It’s all too easy to become overwhelmed with the chaos and unpredictable-ness of our daily existence. And when anxiety sets in, our minds grimly set into a groove of repetitive contemplation on all the worst possible outcomes. Like an unpleasant GIF, you just can’t stop watching.
Thankfully, you can break the cycle of repetitive anxious thought patterns.
5 Simple Strategies That I Use to Calm Down During Difficult Times:
Breathing is a necessary function that supplies blood cells with oxygen while removing carbon dioxide. Of course, breathing is involuntary – that is, you do it without thought.
But do you know that voluntary or conscious breathing can be a path to a calmer mind?
When you’re anxious, like every other person, you tend to breathe from the chest – shallow and quick breaths. Breathing this way reduces the oxygen supply to the body, which increases the heart rate, and makes you dizzy and tense. This, in turn, will trigger a stress response which only serves to intensify your state of anxiety.
On the contrary, deep breathing – breathing from your abdomen, increases the oxygen supply to your body and brain where it activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which induces calmness. It triggers the relaxation response.
The relaxation response is a state of deep rest that reverses the physical and emotional responses to stress. In this state, your heart rate and blood pressure slowly drop while muscle tension started to be more relaxed.
Breathing techniques- and there are a lot of them – connects you to your body. It moves your awareness away from the anxious thoughts in your mind to your body. Your mind then quietens. You’ll become less stressed and anxious.
So, next time anxiety threatens your peace, Let me share with you here a simple breathing exercise that I use to calm my mind down:
- With your shoulders relaxed, inhale deeply and slowly through your nose.
- Slowly hold your breath to a count of four
- Exhale slowly through your mouth while keeping the focus on your face, jaws, shoulders, arms, and tummy relaxed.
- Repeat for several minutes.
This exercise may be done standing, sitting, or lying down. You can do it anywhere, whenever the need arises. You should practice it daily and not only when you are anxious to get used to it.
Positive self-talk is the process of conversing with yourself throughout your waking hours. But how much of it is beneficial? Your communication with your inner self and the way it perceives your life events have a tremendous impact on your stress level and anxiety.
You will create unnecessary anxiety in your mind when your self-talk is predominantly negative. You tend the see things as worse than they actually are; see yourself as incapable of facing your challenges; refuse to see the brighter side to situations and fall into a pattern of futile rumination which only takes away your peace of mind.
Fortunately, you can skip this destructive inner dialogue using your mind.
Here are some ways you can break the cycle of negative self-talk and reduce your anxiety.
- Observe your mind: The first step is to become aware of the content of your internal dialogue. Observe the things you say to yourself as they arise and note how they affect you. It helps to write down your feelings and thoughts as you become conscious of them.
- Change your thoughts: As you watch your mind, you’ll be able to slow down your incessant self-chatter and catch any negative self-talk as it arises. You can then gently steer your mind towards more positive thoughts.
- Replace a negative perception with something more positive: For instance, you may be stuck in traffic. But instead of railing against the situation in frustration (which doesn’t make the cars move any faster) and stressing over how much time you’ve wasted; you can use that time to catch up on some knowledge by listening to a podcast or an audiobook.
- Question your self-limiting talks: While facing a difficult situation, your usually anxious self will say things like “I can’t handle this.” This will only increase your anxiety. But when you notice this thought arising, simply ask “what can I do in this situation.” This reduces your stress because it will prompt you to start searching for solutions. As you become more hopeful, your imagination opens you up to more possibilities.
Go to the gym or workout ASAP
A brisk walk for about 10 minutes maybe what you require to rid your mind of anxiety. Several studies have concluded that exercise helps relieve anxiety, steady your mood, decrease muscle tension, and improve sleep quality.
When you work up a sweat in the gym, at home or outdoors, endorphins – body chemicals that make you feel good- are released.
Endorphins act effectively as natural pain killers and also helps you sleep better. A lack of sleep is detrimental to your overall health while a good sleep, in turn, is a stress-buster.
Again, working out vigorously requires some concentration, which takes your mind off your worries. This breaks the cycle of repetitive negative thoughts that induce anxiety.
How much exercise is good enough?
Working out consistently for 30 minutes daily for 3 to 5 days may significantly calm down your anxieties. However, even as little as 10 minutes of physical activity will have an effect on your mood. So, next time you feel overwhelmed whether you’re at work, in an event or anywhere, take a brief, brisk walk around the block.
Now, how do you stay motivated in leading an active lifestyle?
The trick is not to see exercise as a chore.
You should take up activities that you enjoy and then you won’t be needing any motivation to stick to a regular routine. There are equally other important benefits of exercise. Apart from reducing anxiety, exercising also reduces your risk of cardiovascular diseases and prevents cancer and diabetes.
Besides boosting your mood, regular exercise offers a lot of other physical health benefits, such as lowering hypertension, preventing diabetes and other types of serious diseases.
Call a buddy
It’s never an easy call, but one of the best things you can do whenever anxiety threatens is to call someone. A special friend that you can confide your feelings at that particular time. Sharing your thoughts with others can relieve stress.
A situation may loom threatening and appear too overwhelming for you. This could be because you have been keeping it to yourself. If you tell a friend about it, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the new perspective that they may come up with that suddenly makes your issues small. They may even give you solutions that your anxious mind could never have come up with.
When you are troubled, think of someone close that you trust and feel comfortable opening up to. Say just how you feel without fear of being judged. You most likely believe the problems that keep you up at night are uniquely yours, but the truth is that millions of others have faced similar challenges before.
When you are stressed and anxious, accepting your situation and your anxiety is usually the last thing on your mind. All your efforts are channeled towards eliminating anxiety from your life.
What if I tell you that fighting your anxiety only feeds and increases it? I know it sounds ironic, but when you battle anxiety head-on, you promote the idea that you’ll become a better, happier person once you’re free of anxiety. This increases your anxiety because you will now be under pressure to strive to be better. Since you believe you aren’t good enough as you are now.
The antidote to this is accepting yourself totally – anxiety, warts, and all. The practice of self-acceptance frees you of the nagging negative thoughts. It encourages you to look at yourself with kinder eyes.
Anxiety will hardly survive in such an internal environment. Here’s how you can accept yourself to ease through any life situation:
- Telling yourself you can handle any situation without experiencing fear often triggers even greater fear and anxiety. Accept that it’s normal to be scared. Then do what you have to do.
- Attaching your identity to that of an anxiety sufferer only strengthens it. Take ownership of your feelings and accept your anxiety totally without judgment. This will take away some wind from its sail.
- Finally, calm yourself down by accepting the absolute truth that anxiety is not who you are. It’s a transient experience that is sure to go; therefore, remain kind to yourself as you work through your journey.
The bottom line
We all have apprehensive thoughts every now and then. But when you constantly struggle with stress and anxiety, it’s time you act. These simple tips when practiced will help calm down your anxious mind. It works for me, it should work for you. Always remember that you’re in control.