Do you ever get a sudden knot in your stomach for seemingly no reason and your mind starts to focus on all of the negative things that it possibly can? That is exactly what it feels like when I’m anxious.
Despite being a generally go-with-the-flow, calm and collected type of person on the outside, I get anxious quite often. I get anxious because my own mind starts to sabotage me, when I start to feel like I’m not in control, or when I can’t tell what a person thinks of me even though I know I shouldn’t care.
I don’t know about you, but anxiety hits me right in the stomach. It’s a giant knot that feels like an anchor weighing me down. I can just be going about my business at work, feeling pretty content with life, and then all of a sudden a negative thought creeps into my head and BAM – there’s that knot.
Isn’t it funny how things that happen in the mind can show up as physical feelings?
And as soon as this anxiety creeps in, it consumes you. I usually have a million thoughts going on in my head, but when I’m anxious, I become so single-minded. I can’t be productive. All I can do is dwell on the issue and watch as the time slowly creeps by.
There was a time when I let this happen for months until I finally reached a point where I was tired of having my day disrupted by these ultimately useless feelings. I wanted to get to get to the root of the problem or at least find a way to deal with my feelings more productively.
In an attempt to calm down, I started keeping a log of my emotions throughout the day.
I wanted to see if certain times of the day were worse for any particular reason and if something was causing these feelings that I hadn’t noticed before. Here’s a sneak peak of what went down one day:
- 9:30a Feeling content
- 11:30a Feeling anxious
- 1p Feeling on top of the world
- 3:30p Feeling anxious
As soon as I started logging my feelings, I became profoundly aware of one thing:
These feelings come and go.
I was feeling content at one point in time, then a wave of dread came rolling in. Just as quickly as it came, it went away. The fact that I could clearly see that this wasn’t a permanent state was huge for me.
Often when I’m anxious, it’s because I’m thinking too far ahead in the future. I’m assuming that whatever situation I’m in right now is going to last forever. There’s this air of urgency. Like everything needs to be figured out right now.
Sometimes I have to remind myself that emotions, thoughts, and situations aren’t permanent. When I actually let this sink in, I realized that even if I experience anxiety in the future (which was undoubtedly going to happen), it wouldn’t be a permanent thing.
I began to feel free knowing that this feeling wasn’t going to stay with me forever.
Try this mindset shift:
The next time you’re feeling anxious, try to remember that you don’t have to do anything about your feelings and/or negative thoughts. You don’t actually have to fight anything or make it go away. Simply recognize this feeling as nothing more than a feeling and that you don’t have to attach any meaning to it. Trust that it will eventually quiet itself.
Now, this mindset shift isn’t going to solve your problems or help you overcome anxiety for good, but it might make your next anxious experience easier to handle.
Because I know it can be extremely difficult to shift your mindset when all you want to do is react, I have a suggestion for making this process a little simpler.
Keep a log of your feelings + thoughts
The next time you’re feeling anxious, worried, or uncertain, I encourage you to keep a log of your feelings and thoughts. Before you start attacking yourself or another person, write down what you’re feeling and why you think you’re feeling this way. Don’t go into it thinking you need to solve your problem or feel better about the situation. Just treat it as an experiment.
Write down or ask yourself the following questions:
- How might I be causing myself to suffer?
- Which thoughts do I know to be true?
- What information might I be missing or overlooking?
- Am I assuming anything?
- What is my intuition telling me?
- Will this matter tomorrow? In a year?
I also encourage you to write down or take note of those moments when you do feel content. Those moments are really precious, yet often go unnoticed because our brains are hardwired to remember negative experiences.
The next time your anxious mind wants to take control, try this technique and see what happens. I’m curious to know if it works for you like it worked for me!
Now, let me know…
How do you deal with anxious thoughts? Share any tips you have in the comments below!
This was just what I needed to read tonight. Especially remembering that I don’t have to ‘do’ anything about them. I don’t need to let that ‘freak out’ take over, I just need to breathe, acknowledge and move on.
So glad I could help, Lucy!
I often find this terrible anxious feeling comes over me when there is some unresolved conflict in my life. Sometimes it isn’t something I can do anything about so I just have to let it go but sometimes it means I have to acknowledge that feeling and actually speak up about it. I love the idea of a feelings journal.
That’s definitely a hard situation – feeling like something is unresolved. I definitely have things like that in my life and I’ve slowly learned that I can’t expect apologies from anyone and I just have to let things go.
Oh I love this! These feelings always come to me if I wake up in the middle of the night for some reason. And I try to notice that they always come at that time, not during the day and to know they will be gone when I wake up. New fan of your blog! -Linda
Ah it’s the worst when it happens at night because you’re just left alone in the dark with your thoughts! But definitely reassuring to know that they’ll be gone when you wake up. So glad you found my blog, Linda!
