Tune in to your body
When we really focus our attention on how our body feels, it’s impossible to worry at the same time. Our brains just can’t do the two things at once. Do a scan of your body from head to toe, noticing how each body part feels. Keep your attention on your body as you go about your day, or in moments when you find yourself worrying or overthinking things. There won’t be any mental space left for you to worry and you’ll feel more connected and present.
The NHS have said that if exercise were a pill, it would be the most cost-effective drug ever. Lots of the uncomfortable feelings and racing thoughts you notice when you’re anxious are caused by adrenaline pumping through the body. The adrenaline is there to help us to run away or fight a perceived threat. By doing some exercise, you’re ‘burning off’ the excess adrenaline and helping to bring your body back into balance. Going for a run, a brisk walk, or even shaking your body for a few seconds, can have a really calming effect.
Write it down
Instead of allowing anxious thoughts to run amok in your head, get a big pad of paper and write a stream of consciousness – jot down all of your worries and concerns. When we get things down on paper, we can start to see the whole picture with a clearer perspective. They can seem less scary and more manageable once we see them in black and white.
Take time for you
When you’re rushing around and constantly on the go, it can overwhelm an already anxious mind. Remember that you are your most precious resource and when you take care of yourself, the people in your life and your work will all benefit, too. Build space into your day for you. Get outside and have a walk. Make time to meditate and exercise. Your brain needs space in the day to process everything and to stop you from feeling overwhelmed. It’s an investment in every area of your life.
If you’re an anxious person, meditation should be up there with teeth brushing and showering in the list of priorities. Whether you practise mindfulness meditation, mantra meditation, or just take a mindful walk, find something that works for you. Meditation changes how your brain functions, making you more calm and positive. Find a good teacher, class or technique that resonates with you and do it every day.
Don’t believe everything you think
Anxiety can bring with it a bombardment of worries and negative thoughts. If we believe all these thoughts to be true, it can cause us a lot of suffering and stress. But thoughts are not facts. Think of them as events in the mind that come and go. Imagine that the worries are clouds in the sky, but that you are the sky. You can observe the worries as they drift in and then out again, knowing that just because you have a thought it doesn’t make it true.
Breathe in for a count of three and out for five. It doesn’t matter how quickly or slowly you breathe; it’s the ratio that’s important. This breathing exercise is like a short circuit for anxiety. When we lengthen our out breath, it sends a signal to the nervous system to relax. As you breathe in, relax your stomach muscles and let you belly expand. Let your belly flatten again as you breathe out. Do this for a few minutes or for as long as you need to feel calmer.