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5 Tools That Will Help You Tame Anxiety
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States. Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment. These recent statistics, while not surprising, are unfortunate for the 63.1% of people suffering from anxiety that don’t get help or perhaps don’t have access to help. Many people have no clue where to even start.
Anxiety symptoms include:
- Racing fearful thoughts
- Tension in the chest causing strained breathing
- Shallow breaths
- Feeling fragile and vulnerable
- Lack of ability to focus and a short attention span
- Body aches and pains- usually the stomach, shoulders, jaw, and back
- Irrational fears that feel true and inevitable
Most of my one-on-one clients suffer from some form of anxiety, and I discovered that most of their problems are due to not managing their minds. It’s not their fault. They were not taught any tools to use their mind properly. Prior to this new wave of positive psychology and self-development, talking about emotions was akin to saying, “I’m weak and incapable.” While this was never true, that stigma lives on while people continue to live without access to tools that could change their life.
I had to learn through tons of trial and error, including two different psychotherapy trainings, and still have my bad days. We are all human, and humans have feelings. It’s about time we learn to use them powerfully.
Here are some suggestions to get you on the path to more peace as quickly as possible.
1 > Don’t take all the voices in your head seriously, personally, or as truth.
When you believe thoughts that scare you, your body doesn’t know the difference between real and imagined thoughts. Your emotions react as if the thoughts were true. This process of emotionally reacting to thoughts before anything real has actually happened is what causes most people’s anxiety.
You have thoughts. You, the real you, are not the random, looping thoughts in your head. Think of thoughts as radio waves, and you can tune your receiver to receive the channel you actually want. If you don’t focus and direct your mind, then you will have a bunch of noise and overlapping thoughts, which lead to an anxious way of being. By directing your mind and managing your thoughts, you can stop taking life so seriously and see things with more clarity.
2 > Fact-check your fearful thoughts.
Byron Katie is a spiritual teacher who discovered freedom in her own life by questioning the thoughts in her head. Since then, her work, called “The Work,” has helped millions begin to see beyond the persistent illusion that our thoughts are true or right all the time. Try this for yourself. Pluck a thought from your mind that causes you pain. Then try these questions.
Question 1: Is it true?
Question 2: Can you absolutely know it’s true?
Question 3: How do you react—what happens—when you believe that thought?
Question 4: Who would you be without the thought? …
3 > Pause and take breaks. Exhaustion breeds anxiety. Take regular breaks to reset.
Box Breathing – Watching a clock or timer breathe in for 5 counts, hold for 5 counts, out for 5 counts, and hold for 5 counts. Repeat for 1-2 min.
Meditation Apps and Reminders – Apps and devices like Fit Bit, Calm, Headspace, and the Apple Watch have made it easier in this busy, fast-paced world of multiple screens to take a break and follow their mindfulness prompts. Try their two-minute process, and other guided meditations until you are able to take breaks on your own without needing to follow a guide.
H.A.L.T. – In recovery programs, they advise not to act if you are hungry, angry, lonely, or tired- H.A.L.T. This pretty much works for life too. STOP. And reset rather than continue to act from an un-resourced state.
Sleep – Get adequate sleep. It’s extremely necessary to managing anxiety. Sleep deprivation and mental health are not friends.
4 > Control your Controllables.
Grab a notepad and make 2 columns.
What you can control on one side and what you can’t control on the other side. Even though you could try to think this out in your head, the power of this exercise is to write it out. Then look at it and intentionally let go of what you cannot control. This includes caring what other people think, controlling what other people do, needing other people to be different than they are for you to be ok, and many other things outside your control.
Also, try to avoid running a million possible scenarios in your head in order to “be prepared.” Worrying doesn’t prepare you; it only wears you down.
5 > Try the easiest Yoga ever. No special pants needed!
Yoga Nidra helps your nervous system SLOW down and gives your mind cues to focus on your body. You can wear your pajamas and just chill. Try this example:
Ultimately, you can retrain your mind with consistent self-care tools and by prioritizing yourself to take the time to reset when your emotions are getting overly amped up. Emotions are actually intelligent indicators meant to get your attention and provide energy and information. Yet, again, we weren’t taught how to understand our emotions, just like our thoughts. Anxiety as an emotional symptom is a sign you are not present.
Most cases of anxiety can be improved by managing the mind and increasing self-care.
Overall, just be nicer to yourself. You are doing your best.
Trust me; no one has it “figured out.”
If you’d like to learn more tools to enhance your life go to: jennasmithcoaching.teachable.com.
Disclaimer: This article is geared toward those that suffer from an inability to self-regulate when they begin to feel anxiety. Diagnosed anxiety disorders require the care of their health care professional.
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