Do you get consumed by anxious thoughts?
If you are reading this article, you probably have at some point in your life. I’m right there with you. I got diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder in 2014. I have been in therapy since December of 2013, and while at the time, it was a hard truth for me to accept, I have come a long way in the last few years and have found ways to cope.
The following methods that I’m about to share are tips that worked for me. This article is my opinion. I am NOT a professional psychologist. I am like you. I don’t have a degree in this field. But I have gone through my fair share of anxious meltdowns, and my brain still anticipates the very worst quite often. Here are five ways I have found to cope.
1. Write it down.
My journal has been my best friend throughout my journey. In the last four years, I’ve filled three volumes. There are pages upon pages of irrational thoughts, pages that when I look back and reread them, I’m able to see that some of my worst fears didn’t happen. It has helped me to start thinking with a different mindset.
Let’s say you are getting ready to go on a trip for a couple of weeks. Immediately, your thoughts start getting away with you. You start worrying about something happening on the plane ride. You are going to be late for your flight, they won’t let you check your luggage, you are going forget something big, the plane might crash, and you will end up stranded in a place you don’t know, and then your luggage will get lost.
Sound familiar? Don’t worry. I got a jolt there myself. Here is something you can do. WRITE IT DOWN. Grab a piece of paper, or a notebook or journal, and just write everything that you think might go wrong. List it out, no matter how big or small. When you get back, or when you get to your hotel room, reread it, and put a checkmark next to everything that DID happen. Chances are, there won’t be as many check marks as you initially thought.
2. Use a grounding technique.
I have three different methods I use when I’m feeling anxious. I will describe them below.
Many times, when my anxiety creeps in, I start to lose my breath a little. That of course, scares me more, making me more anxious. I have tried these techniques with my daughter, and they’ve helped her significantly as well. We both have panic attacks, but these methods lessen them quite a bit.
Control your breathing.
Take a deep, slow breath in (I count to 4 slowly), hold it for 4 seconds, then take 4 seconds to let it back out. Repeat this for a couple of rounds until you feel yourself relaxing a little.
Involve your Senses
Another grounding method I use is incorporating all five senses into my thoughts. List five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. Or change the order. The key is to distract your brain a little bit and involve as many of your five senses as possible.
Something else I do also is to describe my surroundings as much as possible. Here is an example: I’m in my front room at my house. My carpet is beige, and I am sitting in my comfortable office chair that has a lighthouse fabric on it. Behind my computer monitors, I have my bulletin board with a cute red floral fabric. I see a picture of my daughter and me when she was about ten years old.
Do you see what I’m doing? That got my brain off my anxious thoughts. I’m more relaxed after the breathing and can focus on my surroundings.
3. Have a support person.
I have a trusted friend that I can call when thoughts start to get away from me. You can have this person repeat the steps above, or they can talk you through it, ask you questions, help you think about what the cause is, etc. I find it’s helpful to have someone not in your family with this role. They can maintain a neutral, unemotional perspective. That person can be a friend, or even a counselor or therapist.
4. Focus on small achievements.
I am the world’s biggest offender when it comes to making a GIANT, epic to-do list, then feeling stupid when I DON’T get all 35 things done. I’ve learned that I’m just setting myself up for failure. I have also learned to break it down. There are days when my significant achievement is that I got out of bed and took a shower. That is OK!
Try this: every night for one week, write down three things you achieved that day. They can be little, or big. For example, one night I wrote that I didn’t lose my temper with my kids, I fed my kids dinner, and I rinsed two dishes and put them in the dishwasher. At the end of the week, go back and look at your achievements. That’s 21 things you did that week! Good job!
5. Go outside and take a walk.
Set your timer for 15 minutes. Just go outside and walk. Don’t worry about where. After 15 minutes, head back home. Sometimes, the fresh air and a little extra Vitamin C can do wonders. I allow myself to think all my thoughts as I’m walking. I am sure my neighbors have given me some strange looks as I walk and am yelling to no one in particular. I find that the more anxious I am, the brisker I tend to move. When I get back, I’ve gotten some cardio in, and the problem I was obsessing about doesn’t seem so big and intimidating.
How do you deal with your anxious thoughts?
I hope I have given you some good ideas in this article. Which one could you implement right off the bat? What are some things you have done to help lower your anxiety level? I would love to hear them!