What is there to be anxious about? Oh right, everything.
Anxiety. The monster under the bed who doesn’t seem to care if you have a job, friends, dreams, or even a sleep schedule. Instead, it will rear its ugly head whenever and wherever it feels like, making you doubt yourself and your sense of reality. It will warp the world around you to resemble your worst fears and then play it on repeat until it doesn’t even seem like an alternate reality but rather, the only one that could possibly exist. Terrifying, I know. Like being stuck in one of those nightmares that can’t seem to end. Anxiety’s choice vehicle is insecurity and the fuel is helplessness.
So, what’s the cure you ask? Great band, but that’s not the one we’re talking about. Let’s remind ourselves that our fears cannot, and will not, ever define us. Let’s work to make sure that the only times we ever feel helpless is if we’re falling in love or walking past a Cinnabon. Anxiety, like any other monster, has its own weaknesses; with daily and deliberate steps throughout your day, you can start to drain its life source and begin to solidify your own agency, secure the rights to your own narrative, so to speak.
Meditation, not just for monks and that weird person at the park
Meditation creates this space between you and your anxiety. Practicing mindful meditation has been shown to significantly reduce stress and anxiety levels in many people. JACKPOT. No one is expecting you to become a master right away, because just like any other skill, it takes time and perseverance for it to become an easy habit. Learning to be present has proven to be one of the hardest tasks for mankind time and time again (just check your phone’s screen-time). Start with a few minutes a day and gradually build.
You can do the following right at your desk:
- Sit upright and maintain a firm and supportive posture. Feet flat on the ground.
- Focus on your breathing. Anxiety presents itself in physical ways. Clenched fists. Fast breathing. Increased heart rate. Sweating profusely. Breathe in for 4 counts and breathe out for 4 counts for 5 minutes total. Paying attention to the way your body breathes and regulating that will slow your heart rate, the first sign that you’re even anxious to begin with, and you will be able to calm your nerves.
- Do not let your mind wander. Stay. Focused. As if you are trying to levitate your own body out of its anxious element with just your mind.
- Don’t get discouraged if anxious thoughts arise. See them. Acknowledge them. Let them leave without an embrace.
- Bask in the quiet and solitude for at least 10 minutes. Observe without judgment. Exist without worry. Think again and again about your breathing. About your current state. Shut out ideas of the past and future and simply, be.
Reflect, write, act, repeat
Now that you are in a calm state of mind, it’s time to reflect. Remember last week when we talked about practical ways to combat worry problems? We suggested you write down all possible outcomes and come to a decision by collecting the facts. Writing and reflecting are one of the greatest and most accessible tools we have at our disposal. The act of writing down your thoughts immediately makes them less of a threat because there they are, on the page, and far away from the deep, insecure recesses of your mind. Writing also helps you identify and organize your thoughts so you can manage your triggers.
Sometimes, we are so lost in the cloud of anxiety, it becomes increasingly difficult to figure out what is causing it. Is it your stressful job? Past traumas or phobias? Take back control by confronting your negative thoughts rather than letting them run rampant in your mind. Quarantine them on a piece of paper and look them in the eye and establish your dominance. I heard you can also do that with bears, but don’t take my word for it.
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