On a bad day—and we all have them—stressors pile up. Our tolerance blocks max out, and even the little things set us off. We’re anxious and often too agitated to even meditate. Next time your brain, and stomach, get knotted up, consider these suggestions.
1. First, slow down
When we are anxious EVERYTHING speeds up—our thoughts race, our heart rate, our breathing. The flight or fight response is in full force it makes it difficult to think clearly or make good decisions. At the first sign of things speeding up, make a conscious effort to move a little slower and see what else you can do to intentionally, mindfully slow things down.
2. Come to your senses
Anxiety lives in our minds and often manifests in the body – and then it bounces back and forth, feeding upon itself. When this happens, take a few moments to connect with your five senses. It will help bring you back into the moment.
3. Be mindful of a simple task
Life is full of simple tasks: walking, eating, answering emails, drinking water, driving. When we’re anxious, though, we feel out of control and unproductive. Being mindful of a simple task helps remind us that we are actually still in control of our choices. Choose a “do-able” task; be mindful of the steps necessary to complete it and note how competent you are and how fulfilling being productive is.
4. Do a reality check
Anxiety often stems from fear about events that haven’t taken place. Our minds are very creative and powerful and often tell stories that aren’t true about things that haven’t happened. It’s called catastrophizing and it, too, feeds upon itself. When you do have a catastrophic thought, ask yourself, “Is this thought absolutely true?” Chances are your worst fears are just that—fears, not facts, not the reality of what is happening.
5. Release your inner critic
Not only is anxiety traumatic enough, but it’s often accompanied by self-critical thoughts. Ask yourself a simple question: Do these judgments make you more or less anxious? The answer is almost always, more. When you notice your self-critic speaking up, see if you can interrupt him/her by simply saying, “May I learn to be kinder to myself.”
6. Channel your anxious energy productively
Not all anxiety is bad. If your anxiety isn’t debilitating, you can actually channel that energy into something productive. If you’re nervously waiting to hear some news, don’t sit there with your negative thoughts making you more anxious; use that energy to get active: go for a brisk walk, clean, organize, or tackle a work project instead.
As an experiment, take the day and set an intention to listen. Listen to the sounds of leaves in the wind, of kids playing, or someone speaking to you. When we pause and listen, we can get back in touch with the simplicity of life, and anxious thoughts begin to simmer down.
8. Know your triggers
What makes you anxious? Being late? Speaking in front of a crowd? Social situations? If you know your triggers, you can prepare soothing practices better and ahead of time. When the mind feels prepared, it’s more at ease.
9. Nurture patience
Impatience is to anxiety as patience is to calm and ease. If you want to create mastery around patience, you need to be on the lookout for impatience and get curious about it. How does it manifest in the body? Does it make you speed up, thereby increasing your heart and breathing rates? Are you able to let it go? Patience isn’t only a virtue. It’s a pathway to emotional freedom.
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