’s a huge win-win because 1) I’m getting exercise and 2) I am exposing myself to an environment which massively contributes towards good health. When walking in forests, I am breathing in the air which is being produced by oxygen rich trees… thanks very much you beautiful and tall twisted pieces of wood. The greenery and the environment in general just encourages me to feel grounded. I also enjoy bird watching and the possibility of spotting other wildlife.
When walking along the beach, it’s a win-win because 1) I’m exercising and I enjoy walking and 2) I am breathing in the sea air which is fresh. I also find walking along the beach whilst listening to the waves crashing to be very relaxing. Sometimes, I will also listen to an audiobook whilst walking in nature as this adds some creative imagination into the mix.
So, whatever it is that you enjoy, become obsessed by it, fall in love with it and do the thing as much as you can.
It doesn’t have to be one thing and it doesn’t have to be something spectacularly creative and big. It can be whatever lights you up. Whether that’s writing about something your passionate about or doing up cars in your spare time. Whatever it is, make this thing your new obsession. Bury that anxious obsession which feeds the anxiety.
I hope you enjoyed this article and found it useful in some way.
If you have any questions then please feel free to let me know. Was there anything you think I’ve missed here? Feedback is greatly appreciated as it helps me to improve my writing and refine my message.
Until next time