We are living in crazy, tough times.
With global warming, terrorism, political uncertainties, and war, not to mention the personal stressors we all face (and a bizarre presidential election campaign), it is common to worry or feel overwhelmed.
Anxiety can serve as a natural warning system, telling you to be aware of possible danger ahead; to stay alert; and to think clearly. But many of us let our anxiety run amok. Instead of responding to anxiety with clear thinking, we panic, shut down, worry incessantly, or try to avoid whatever is causing the anxiety.
So, how do you stay calm in times like these?
For starters, be aware that dwelling on things that make you anxious deepens your anxiety. So, stop obsessing about things you can’t control. Easier said than done, I know, but it is possible to shift your thinking away from pointless worrying. Good news: The more you practice, the easier this gets. To start, simply pay attention to what you are focusing on, and gently guide your mind away from negative ruminations. I’m describing a form of mindfulness meditation, and here is a link to some guided meditations to help you further de-stress.
Next, take action to change situations that make you anxious, when they are truly changeable. If you feel stuck on this one, challenge yourself to find ways to alter your reality in ways that decrease the stressors you face.
Here’s a tip: If you have ever gone through a challenging time and emerged as someone braver, stronger, and more capable, then you already know that anxiety can be a force that inspires you to be your best self.
How? Here’s just one way: When facing a situation that makes you anxious, consider how you need to behave in order to make yourself proud. Envisioning this actually creates a new groove in your brain that makes it easier for you to achieve your goal. That which would make you anxious has become fuel for your growth and success.
Two more tools to help you get a grip on anxiety:
Treasure your body. Adequate sleep and good nutrition (including breakfast!) are necessary for clear thinking and sound judgment. I tell clients to get plenty of omega-3 fats, which are essential for healthy brain and nervous system functioning. Regular exercise acts on your brain in much the same way as does anti-anxiety medication, so sweat frequently. Watch out for alcohol and recreational drugs: They may help you relax in the moment, but do nothing to help you actually deal with stress.
Finally, getting support from others reduces isolation, boosts your spirits, and provides inspiration, all of which can help lower anxiety.
If you are anxious about wearing out your friends, feel free to reach out to me. I can help you stop negative or fearful thinking, develop the ability to soothe yourself, and learn to face challenges with creativity and strength.