I was never an anxious person. Growing up, I was lucky in that I almost always saw the optimistic side of any situation. Fast forward into adulthood, losing my mother to terminal brain cancer and parenting three small children through/during a pandemic, and the tables have turned. Anxiety has come crashing into my life like that proverbial bull in a china shop.
Below are some easy-to-implement tactics that have helped me tackle anxious thoughts head on. Perhaps they can help you too.
When I feel those anxious thoughts come into my head, and my heart starting to pound, I try to remember to name it. Oh, hello, anxiety. There you are.
Then, name what I am feeling anxious about. What is it specifically? Is it about the pile of laundry that seems never ending or the Omicron surge in the preschool my children attend?
Parsing out and being crystal clear on what I’m feeling anxious about makes a huge difference. Is it a big stakes issue or small stakes? Omicron surge = big stakes. Laundry = small stakes (though still annoying).
Find Ways to Slow Down
After that important step, I try to create space to remind myself I have some agency over my thoughts. My favorite ways to slow down are inspired by mindfulness practices and rooted in sensory experience:
- Name five things I see or hear or smell.
- Focus intently on one single object. If/when my mind starts to wander, I bring my focus back to that object.
- Ritualize a mundane daily activity. Notice the way my face cleanser feels in my hand and on my face; notice the way it smells. Slow way down and just wash my face, doing and thinking of nothing else.
- Imagine myself in a place where I feel the most calm and grounded, and safe. For me, its where I spent my childhood summers on a remote lake in upstate New York. Visions of the lake always make me feel more centered and connected to myself, versus spinning out of control.
- Get out into nature and physically connect with the actual dirt and grass. If I’m able, I will literally remove my shoes to feel the grass under my feet.
- Box breathing as a form of meditation works well for me because it’s pretty simple:
- Breathe in for four seconds.
- Hold for four seconds.
- Breathe out for four seconds.
- Hold for four seconds.
- I repeat it until I feel calmer and more present in my body. For me, it takes a couple rounds at the most to feel that connection.
- Watch this video for more information.
Ultimately, do whatever helps you connect to your body and your breath when those anxious thoughts take hold. Reconnecting to your body helps your brain from spinning out of control.
Want more ideas to help wrangle your anxious thoughts? Check out these other resources from across the web for more ideas:
And if you have a loved one struggling with their mental health right now, consider sending them a Le Wren care package. Check out our Anxiety Support Collection for care package ideas.
This article is for informational purposes only, even if and regardless of whether it features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. The views expressed in this article are the views of the writer.