In my last post I addressed the benefits of self-monitoring for anxiety. This time I want to consider some of the issues that trouble people about record-keeping as well as ways to get started.
As you may know, anxiety persists because people become trapped in a vicious cycle of thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Keeping a record provides a way to track progress and it can help to provide some level of understanding as to what is causing and maintaining anxiety. In fact this last issue isn’t too important. We don’t need to know all the ins and outs of how anxiety developed in order to recover from it.
My own experience tells me that people have all sorts of views about recording their anxiety. Some feel that focusing attention on themselves will make things worse. Actually, there is an element of truth in this, but for various reasons. It can come as something of an unpleasant shock to realize just how much your anxiety is dominating your life. There can be a strong element of embarrassment or even shame. This doesn’t apply in all cases. Many people finally feel a sense that something positive is happening. They may begin to see patterns emerging. Many will verify what they’ve suspected all along and others will be more of a surprise.
There are other potential blocks to monitoring that should be considered. People with busy lives sometimes complain about the practicalities of keeping a running record. They ask if they can fill in their record when things are more settled – often after work. Try to avoid this. You may need to be a little creative like using your email to send yourself information, or using your hand-held, etc. The more immediately you can take your record the less likely it is to be affected by memory and either exaggerated or moderated. Here’s why. Your record is likely to have five headings:
Here’s an example of how it works:
Situation: ‘a loud bang on the door’
Thoughts: ‘oh no. I bet it’s someone trying to sell something. I’ll pretend I’m out’
Feeling: anxious, fearful, ashamed
Behavior: hide in the kitchen
Context/comments: It could have been anyone. I may have missed something important
You may also find it useful to rate your anxiety on some scale, 0-10 for example.
Some people worry that they are a slow writer or make lots of spelling errors. None of that matters because the important thing is that you know what you’re getting at.
A surprisingly common concern, even in people without an anxiety disorder, is that by writing things down it increases the chances that bad things will happen. This assumed association is sometimes called magical thinking. It’s very common. How many times have we all heard and said ‘oh, don’t say that’, as if the mere utterance can affect the outcome? This quasi-magical thinking is probably more a reflection of our cultural upbringing, but for some people it runs deeper. If this affects you deeply you may need to devise your own system, perhaps a code, that allows you to avoid the issue head on.
Published On: May 05, 2014