“Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.” ~ Charles Spurgeon
“The truth is that there is no actual stress or anxiety in the world; it’s your thoughts that create these false beliefs. You can’t package stress, touch it, or see it. There are only people engaged in stressful thinking.” ~ Wayne Dyer
Most of us experience occasional anxiety. We’ve all felt anxious about making a big decision like buying a car or a house, making an important presentation, or making tough personal decisions.
However, for many people anxiety is a common weekly occurrence, causing crippling bouts of panic.
How do you cope when these thoughts have you in their grip?
Women’s Day and HealthyWoman did a survey on how women coped with their anxiety. Here are their findings. Which categories do you fall into?
Forty-four percent of women say they watch television.A little TV is ok, especially if it’s an uplifting or funny show. Escapism is a common way to tune out anxiety for the short term. But binge watching has a rebound effect that makes things worse by hindering your sleep.
Forty-one percent turn to food.This isn’t your best option because the high sugar or high fat foods people choose to self soothe with only offer a very temporary good feeling, then there is the crash. When possible have healthy treats on hand when you need a culinary pick me up.
Thirty-three percent say they exercise.This is a great option. Yoga helps calm your nervous system and sweating releases endorphins. Not a fan of either one? Harvard researchers discovered a 20-minute walk clears your mind and lowers stress hormones, so no excuses!
Thirty-three percent avoid social situations. We are pack animals and have a need for connection. However, this strategy is good if the connection is stressful or negative. But reaching out to a friend or being around a group of positive people would be more helpful than avoiding people all together.
Thirty-one percent read.Diving into a book or magazine is a great way to shut out the world and go to a new place. Take some time out and allow your mind to take a journey and you’ll return from your mental vacation refreshed and ready to face the day.
Thirty-three percent journal or do other creative activities. Creativity is a wonderful way to reconnect your mind and body. By having a creative outlet to focus on you are able to let go of your worries and express yourself. Explore ways to put yourself in an inventive space. Try signing up for a writing, painting, sculpting class; find a creative outlet that lights you up.
Coping strategies are temporary, that’s why having these 6 strategies for bringing yourself back to calm are important to have as tools in your toolbelt.
Here are some ways to calm yourself when your anxiety level spikes.
- Take some deep breaths.Increasing the oxygen supply to your brain helps calm your nervous system. It’s primeval. In caveman times when you weren’t safe you’d be running or frightened, both of which have short, panting breaths. Breathing deeply lets your brain know you are safe. Try this exercise next time you feel panic welling up inside: breath in for the count of four, saying “Relax” in your head, then breath out for the count of six, saying “Calm”. Do this rotation eight to ten times.
- Get a hug.Human touch releases calming endorphins and we all could use more of that in our lives. But what if you are alone or are with people you don’t feel comfortable asking for a hug? Then give yourself one – really. The endorphins are released either way. Just rub up and down on your forearms and wrap your arms around yourself and squeeze. It’s all the same to your nervous system.
- Sing or chant. Chanting is an ancient technique for focusing and calming the mind. Plus, the vibration stimulates the vagus nerve, which helps regulate mood. Now, if you don’t happen to have any Buddhist chants on your iPod, then sing a catchy tune instead. Belt out something from Barry Manilow, Bette Midler, or The Bangles and see if that doesn’t up your mood and lower your anxiety.
- Take a break.Overwhelm and anxiety are like the chicken and the egg. Which comes first and which follows? Doesn’t really matter, treat both by taking a break in nature. Power down your computer, leave your phone inside, and take a walk. Focus on the greens you see, spend time looking up at the sky, and feel the sun on your face. Allow nature to soothe your soul.
- Don’t resist. You know the old saying, “What you resist persists?” Well, that’s really true with anxiety. I know the feeling can seem overwhelming, however, if you can surrender and relax, intentionally leaning into the discomfort the effects will lessen. Notice your first instinct, what you tell yourself about running away from this feeling, like I need a glass of wine or I have to stop this. Then, instead of giving into that thought think, I can do this – I’m ok to face this feeling. Studies show that panic usually only lasts about ten minutes, so for ten minutes focus on your breath and telling yourself that this feeling will pass like a cloud going by.
- Do a reality check.Write down all the things your anxiety is telling you will happen. All those worst-case scenarios. Then go through those scary thoughts and check them out. What’s the probability of them actually coming to pass? What can you do to prepare? What’s the worst that could happen and how bad is it really? This will help you feel like you won’t lose control over the situation and that you will be okay.
You may have the occasional twinge of panic or regularly experience full-blown anxiety; regardless of how it manifests utilize these techniques to improve the quality of your life. Don’t suffer alone or in silence. Your anxiety can be controlled, so please reach out and get help if you need it. Life is too short to spend it in a panic.