Rediscovering Self #6 – “I live in constant dread that something bad is going to happen”

The fear of uncertainty

In the fifth episode of the Rediscovering Self with Amrutam podcast, host Preethi Parthasarathy explores the theme “I live in constant dread that something bad is going to happen” with Aanchal Harjai. An RCI licenced clinical psychologist and a dedicated mental health professional, Aanchal has experience working in multiple domains. Her competencies range from providing mental health services including initial screening, assessments, diagnosis, psychotherapeutic treatment plans, and psycho-education amongst others. She takes individual and group therapy sessions and is also a member of the Indian Association of Clinical Psychologists.

In the first segment, host Preethi dives right into the question – “Why do we feel a constant dread about bad things happening to us?” To which Aanchal responds that it stems from the idea that we all worry about something or the other. Considering how our life has been for the past couple of years with the COVID pandemic, this feeling of dread and fear has only aggravated. Unpredictable and uncertain times frighten us and make us be extremely careful and wary about everything we do on the daily basis.

“These feelings of fear and worry are very integral to human nature but when we start dwelling on them, they seem to become larger than just a thought or feeling and start affected us adversely. I like to call them as Automatic Negative Thoughts or ANTs. These are certain negative cognitions that come to us when life gets challenging or we feel overwhelmed by certain life event,” says Aanchal.

Perhaps these thoughts alone are not so dangerous and would probably not cause much damage, but since there is a constant stream of negative thoughts that our mind gets exhausted from battling it all the time. And this in turn takes a toll on our self-esteem and affects the way we view ourselves.

Reflections of the self

We live in a world where there are so many stressors. Even if we are in a positive situation or place in life, the fear of something bad happening can ruin our present. More often than not, we end up blaming ourselves and questioning if we really deserve to be happy in life. “The more the negative thoughts, the more it shall lead to negative actions consequently affecting the life you are leading in the present,” adds Aanchal.

“The feeling or emotion of something bad happening to us is actually linked to our very own self-worth. The inadequacies and deficiencies we see in ourselves tend to manifest into thoughts that prevent us from seeing the positives. How we view ourselves reflects directly in how we see and experience the external world.”

The apprehensions and anxieties we experience so often are actually emotions that arise from thoughts. In other words, our thoughts are precursors to our emotions. So in order to learn to regulate our emotions, we need to be more aware of our thinking patterns, triggers and cognitive beliefs. Aanchal explains, “At times we resort to futuristic or wishful thinking that we end up detaching ourselves from the reality. We need to reflect on our core beliefs and stop assuming what others may be thinking.”

Thoughts and thought diaries

One of the best ways to build awareness about yourself is to maintain what Aanchal calls a “thought diary”, something she also recommends her clients to do. Preethi quips if this is something that can be done by people who don’t have access to therapy, and the answer is of course, a resounding yes!

 “If you are experiencing negative emotions that are consistent and affect the quality of your life then you should certainly consult a professional. But if your emotions are fractured and appear once in a while then a good way to keep track of why you are feeling what you are feeling would be to maintain a thought diary.”

Maintaining a thought diary is frankly quite easy. All you need is a notebook or diary and a pen to jot down your thoughts. You can start with a thought that’s been negatively affecting you and the situation in which the thought first came to you or comes to you frequently. Then try describing the situation and why you may be thinking this way and what could have triggered you it. Understanding the core beliefs around the thought can help you build a lot of self-awareness.

However, it is always recommended to seek professional help if you feel extremely overwhelmed by these thoughts or find yourself unable to identify these triggers. Feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy are common among people who have experienced childhood trauma, abuse or deep emotional turmoil growing up since our core beliefs are formed in our early years. A mental health professional will not only help you ascertain yourself better but will also guide you in achieving higher self-awareness ultimately improving the quality of your life.

Anxiety and its forms

 “All of us experience anxiety at some point in our lives. In some ways, this anxiety is healthy as it helps us avoid dangerous situations and prevent bigger harms. But if the anxiety manifests into physical symptoms like palpitations, tremors, breathlessness, digestive issues, difficulty in falling asleep or feeling choking then it will affect your ability to focus or concentrate and create a dissonance. Consulting a professional in this situation can help you manage these symptoms of what could be an anxiety-related disorder.”

In the final segment, Preethi and Aanchal discuss different ways in which one can avoid or reduce feeling this constant dread and panic. One of the ways could be to chunk down our long-term or big goals into small achievable goals to avoid feelings of overwhelm and apprehension. “I recommend my clients to maintain SMART goals which is an acronym for Smart, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound goals,” explains Aanchal. Maintaining a thought diary will definitely help you in building self-awareness. And lastly, making good lifestyle choices like eating healthy, sleeping on time, exercising regularly, recreation and relaxing, and maintaining a social circle can immensely benefit your mental health.

Find a therapist

We hope this episode was helpful to you. If you are struggling with your mental health and wish to seek therapy, then here is a list of mental health professionals that you can reach out to. All you must do is filter out the professionals that fit your criteria and write an email to them introducing yourself and explaining briefly what you are going through and be a little patient with their responses. The right professional will reach out to you soon and we hope you have a meaningful journey of getting to know yourself and building self-awareness through therapy.

Team Amrutam sincerely wishes you all the best and lots of love.

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