Getting To The Root Of Your Anxiety

Impatient businessman working with laptop computer in office, filling data on spreadsheet and biting nails for stress. Overworked man, feeling anxious for strict deadlines.

It’s early – you slept in because you struggled to get to sleep last night. You rush around trying to get yourself (and children) ready for the day ahead. You feel as though there’s something stuck in your chest like you didn’t swallow properly, but you haven’t actually eaten anything because who has the time, right? You’re finding it difficult to breathe and you’re wondering if you have asthma. Then a wave of nausea crashes over you and heat rushes from your head to your toe. You are now convinced that you’re having a heart attack. For some people, this feeling passes and they laugh off the fact that they thought it was serious. Others will go straight to the ER believing that they are about to die. The situation is serious either way – this is anxiety.

Whether you had to see your doctor to determine it was anxiety or you came to the realization on your own, you cannot go on like this. Something has to give. There are all different types of anxiety, too. For some, it starts in childhood and for others, they don’t experience anxiety issues until adulthood. No matter when it starts, there will be a root. In finding the root of your anxiety you can control it.

40 million adults in America are affected by anxiety (, that’s just over 18% of the population. Despite the fact that anxiety is something that can be treated, less than 40% of them are being treated. There are all different ways to cope with it – some are healthy and others are not. Some people might take medication, others may exercise, and then there are people who drink, use drugs or turn to food. Even the healthy ways of dealing with anxiety aren’t going to help you correct the root issue.

Let’s get to the root of your anxiety, in these four steps.

1. Connect
Find a quiet place to sit down and prepare to get connected with your anxiety. What does your anxiety feel like? What type of symptoms is it that you experience? What typically triggers your anxiety? Who triggers your anxiety? Write all of it out.

2. Review
Now take a look at everything that you have written down. When you see a word or phrase that jumps out at you or is a trigger, highlight it (you can also circle or underline it). These will be words that provoke a feeling. Once you have completed this exercise, you should pick the three words that you find more powerful or prevalent.

3. Memories
For this part of the exercise, you should allow your thoughts to flow freely. You should think about memories that you associate with the three chosen words – early memories and strong memories in particular. Don’t self-edit, just let it all pour out.

4. Review
It’s time for the final review. In most situations, there’s a single theme that prevails. You will have a variety of themes, but one will repeat. That repeating theme is the root of your anxiety. At least, of this specific anxiety. If you have a variety of anxieties, you will need to repeat this exercise for each of them.

5. Heal
The final step is your healing. Anxiety is exhausting, but re-frame it as a lesson you are learning. It’s up to you to determine where you go from here. For most people, finding the root of an anxiety is the first step in overcoming it. How else can you truly recover from something if you don’t know what is truly causing it? This exercise is something you can repeat as often as you want.

At Citizen Counselling and Coaching a number of our counsellors and coaches can provide support around anxiety. This can include identifying the obstacles to being less anxious, creating practical plans and advice through sharing techniques and models that have worked for others.
Our ‘My Anxiety Coach’ online programme and Coaching was designed for time poor busy people looking to increase their confidence and make a positive change in their lives.
Our Overcoming Anxiety page can explain more