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  • Writer's pictureDaisy Valentine

The Roots of anxiety – Where does my anxiety come from?

Updated: Jun 7, 2021

Addressing your feelings and emotions that stem from anxiety Do you sometimes say to yourself ‘I am feeling anxious’ or ‘This makes me anxious’ without really knowing the root of the problem and why anxiety is sometimes part of your life? This is without a doubt a problem for a lot of people currently because of lockdown, covid and uncertainty of what life will look like into the future.

Anxiety can be seen as an immediate problem a reaction to the here and now, whereas most anxiety stems from the root of an issue or problem from your past. If that is the case, you can break the cycle of worry by addressing why you are feeling like this. We can compare anxiety to the humble tree, its roots are complex, and the branches of anxiety can get bigger if not addressed.

Roots – the origin of anxiety If we look at the root system first, what is the real root of anxiety for most people? We can look at childhood as root cause of how we act and behave in our adult life.

These formative years create who we are, as a result of any trauma we can create a pattern of anxiety that can hold us back as adults.

These roots could be your experience at school, your relationship with your parents or a near death experience at a young age. You may notice that the combination of trauma and experience can lead to developing a condition such as agoraphobia. You may have heard about agoraphobia and at a basic level it’s fear of open spaces.

However, this is a more complex disorder that can hold you back in day-to-day tasks such as travelling or going to shopping centres and public spaces. Other roots of anxiety in the modern world could be the social judgement that comes from how you live your life, the way you dress, your choice of pronouns and the pressure to look a certain way. For example, do you feel like you should be the perfect teacher with a world knowledge during home-schooling? Proof of this can be seen in the media with parents proudly showing their timetables and structured day for their little ones. An image of what is deemed the perfect life can induce anxiety and images on social media has not helped with keeping your own mind calm.

Have you ever thought that your anxiety could be inherited from your parents who you observe in your early years and from this you may copy their behaviour patterns?

Trunk – anxiety as you know it If your roots to anxiety are well grounded this can have a compounding effect on your mood, your actions and how you cope with everyday stressors. Like the trunk of a tree, it grows and gets bigger this is how anxiety can take over your life if you don’t address the root of the problem.

Branches – triggers of the past In most cases anxiety can resurface in life due to triggers, these can be often very complex and personal. Triggers could include your senses, something you see, a smell or sound that takes you back to your past trauma. It also could be similar action for example, having to lead a presentation in a team meeting at work could be the trigger, maybe from a childhood experience of standing in front of the class and feeling overwhelmed and judged. Triggers are like branches, they grow, are complex and crossover into various parts of our lives. If we do not address the problem these branches will get bigger and in turn will be difficult to manage.

If you have got to point in life where anxiety is shaping your actions, it’s time to seek help. If you find you are avoiding social situations, not going for that perfect job or university course due to anxiety it’s time to change. The leaves on the trees are kind of like the outcomes from your own insecurities. Some people create a world where they feel save but restricted as their anxieties have not been addressed.

Leaves – fight or flight response You can change your outlook to your own anxiety, in comparison to the negative tree analogy a tree also stands strong and grows and regenerates itself, it holds a complex and strong root system, and its branches and leaves expand out seeking light and nourishment. Next time you say to yourself ‘I’m anxious’ seek out why you are anxious and nourish yourself with self-love and compassion. Most importantly you should not think that there is something wrong with you. Anxiety is a fight or flight response to the environment. We used this gift to avoid danger in the past, but since humanity evolved and started living in the cities and larger societies this response evolved as well and adapted to our new surrounding and experiences. You should see anxiety as your ally, it’s there to inform you that there is a wound you need to address. Do not fear, you can work on yourself and improve your life by working on anxiety-reducing techniques.

Below are some practical ideas to reduce your anxiety: Self-affirmations You may find self-affirmations useful as they can help reset your runaway thoughts. You could find a phrase or just one word that makes you feel good or boosts your self-esteem. Writing your worries Have you ever thought, I can express myself better on paper? Examples such as world clouds, short stories, poems and word art pieces can help you see what is troubling you. By creating something on paper can help you use the power of distraction away from your anxieties. Take time to talk Talking can help, you may be amazed that others may feel anxious like you. You could find a forum or group that you can share your worries. They do say a problem shared is a problem halved, give it a go you maybe surprised. The Power of five The technique below is a well thought of way of reducing your anxiety levels by controlling your breathing and lowering your heart rate. Below you can find a 5 stepped approach which incorporates all your senses: sight, touch, sound, smell, hence the power of 5.

Let’s start… Find a quiet or safe place and concentrate on your breathing, you can place your hands gently on your stomach and feel your normal breath rhythm. Take a deep inhale for 5 seconds and exhale for 10 seconds if you can. Complete this a few times until you feel ready and grounded. This is a 5-step exercise and can be adapted to what works for you. Firstly, acknowledge five things you can see.

This could be the light from the window, the colour of the walls or an object such as vase or ornament that stands out in the moment. After this acknowledge four things that you can touch, this could be the sofa or the cushions, the bed linen or even the clothes you are wearing. Then acknowledge three things that you can immediately hear. This could be the sounds outside your house, the ticking of a wall clock or even your breathing as you inhale and exhale from your nose. You are nearly there as you acknowledge two things you can smell, this could be your perfume or any candles or intense you are burning. Or could be warmth or coldness in the air around you are in, or the smell of a cup of coffee or hot chocolate. Finally, acknowledge one thing you can taste, this could be a fresh taste of toothpaste, or alternatively have some chocolate or something sweet to hand to place in your mouth and enjoy for a few moments.

Repeat this process each day and you may find your anxiety is reduced due to this simple grounding technique. If you are still struggling, make sure you speak to someone who cares for you or seek help from a Mental Health Therapist.

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