Understanding the 3 Elements of Anxiety

Sherry Morgan
4 min readJul 21, 2022


Anxiety is a natural part of life. It is the thing that sends alerts of danger. Anxiety is when those signals are going off all the time. We are just strangers but let’s pretend instead that we are good friends.

Think about your anxiety like a fire. Four things must happen for a fire to happen. There must be enough oxygen to sustain combustion, heat to raise the material to its ignition temperature, and some fuel or combustible material.

All four elements must exist for a fire; if there is not enough of one thing, nothing happens. Now, let me frame that out for you in terms of anxiety. I have come to think about stress because it is like a fire. Three elements must occur for your anxiety to present itself. The key is to recognize it before a fire starts.

Heat is the initial triggers

Anxiety begins with triggers. At least for me, they do. It is what will start and keep the fire going if you do not determine its cause. The key to becoming in tune with your anxiety is learning to recognize the initial triggers and determine when it is getting too hot. Never ignore the stimuli. For some time, I thought if I missed these thoughts, if I forgot this feeling, it would simply go away, and some days it worked, but it was just a temporary fix to a long-term issue.

In a fire, the heat allows the fire to spread by drying out and preheating nearby fuel or some combustible material and warming the surrounding air. In this scenario, the energy or combustible material would be your thoughts.

Fuel is like negative thoughts

Anxiety for me begins with a thought. It doesn’t matter about what, but there are specific things that will trigger these thoughts. All it takes is one triggering scenario, and the idea becomes the fuel to the fire. Like fuel, thoughts can be big or small. They can vary from highly negative to simply not giving yourself grace for making a mistake. It could be overthinking a situation; your thoughts have run loss in your mind. Determining and understanding what those fueling thoughts are is needed because letting negative thoughts captivate your mind. Positive thinking is more straightforward said than done, but you can begin a journey by arming yourself with positive reviews to combat the negative ones.

Replacing a negative thought just by saying you won’t do it won’t work. It is just not the way the mind is designed. It would be best if you remembered to replace it with something else. For me, it is positive affirmations. Over the last few years, I have surrounded myself with positive affirmations. They come to me during the day as alerts from an app, or I follow several positive affirmation accounts on social media, meaning that even during my mindless scrolling, I come across several positive affirmations.

Photo by Nathan Lindahl on Unsplash

Oxygen supports the negative thoughts and initial triggers

I know that most people will tell you how oxygen is a bad thing. We need oxygen to survive. Well, so does fire, and so does your anxiety. Oxygen is what supports and feeds your negative thoughts and initial triggers. In this case, do you know what oxygen is? You are the oxygen, and if you have ever heard the saying mind over matter, you know that you ultimately have control over your mind and thoughts. You have to understand your triggers and how to combat negative thoughts, and there won’t be any oxygen left for that fire.

Be the oxygen in your life and use it in life-saving ways, not starting mini fires throughout your day. Seek out those positive thoughts and surround yourself with positive triggers. Most importantly, give yourself grace when you follow that thought and a mini wildfire appears. Although wildfires can be scary in most cases, those anxiety signals can be extinguished; remember, fires require all three things to be going simultaneously, so all you have to do is eliminate one.

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Sherry Morgan

Mental Health. Anxiety. Personal Growth. writtenbysherry.com Writer for Motivate the Mind, The Orange Journal and Change Your Mind Change Your Life