Quick, 3-step way to reduce anxiety attacks with pen and paper

You know that sinking feeling when a certain individual’s name appears in your email inbox, or when your boss suddenly asks you to “pop into his office”? Or when suddenly 'everyone' seems to cancel plans with you? You are not alone.


As an anxiety specialist, I understand how overwhelming it can be to feel like stress and overthinking are taking over your life. That’s why I want to offer you some easy techniques that can help you ground yourself, reduce anxious feelings, and regain control over your thoughts and actions.

Separating facts from stories

Did you know that unlike stress, which is a physical reaction to a stimulus, anxiety is often a reaction to the stories we tell ourselves? These stories are based on our thoughts, beliefs, and past experiences, which can lead to stress and overthinking.

To address this, you can try separating the facts from the stories into their own boxes. Here’s how:

  • Take a piece of paper and write down the entire situation that is causing anxiety for you. Where are you? Who’s involved? What do you think about yourself? What does this situation mean to you? The more you can write the better. 'Milk out' all the fears, anxieties and frustrations out of your system on the paper until nothing comes up.
  • Take another page. Draw a line down the middle of the paper.
  • On one side, write a headline: “The facts of the situation”. On the other side, write a headline: “The story I’m telling myself about those facts”.

Look at the piece you wrote earlier and start separating facts and stories into their own departments with bullet points.

You may notice that the 'facts' side of the paper may have way fewer items than the 'stories' category. By doing this exercise, you can start to untangle the knot of emotions that are causing you to feel anxious.

Separating the facts from the story can help you gain a clearer perspective on the situation, and you may even realise that the story is creating the anxiety for you rather than the facts themselves.

Childhood experiences and anxiety

The stories that we tell ourselves about our situation and about ourselves may be very negative, regardless of us being successful and having lives that look seemingly perfect from the outside. The conflict of the mismatch between how we portray ourselves to others versus how we feel inside can be energy-draining.

When doing an exercise like this, many may start wondering why they have such negative stories about themselves. Or why their current moment or future always seems so gloomy to them when factually nothing is wrong.

When clients start working with me, they quickly learn how the way they 'write' stories in their minds is mainly 'borrowed' from the mindset of their parents during the early years of their childhood. And the way they feel trapped in negative situations feels very similar to how they felt as a child growing up.

Learning to see the origin of their inner storyteller is a way for them to start thinking in a way that actually serves them in their authentic, grown-up life.

Numerous studies have shown that childhood experiences can have a significant impact on mental health outcomes later in life. Research suggests that negative childhood experiences growing inside dysfunctional family relationships can increase the risk of developing anxiety (McLaughlin et al., 2011; Teicher et al., 2016). Furthermore, research indicates that healing from these negative experiences created by unhealthy early relationships in childhood requires a safe and nurturing relationship in adulthood.

Therefore, it is essential for individuals with long-term anxiety to seek out healthy relationships with professionals who can help them establish boundaries and develop a stronger sense of self.

Healing from anxiety: Tips for long-term relief

As an anxiety specialist, I understand that dealing with anxiety that persists for more than a few months can be a complex condition that requires a customised approach. Quick tips and tricks that you may come across online may not always be effective in managing your emotional state.

It's essential to understand that this does not mean that there is something inherently wrong with you. However, it may require more in-depth guidance and support to address the root cause of your anxiety and prevent it from recurring later in life.

For instance, if your anxiety stems from unresolved childhood relational issues, it can impact your current relationships. You may benefit from a nurturing and healthy relationship with a therapist or coach who can provide a safe space to explore and process your emotions. Research has demonstrated that working with a therapist or coach can significantly reduce anxiety symptoms and improve overall mental health outcomes.

Long-term anxiety often comes with a 'package' of emotional burdens that can impact your life, work, relationships, and income. If you have struggled with anxiety alone since childhood, you do not have to face it alone as an adult.

If you are dealing with anxiety, please do not hesitate to seek support. I offer a free 30-minute Zoom consultation where we can discuss your concerns and explore how I can assist you in healing and managing your anxiety. Remember that seeking help is a sign of strength. Book your free discovery call to take the first step towards a more peaceful and fulfilling life.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Written by Anna Jarviautio, Anxiety Specialist in Mayfair
London W1K & W1G

Anna Jarviautio is an anxiety specialist with a passion for helping stressed-out overthinkers achieve equanimity and become their true selves. She is based in London and operates out of clinics in Mayfair, Marylebone, and Harley Street. Not based in London? Not a problem: Zoom sessions are available to you wherever you are in the world.

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