Tracking symptoms and activities to help you figure your anxiety out

For three months, I’ve been tracking some symptoms and activities. This is and isn’t related to anxiety: I wanted to use this to help me spot triggers, but I also wanted to see how anxiety was connected to PMS, if at all. (Spoiler alert: yes, sorta.)

The first step was to figure out exactly what I wanted to track. Some things, like feeling fragile or headaches(which I experience often) were no-brainers. But there were other things that I was wondering about: how did the amount of time I spent outside affect my mood? What about time I spent with the dude? Ultimately, I settled on the following list of symptoms and activities:

  • headaches
  • yoga
  • sleep
  • alone time
  • stress
  • time with the dude
  • stimulation(light, sound, and crowds)
  • outside time
  • fragile
  • happy
  • irritable
  • anxious

Some of these things, like yoga and outside time, are binary. I either did, or I didn’t. For these, I use a simple check(for yes) or block(for no). Other things need a sliding scale, so I use a 3 point, color-coded one: blue for good/normal, purple for meh/a little much, and red for no no stop this is horrible.img_8178

I decided to keep this simple and set it up on graph paper (you can easily print some out from the internet). A blank one looks like this:img_8021-1

 

Here’s the first week of April so you can get an idea of how the code looks:

Obviously there are some flaws with this system, namely that I don’t have a way to denote special circumstances. For example, when the dude goes out of town or I’m traveling. Suggestions? Circle the dates? Square the dates? Color the dates?

I fill this out each night before I go to bed, keeping it in the back of my gratitude journal for easy access, and while I only have three months of data, I feel like I’ve learned so much about myself. Clearly my headaches are PMS related, and they’re less intense when I do yoga often. Sleep and anxiety are also directly related, which I knew already, but it’s validating to see it on the page.

It’s also nice to see that my mood is actually way more stable than I feel like it is sometimes. As is the way with anxiety, the bad tricks you into believing that it’s always bad, but it’s not. I’m also surprised that outside time and time with the dude have less of an effect on my mood than I thought, which I kind of love. I mean, hanging out with the dude is my favorite thing ever, but it’s also kind of nice to know that my mental well-being doesn’t rest as strongly on that as I might have assumed.

I would highly encourage you to do this for yourself. Even if you only want to track one or two things, it’s really helpful to see it laid out on the page, and it’s also a nice, end-of-day ritual to help you reflect. Sometimes, in the moment, I’m like ohmygod this is horrible I’m going to die, but when I sit down to track it, I realize that it wasn’t actually that bad. Perspective is a beautiful thing, guys.

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