Your How-To Guide for Troubleshooting Anxiety

Use this how-to guide for troubleshooting anxiety to pinpoint the problem and decide how to move forward. Don't let anxiety stop you from the life you want.

Troubleshooting anxiety is an important part of the ongoing process of living well and thriving despite anxiety. Anxiety has an annoying habit of popping up at seemingly random times. Just when you think your anxiety is improving, it rears its hideously ugly head and jumps in front of you, blocking your path forward. Making matters worse is the fact that anxiety is often vague and hard to pinpoint. The following how-to guide for troubleshooting anxiety will help you identify specific problems and determine how you want to deal with them.

Troubleshooting Anxiety in Three Steps

First Troubleshooting Anxiety Step: The Reality Test

Anxiety is talkative. It runs in the background, and often the foreground, of our minds, making us overthink everything. Anxiety makes us believe that every anxious thought we have, every worry, and every fear are real. Having thoughts, though, doesn’t make them true. To determine if anxious thoughts are a problem, use this troubleshooting guide for reality testing.

  1. Is there a tangible problem that you can objectively identify?
  2. Do you have proof of what others are thinking or could you be mind-reading?
  3. Are your anxious thoughts preventing you from doing things you want to do?

These are just three examples of questions to ask yourself when evaluating your thoughts. If your answer to one or more questions is “yes,” you now know where you can focus your attention to get rid of anxious thoughts. If you ever answer “no” to any of these, you can be confident that anxious thoughts aren’t the problem. You can then turn your attention to a different part of the troubleshooting guide.

Second Anxiety Troubleshooting Step: Emotion Examination

Anxiety messes with our emotions. Anxiety can make us feel fear, which can stop us in our tracks. Worries are emotions, too, and anxiety often makes them spin out of control. Anxiety can zap our self-confidence, sometimes making us dislike ourselves. If this resonates with you, try the emotion examination part of the troubleshooting guide for anxious emotions.

  1. Stop and breathe deeply. Label your current emotions. (If you don’t have words, draw them.)
  2. Ask if these feelings are in proportion to what is actually going on around you?
  3. Ask if any of these emotions are getting in your way? If so, how?

These sample questions can help you troubleshoot your anxious feelings. Our worries and fears can escalate into panic and it can be debilitating because they feel very real. Being able to identify them specifically can help you decide if your level of anxiety matches the level of your emotions. If your answer is “no,” you can acknowledge the feelings and move forward anyway. If the answer is “yes,” you are now able to determine how to approach the problem, which will actually decrease anxiety.

Third Anxiety Troubleshooting Step: Action Review

Anxiety manifests itself in our thoughts, emotions, and actions. Two important questions can help you troubleshoot anxiety’s interference in your actions.

  1. Where do I want to go/what do I want to do?
  2. Am I consistently going in that direction?

Answering the first question is crucial. Anxiety is awful, so we know we don’t want anxiety. That leaves a big hole for anxiety to rush into. When you answer this question, you begin to replace anxiety with what you want.

If you answer yes to the second question, that means that anxiety isn’t causing you problems in your actions. You can then examine thoughts and emotions to determine the cause or effect of your anxiety. If you answered “no,” you can now create an action plan involving little steps to take every day to get where you want to go.

This anxiety troubleshooting guide can help you pinpoint the main source of anxiety. When your anxiety is no longer vague, you can go right to the heart of it to overcome it. Unfortunately, sometimes anxiety is so strong that you answer “yes” to everything in the troubleshooting guide. If that’s the case, it’s okay. You can use the guide to figure out what areas are causing you the most pain and start tackling anxiety there. Troubleshooting anxiety will help you move forward.

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2017, May 4). Your How-To Guide for Troubleshooting Anxiety, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 17 from

Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC, DAIS

Tanya J. Peterson is the author of numerous anxiety self-help books, including The Morning Magic 5-Minute Journal, The Mindful Path Through Anxiety, 101 Ways to Help Stop Anxiety, The 5-Minute Anxiety Relief Journal, The Mindfulness Journal for Anxiety, The Mindfulness Workbook for Anxiety, and Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 steps. She has also written five critically acclaimed, award-winning novels about life with mental health challenges. She delivers workshops for all ages and provides online and in-person mental health education for youth. She has shared information about creating a quality life on podcasts, summits, print and online interviews and articles, and at speaking events. Tanya is a Diplomate of the American Institution of Stress helping to educate others about stress and provide useful tools for handling it well in order to live a healthy and vibrant life. Find her on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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