What does self-awareness mean to you?
Chronic anxiety and stress are often related to a strong feeling of overwhelm. When things get to be too much and we just don’t know what to do next, we either freeze (do nothing), fly (run away and avoid), or fight (we get tense, irritable, even angry and everyone around us knows it)!
I am huge on self-awareness. This is a pretty cool and fairly new topic in the world in psychology, but it has so much influence on one’s well-being! It's the first step in emotional intelligence.
Let me digress for a second and I promise I will get back to self-awareness. One of my biggest pet peeves in therapy is when a clinician only looks at one aspect of the individual. You may find a counselor who will just debate your negative thoughts, one who will only validate and empathize with your feelings, one that will just try to change your behaviors or your primary care physician who will just give you drugs.
Most of us (if not all) are more than just a collection of negative thoughts, unpleasant feelings, or unhealthy behaviors. Stress and anxiety can and will move in a circular motion and usually affect more than one area of our lives.
I'm a holistic therapist, which means I like to integrate every part of your life into the diagnosis and treatment plan. I look at all mental health conditions, including anxiety, from 7 basic perspectives of the human experience: behaviors, emotions, thoughts, sensations, mental imagery, interpersonal, and last but not least biology.
And for that, I like to use the BASIC ID (invented a long time ago by another therapist, Arnold Lazarus) which helps me and my clients sort out their entire experience.
We look at:
- What’s a BASIC ID (behavior, affect, sensation, imagery, cognition, interpersonal, drugs)
- Self-care tips and ideas
- Your own Basic ID and self-care
So, what do these have to do with self-awareness? Well, you are the only expert on yourself and you are the only one that knows exactly what’s going on in your head, heart, and body. In order to receive good treatment, you also have to get really good at understanding your own experience and communicating it to your doctor. Otherwise, you are left at the mercy of his or her assumptions (and trust me, that’s not a good thing).
When life becomes overwhelming to the point where you are questioning your mental health, it’s hard to tell the trees from the forest and the forest from the trees. It’s hard to voice what you need when you don’t really know what is wrong. That’s why using visuals, journals, and planners to organize what is going on in our heads is extremely helpful. The activity in itself is calming and anxiety-relieving because organizing thoughts in our head is a way to control what’s going on and anxiety is all about control.
And if you are not ready for either, that’s ok too, but I hope you can take a few minutes and comment below on if any of this brings up any powerful stories or experiences from your own mental health journey.
ABOUT: Dr. Ruxandra LeMay is a private practice psychologist in Litchfield Park, Arizona with experience in family therapy, ADHD, stress and anxiety management, and executive coaching. She is the author of My Spouse Wants More Sex Than Me: The 2-Minute Solution For a Happier Marriage.