Generalized Anxiety Disorder – or GAD – is an ailment where the sufferer experiences a high rate of anxiety constantly. That’s 24/7, 365 days a year.
Sufferers have a constant stream of bad thoughts. Usually, they’re the “what if’s” or the always jumping to the worst conclusion. It’s a constant battle which can feel like a full on war between your body and brain. Every fibre of your body that the silly worries are just that, silly, but your brain takes over to the point where your body gets too exhausted to battle in at that thought consumes you.
Your boyfriend is late getting home from work.
GAD Brain: He’s been in an accident and his phone is dead and the hospital records aren’t up to date so he doesn’t have my new number. How will I know if he’s still alive? What if he’s dead? What am I going to do with my life? I can’t cope with out him What if He’s had an accident and no body has found him and he’s upside down in the car unconscious after swerving a rabbit and fallen off a cliff.What if he’s cheating on me? I bet she’s prettier, smarter, funnier, and doesn’t have a mental illness. What if he’s fed up of me and decided he can’t cope with my illness and has just abandoned me?
Regular Brain: He’s probably caught up in traffic, He’s probably stuck in a meeting, He’s probably broken down, He’s probably found a lost puppy and is currently reuniting it with its owner.
The thoughts of a GAD sufferer come in at 100 miles an hour constantly streaming in until you can’t pick out the silly thoughts from the real, useful thoughts it all snowballs like a big ball of rubber bands that you have to unravel one by one before you burst. There is no break, There is no particular thing that can set it off. It’s always streaming in at 100 miles an hour it can be thoughts from “what if I get into a car accident tomorrow?” to “What if I was the only person left on the planet?”
How to Overcome GAD and Related Thoughts
This simple trick can help you sort your thoughts.
Get a piece of paper and draw a table with 3 rows: thought, what you can do about it, what would you say to a friend with this thought?
Every time you have a thought write it down and think… E.g. thought: “What if I choke on my dinner” What I can do about it?: Nothing, I need to eat to stay healthy, If I choke I choke. I can make sure I chew my food thoroughly. What would I say to a friend who had this thought? Make sure you chew your food well and don’t over think it.
An acronym I learnt from a therapy session may also help you.
Acknowledge -Acknowledge the thought that comes into your head
Pause – Stop what you’re doing, don’t react how you normally would. Take a deep breath. Close your eyes.
Pull back – Remind your self it’s just your anxiety or depression. It’s only a thought. Do the table above in your head. Is this a silly thought?
Let go- Let the thought go. It will not control you. It will not consume you. You’ve acknowledged it, you’ve thought about it, now let it drift away into the abyss.
Explore – Explore the NOW. Be in the now. Notice your breathing, look around you, listen. Set your focus on something else, because this is NOW, and everything is fine.
You can also try grounding. Grounding is a technique to keep yourself in the present moment and not worrying about the past or the future.
A bit like the Explore part of the acronym.
Stop what you’re doing. Take deep breaths.
Sight: Look for 5 things around you that grab your attention
Hearing: Listen for 5 individual sounds
Touch: Touch 5 things around you
Taste: What can you taste in the air? Are you at a market? Can you taste the food being cooked around you? The rain? The coffee you just made?
Mindfulness is a great way to help stay in the now. Live in the present Take every day hour by hour or minute by minute. Remember they’re just thoughts. They can’t hurt you. They will pass.