Tools to Quiet an Anxious Mind

anxietyAnxiety is an emotion that can fuel a state of endless worry along with thoughts of impending doom. 

Anxiety differs from fear in that there is no actual threat of imminent danger.  It can take on different forms, including phobias, panic attacks, obsessive thinking, compulsive behavior and generalized anxiety.  The degree of impact anxiety can have on people ranges from minimal annoyance to crippling disruption.

For those of you who feel burdened by anxiety, there are methods for decreasing its occurrence and for minimizing its upsetting effects on your life.   By making it a priority to deal with your anxiety and committing to a self-care routine accordingly, you can make a big difference in the likelihood of successful management and abatement of your discomfort.

Although it is best to design a personalized program that will work with your specific triggers and tendencies, here are some general guidelines that will help:

  • Limit caffeine and other substances: Too much coffee, soda or chocolate can “feed the beast”.  Also, reaching for that drink (or two) may initially provide you with relief, but it ultimately and often can aggravate anxiety and stir up other negative emotions.
  • Try to eat well, get enough sleep and exercise regularly.  This will not only provide you with a stable foundation, it will also feed your sense of self-influence over your life.  Additionally, exercise has been shown to lower stress hormone levels in the body and elevate mood.
  • Try to gain insight into the cause of your anxiety.  Is there a trigger?  Does it seem like a habit?  Is it predictable in certain circumstances?  The answers can provide you with useful information as well as perspective that can ground you through the discomfort.
  • Practice deep breathing techniques to calm down your nervous system.  Slow, rhythmic breathing has been proven to decrease stress levels and elicit a feeling of calmness.  Yoga and meditation, which incorporate deep breathing, are extremely helpful for emotional regulation.
  • Connect with nature.  Going on a hike or to the beach, for example, gets you outside of your head and can help shift your focus away from negative thoughts.  Spending time in nature can be freeing, healing, calming and restorative.
  • Use cognitive behavioral techniques to challenge your distorted thoughts and perceptions.  CBT strategies can be easy to learn and very effective in managing anxiety.
  • Learn mindfulness practices to help keep you in the here and now.  This will decrease anxiety, as anxiety is rooted in future oriented thinking.
  • Acknowledge your capacity for self-reliance, self-trust and resiliency on a regular basis.  Recognize these strengths and give yourself credit whenever you have pro-actively handled a situation.  This will nurture a sense of agency and help you to neutralize “out of control” thoughts.

For many people, anxiety can become an automatic, emotional reaction to both positive and negative events.  Others can get stuck in a destructive cycle of engagement and avoidance when it comes to their relationship with anxiety. Once these patterns and habits are recognized, they can be interrupted and shifted.  When anxiety sufferers learn how to face and be present with their discomfort, long enough to understand and process their thoughts, feelings and responses, their anxiety can begin to dissipate.

Overcoming Anxiety

The key is to address the anxiety reactions with insight, tools and strategies, so that those prone to anxiety can maintain influence over their emotional states, moods and overall wellbeing.