I was listening to a podcast today and he said something that caught my attention. “We all have our anxieties – the trick is how we deal with it.” Even I, who spend a great deal amount of time thinking about anxiety, hadn’t thought of it like that. But he’s right.
There’s a never-ending anxiety, a stress, a weird sort of momentum always pushing us forward. We want more, we fight for more, and we get really, really upset when we don’t get it. We put ourselves in a sort of dissonance. Who we want to be doesn’t quite match up with who we are, and it causes something we call stress.
Some of us drink, or self harm, or become complete workaholics. Some of us run. We run from our panic, our fears, our disappointment, our stress. We run until we can’t feel anything anymore. But still, the anxiety creeps in.
For some of us, the anxiety doesn’t just feel like stress. It’s a panic within our souls, a knot in our stomachs, a body so tense it’s fatigued. In a constant state of fight or flight. Our body becomes our master, and we are a slave to its anxiety.
But what if we weren’t?
What if we could grab ahold of that anxiety and bend it to our will? What would we be capable of?
Little by little, I’ve learned of tricks to get myself out of the hole. Even though you know yourself best, give some new things a try – you might be surprised as to what you find.
1. Find something to be excited about, and then tell yourself the anxiety is just about that thing. It won’t work at first, but keep going. You’re trying to re-wire your brain, it’s not gonna work overnight.
2. Pick up a sketchbook, a paint brush, a book, or a notepad. Build something with your hands. Work on a garden, or tend to the yard for the first time ever. Clean up the house. Point is to get yourself moving, channel that nervous energy. Soon it won’t even feel like anxiety anymore.
3. Follow your anxious thoughts to their logical end. For example, you’re worried about tanking a coming up presentation. And then what? Does the world implode or descend into immediate war? Does your heart stop beating? No? Then why are you so afraid? We often become anxious about things without realizing the consequences are never as bad we imagined. I loved this post I found (and apologize for the not-so-great quality).
4. Go for a walk, or a bike ride, or a jog. Any sort of exercise really. Get those juices flowing, release the nervous energy, and get out of your own head for a while.
5. Breathe. I know this is cliché but it’s actually true. Deep breaths. If your chest is rising and falling, you’re doing it wrong. Breathe so that your stomach inflates. Relish in the oxygen. I focus on my breathing and tell myself that I’m doing my brain a favor, it can think better with an extra dose of oxygen.
6. Look around. Name 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste. In the psych field, this is called grounding. It takes your mind away from the cycle of negativity. It ‘brings you back’ so to speak. Sometimes it’s helpful to remind yourself of where you are, of what’s going on around you. There is life beyond anxiety – never forget that.
7. Laugh. Trust me. Find something silly or BE the something silly. Find the little joys in life. Whether it be at a pet, or a silly joke or video, at a friend. Smile even if you have nothing to smile about. Eventually your brain will catch up with your face and help you feel better.
8. Remind yourself that you are safe. Anxiety, and fear, is a way for the body to tell you it senses something dangerous. For people with chronic anxiety everything feels unsafe. Override this. You are safe. You are okay. Thank your body for the warning and write it off as a false alarm. If you need to keep “I am going to be okay” on a loop playing in your head. There’s no shame in that.
I am going to be okay. I AM okay.
Always keep moving forward. Anxiety will not be the end of you. Have hope. Fight back, I know you’ve got it in you. It’s worth a try, you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.
I wish you the best in your journey.