Anxiety is a part of you, but it doesn’t have to define you. Take these tips to heart, and the next time you find yourself in an anxiety attack, try one out for yourself.
Look, we all have plenty of reasons on a good day to have a little anxiety running loops in our head. But right now? You have every right to feel overwhelmed. You have every right to freak out a little.
But you also get to choose what you feel.
If you’re capable, if you have the means and the motivation, you can turn this part of your brain off, and you can take back control of your thoughts. You can put out your own anxiety.
I’m not gonna lie, it requires a lot of motivation to work through the fear to proactivity. If you can break through the tidal wave though, you can effectively put yourself into a state of calm — no matter what’s going on in the news.
Center yourself, enjoy what is, and remember that everything, no matter how hard it may seem, is working in your favor if you’re willing to see things differently.
Be Willing to Be Positive
There’s no arguing that there are reasons to be negative. Coming from the queen of cynicism and the baroness of bad vibes, I hear you: sometimes life is just hard — particularly when there’s a deadly virus going around that has already claimed the lives of 85,000 Americans.
But one thing you have to be willing to do is change your attitude.
The control freak in me has a hard time with this one too, but the next time you feel yourself starting to spin out, ask yourself this: What do you really have to lose with a little positivity?
Is being positive going to cost you anything? Is it going to change any of the circumstances that are beyond your control from being what they are? What are you really gaining by being negative?
Hint: The answer is nothing.
So give it up. Stop clinging to your determination to be negative (because sometimes that’s what it is).
Then move on. Get over it. Choose to smile anyway.
You get to have your feelings, but you also get to decide when you’re done with them. Feel them fully and then let them go.
You’ll lower your cortisol levels in your brain, maybe even your blood pressure, and suddenly see that there’s possibility everywhere: even in the darkest of times.
I know it’s addictive. They designed it that way on purpose. And I know you feel like you can’t stop. But you really should.
Pew polling suggests that for most Americans, the news comes from social media — links and whatever their friends are talking about. It’s just not as simple as turning off the TV to tune the media out from time to time, you have to tune your feed out to get a reprieve from it.
The reality is that until you can, you’re going to continue to get sucked into the headlines.
Dip your toe in the water just long enough to get a sense for the situation — give yourself a time limit, like 15 minutes every day with breakfast. Turn on notifications for your government officials’ feeds if you must, and then ignore the rest.
Endless scrolling will send you into a rabbithole spiral of fear-based anxiety. Don’t go there. Shut it down, uninstall the app, and go dark for a while. Your brain will thank you.
Ground Yourself With Your Senses
One thing psychologists suggest when you’re experiencing a particularly paralyzing sense of anxiety is to use your physical senses to ground you in the present, and therefore calm your nerves.
This exercise may seem trivial, but be patient and work it — I promise, it has a strong effect on you.
To start, be exactly where you are, and focus your attention entirely on what you can taste. Maybe it’s your mouth, maybe it’s the tuna sandwich you had for lunch. Even if it’s gross, just roll with it, and give it your full focus.
Then move onto touch. What can you feel right now, against your fingertips, your legs, your back? What can you hear? Focus on every noise in your vicinity. What can you see?
Go through all of your senses as slowly as you need to.
Anxiety is a fear of what hasn’t happened yet. This exercise forces your brain to ground itself in the present and helps you let go of future fears you can’t control.
Get Plenty of Sleep
I’ve been the sleep-deprived mother, and I can honestly tell you that being sleep deprived did not make my children any safer. It did not make my finances easier to manage. It did not help me fight off the flu.
But what it DID do was make me grumpy in an already stressful situation.
It should go without saying, but it doesn’t: turn off the Netflix, ask your hubby to take a night-feed with the baby, and get some sleep.
Go For a Run (Even If You Hate It)
But when I get mad, or I start to freak out a little, I put on my stupid shoes, and I go for a stupid run.
And it works.
The reality is (and I wish this was BS), running releases endorphins, lowers cortisol levels, and improves your mood. In one fell swoop, you get a dose of endorphins and happy sunlight, and 20 minutes later, you’re cursing bloody murder at your shins and still in a better mood.
Meditation is hard to do for most people — don’t let the yogis kid you. Most people are buzzing constantly on the inside, and they’d rather do just about anything than sit there and not think for like, 15 minutes. But meditation is good for you. It centers you. It lets your monkey-mind wear itself out, running circles around and around until eventually, it just runs out of steam. In that stillness, you find yourself. And when you find yourself, you’ll finally find your calm.
Sit Outside In Nature
The Japanese have a term for this — it’s called forest bathing, and it’s now an essential part of my mental health routine. I drive out to the local forest trailhead, or sometimes just sit in my backyard. I stare at the trees, and I bask in their glory. Interestingly, studies find that when people are in nature, and particularly in the presence of trees, they get calmer. Their blood pressure lowers, their minds settle, and they relax. They’re better able to focus, and as a result, anxiety levels drop considerably.
Give Yourself a Time Out
Funny enough, quarantine does not seem to make me feel less busy. Like a lot of people, I find myself mystically burdened with a whole new wave of tasks to occupy my time. I’m more overwhelmed than ever. But what I’m realizing is that this is feeding my inner control freak. It’s how I cope with anxiety, and it may be how you do, too. Instead, try to give yourself space to just be. Let the dishes pile up for a day, uninstall Facebook, and just sit outside. Just stare at the trees. Run without a timer or music. Focus on the ridges in your fingertips. Being present in the moment is one of the most effective ways to handle anxiety, and it’ll get you through it (even when your brain doesn’t want you to).
What are you doing to curb your anxiety during these difficult times? Tell us on Facebook or Instagram, and tag us in the post (because we’re right there with you) — @AvocadoMattress and #AvocadoGreenMagazine
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