Anxiety’s like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you very far.” —Jodi Picoult
When you feel anxiety, it’s hard to relax and get things done. It’s a bit of a slippery slope too, because worrying about one thing often leads to worrying about all kinds of other things as well—none of which are ever happening in the moment.
One of the ways that anxiety shows up for me is insomnia. Even when I’m tired, I toss and turn and my mind races. When my thoughts start spinning like that, I invariably wind up adding fuel to the fire by worrying about not sleeping too. I count the hours I have left to get some sleep before the day begins. Needless to say, this does little to relieve my anxiety.
But, here’s what I’ve learned. In the end, feeling anxious comes from how I relate to the thoughts that cause anxiety. When I focus on them, and believe them, I perpetuate them.
The American Psychological Association defines Anxiety as an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure. The thing is that anxiety happens to all of us now and then, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to lessen it in our lives.
In this post we will share some tips that really work when you’re feeling anxious and want to lighten your load.
You Are Not Your Anxiety
Anxiety can make you feel like there’s something wrong with you. But you are not the anxiety you experience.
Each of us generates anywhere from 50,000 – 70,000 thoughts a day. Some of those thoughts bring up anxiety, especially when we engage with them and believe them.
Feeling anxious is caused by identifying and engaging with whatever your mind is throwing at you. Remembering this makes it easier to let thoughts that cause stress come and go. You don’t have to fix anything, it will pass.
Let It Be
Don’t ignore your thoughts, but don’t spend a lot of time on them either. Notice how you’re feeling and let it be. Your thoughts will pass much quicker if you accept them, without buying into them as being the gospel truth.
You don’t even have to try to change your thoughts to positive ones (I haven’t found that to be very successful in any case. Accepting your thoughts rather than trying to change them allows them to pass. And even if this takes awhile, they have less of a charge attached to them.
Focus on Doing What You Can
Often just getting proactive is enough to disperse anxiety. If it’s the middle of the night you don’t have to get up and start working, but you can turn on the light and write a short list of what ‘s on your mind and let it go. It will be there for you in the morning. Even deciding that you are OK with not sleeping is being proactive. The odds are once you do that you’ll finally get some rest.
Focus on taking action, and decide to not engage with the anxiety. Do something that will move you forward. Taking action takes your mind off of feeling anxious, and you’ll see results as things get done. Don’t forget to reinforce what you accomplish by acknowledging it.
When you’re feeling anxious, everything seems to contribute to how you’re feeling. So when you can acknowledge yourself for getting things done, you’re more likely to let go of any anxiety that you’re holding.
Practice Techniques That Relax You
Taking time to relax regularly can make the difference between high anxiety and knowing you’re fine.
For me, focusing on the present really works. Even when I can’t sleep, if I relax and accept that I am where I am, my thoughts quiet down and I usually fall asleep. I know my body is designed to sleep, and eventually it will happen. And you know it always does — especially when we aren’t stressing over it so much.
Relaxing can be exercise, meditation, music, reading something inspirational, or whatever else works for you.
I was visiting my sister and we were at one of our favorite beaches. This beach has little colored stones, shells, sea glass, etc. But you have to look for them because they’re tiny. Without realizing it, we spent several hours bent over, wading in the water, looking for treasures the tide washed in. We didn’t even realize how long we were there. It was truly a meditation, with beauty all around, and ourselves present in the moment.
It’s hard to feel anxiety when you can redirect your focus to something that brings you joy.
Putting it all Together
Next time you feel anxious take a moment to look at your thinking. Are you caught up in thoughts that make you feel anxious? Can you notice them and let them go?
Focus on taking action steps that support you in addressing whatever is on your mind and needs to get done.
Do things that support your body and mind in relaxing.
The truth is that we all experience anxiety at times, but it doesn’t have to take us down. In fact, these few tips will help you relax so that when you do feel anxious, you’ll see it as a temporary thing, and it’ll be gone before you know it.