It was a huge breakthrough for me to realize that I might be feeling anxious now, but I won’t ALWAYS be feeling anxious. It gave me…a little less anxiety about my anxiety.
Isn’t it just mindblowing once you realize that? Total gamechanger.
Really appreciated this post! Just what I needed
Awesome to hear that, Jasmin! Thank you for taking the time to read and comment!
I have been practicing meditation for a little over a year now. Understanding and observing my emotions, instead of letting my emotions take control has been one of the best benefits. Anxiety used to take me over sometimes. Like you wrote, one moment I feel like the world is working in perfect order and I’m enjoying the ride. The next minute I’m overcome with stress and anxiety and can’t seem to even think of what to do next. It sometimes makes me incapable of getting any task done, or even responding to people. It’s like my mind is racing a million miles a minute and every thought seems overwhelming. But learning to be more mindful and more aware of these emotions and learning to understand the reason behind them, or maybe even the lesson is the true gift. This post hit home and I got some great ideas along with a great read,
So glad to hear this post gave you some ideas! xo
Thank you so much for this great article! It helped me so much! To remind oneself that feelings are NOT permanent is really making a huge difference! Christina from http://www.positivepsychologieblog.com
You’re so welcome and thank YOU, Christina!
Yes so true… thoughts are thoughts and we have control over our thoughts… if only we can learn to stop delving on a thought and over analyze them… thanks for your tips Catherine
Thank you for reading! <3
Such a valuable post :-) I think certain emotions hit us so hard because we tend to identify us too strong with them. Emotions in most cases create some kind of reaction in our body like feeling all of a sudden that knot. Our emotions are reactions from our thoughts. It all start with our thoughts. Being aware of our thoughts is the key to happiness. Observing negative thoughts when they arise. Realizing we are not these thoughts and emotions, but they are just a “product” of our mind. Observe them in curious and objective way. Just for a moment. And then … just let them pass.
Thanks for your thoughts.
I was having a lot of anxiety before reading this post and decided to give the login a try. I made it on my computer and use nice fonts and colors. I’m a designer so making things look nice puts me at ease. I really think this is such a great idea, I always feel better after I write about how I am feeling. Thanks for this!
Ooh yes, making things look nice can be such a simple way to put you at ease. I feel the same way when I’m taking photos or designing things for my blog – it takes my mind of everything else.
Hi Catherine! I am so glad to have found your lovely blog, and this is a wonderful post. I have found that writing things out when I feel anxious really helps. I tend to find little slips of paper all over the place from times I have needed to write encouraging thoughts so my purse and pockets end up giving me surprises sometimes. Thanks for the idea of keeping a log. Maybe if I do that I can track my progress a little better. Anxiety is something I have dealt with for a long time so I am always looking for ways to find peace.
HiCatherine..I am also suffering from anxiety from quite a long time. I was desperately searching about intense stomach knot during anxious thoughts, but I hardly find suitable article. The physical manifestation of my anxiety is stomach knot and when my anxious mind desperately try to find the reason, it amplifies. I know if i ignore this feeling it will fade away but the urge to analyze the feeling is quite appealing. Now I can see I am not the only one with this knot feeling in stomach. Thanks for sharing your struggle.
Thank you for sharing YOUR struggle, Narayan!
I just found out your blog and I love it. I started having really bad anxiety and panic attacks a couple months ago and so far it’s been a emotional journey.
I looked for help and I’m doing the best that I can, but it feels so good knowing that there’s people who has been through the same thing and had overcoming it. Your blog has been a source for help and understand, one that I really need it. Reading that one of the things that I need to do is just let myself feel put so many things in perspective now. I’m used to try and find the source of the symptoms when the anxiety strikes and often comes with negative thoughts about my health, when all I really need to do is acknowledged the feeling and let it pass.
Thank you for sharing this, you have no idea how many lives you might been helping with this, mine included.
Regards from Venezuela!
I’m SOOO glad to hear this was helpful, Paola! I think it’s good to understand the source of your symptoms, but at the same time, overanalyzing our feelings can make them last longer than they need to.
this paragraph, “The next time you’re feeling anxious, try to remember that you don’t have to do anything about your feelings and/or negative thoughts. You don’t actually have to fight anything or make it go away. Simply recognize this feeling as nothing more than a feeling and that you don’t have to attach any meaning to it. Trust that it will eventually quiet itself.” was so good. it literally brought tears to my eyes to think that it could be that easy to get rid of the anxious thoughts and feel free of them. i printed that paragraph out and have it up on my bulletin board for me to see everyday. thank you so much catherine!
I LOVE hearing that, Lydia! So glad it was helpful for you <3
Take a look at this book – “Loving What Is,” by Byron Katie, or visit her site at thework.com – you will have a totally new outlook on what thoughts are, how to question them and what to do with what you are learning.
I did start the book recently but had a hard time getting into it. Maybe I need to try it again!