Building Your Anxiety Defense Toolbox

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HALT – hungry, angry, lonely, tired (HALT) – learning your warning signs to prevent anxiety

Do you get anxious when you are tired? What about hungry? Or alone on a Saturday night?

Finding these triggers goes a long way towards planning around them. And not getting too triggered… aka freaked out.

But when you start to get anxious have you ever noticed:

  • Sweating
  • Racing thoughts
  • Stuttering
  • Mind chatter
  • Heart palpitations
  • Defeatism
  • Flustered – losing track of priorities
  • Negative thinking
  • You are fixating on certain topics
  • Anger
  • You are doing engaging in certain behaviors
  • A desire to run away
  • Experiencing feelings of fear, anger, etc?
  • Lack of concentration

I’d encourage you to journal about these and how you are feeling (mentally and physically) when anxiety is coming on. Through this you can recognize your anxiety early warning signs.

And this is important for a few reasons.

1) You may not be aware of all of yours already

2) Just writing them down will make you more aware of them so you can recognize these symptoms more easily

3) And when you recognize them, you can learn to intelligently and automatically reduce the worry and anxiety before they get out of hand

You can, and should, journal about some of your anxious moments. It allows you to externalize the feelings and have a record of your achievements later.

Here is a pretty standard experience of mine: I realize I have a bill coming up, like a credit card. I start wondering how much it could be for. I think of all the stuff I bought, and I know it’s probably double my best guess. I come up with a big number. I starting thinking about my bank account. The amount of money that is in it. I start thinking about my other bills.

My mind starts racing. My heart rate increases. I begin to sweat. If I am around other people or suppose to be working, I become disengaged. I just want to go home. I get fearful about spending money. And it can even lead to other topics that stress me out like work, projects around the house, etc.

Before I know it, I’m fully freaked out, thinking about how much money is in my bank account for the credit card bill.

And I realize, I can’t do anything about this at the time (unless I can). I normally pop a Zen Anxiety at this point. And I say to myself – put it out of your mind… Everything will be fine.

When I notice this pattern and these early warning signs, I am able to be proactive about them. The next chance I get, I deal with it by looking into each account. This can take 20 minutes, with several web browsers open. Once I get concrete data that I can work with, instead of guessing (read: worrying), I can put all the balances into Excel or get a calculator and create a budget.

I stop worrying about the maybes and what-ifs and concentrate on concrete facts like how much money I’ll have left over after paying the bills. This makes making decisions vastly easier, for instance, if I should pick up some extra work, or cancel some upcoming money-sucking activities.

I still don’t see it coming from the very beginning, but what I can do is recognize when I’m in the middle of it and take steps to alleviate the feelings and create a plan to avoid it in the future.

That recognition and the actions I can take to address the issue makes me feel empowered. And my thoughts don’t run away with me the next time it comes up.

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