Anxiety has a special way of making you think that you’re in the passenger seat of your life. You could be having the best day and your anxiety will have you turning your car around to make sure that your hair straighter is still in fact, unplugged. Whatever you encounter in your day will be emphasized by your anxiety, every thought is countered by a what-if, or are you sure? Making yourself question your thoughts, often making you feel out of control, just like a toxic relationship. There’s very little we can control in our own lives, and giving it up is half the battle. In the meantime, when the thoughts start to become overwhelming, here are 5 small ways to tell your anxiety it might not be the right time when the world around you is spinning.
Being able to reflect and take your time back is such an important skill to master when you feel like you can’t catch a breath. Take a moment to look at your schedule, what is going on throughout the day that has to be done, and what is optional. Assessing your must-dos and maybes can help you gain a sense of clarity. Everything that is causing your anxiety does not need to be tended to immediately. When I know exactly when my free time is I can feel calmer and acknowledge that I still have time to myself. Even a few minutes to yourself amidst a busy day can help reset your mind and give you time to take a couple of breaths. Time can slip away from you so quickly, especially with an anxious mind, being intentional with the little time you do have can help you stay on track.
I like to look at my planner the night before the next day so I can visually see where my free time slots are. This way when I am in the moment, I can take advantage of that downtime for what it really is, yours. You have control over how you would like to do with that time. If I have a busy day where I “don’t have time to myself”, you have to create it. This might look like trying out that 5 am Pilates class, or setting your alarm 30 minutes earlier so you can actually eat your breakfast at the table. Wherever you can schedule that “moment” to focus on yourself and consciously take advantage of your own time.
Our enemy is the anxiety, we need to know how it operates, and what it likes to keep it from sabotaging our life entirely. The unique thing about anxiety is that it presents itself differently in every individual. Learning what fuels your anxiety can be beneficial for bringing awareness to your body’s needs.
It can be very frustrating trying to dissect your thoughts and your bodies physical reactions to our triggers. To me I feel hyperaware of what my body is always experiencing, so “listening to my body” can actually fuel the fire. I get anxious about being anxious and the spiral goes down from there. Therefore, noticing my triggers beforehand helps prevent my mind from wandering. Often my body is reacting to the anxiety far before I have consciously realized what’s happening. This can look like a gut feeling, racing heart rate, or even shortness of breath. If you experience these physical signs that can be a warning that she (anxiety) is getting close. Therefore, you can acknowledge those reactions and let them go away without dwelling on them. Being familiar with your anxiety and managing your reactions can help you have a sense of ownership over your thoughts.
Have you ever hung out with someone or even a group, and thought why did I even bother? The free time you have is very fragile, be mindful of who you’re sharing your energy with. Your peers can have a very influential impact on how we view ourselves and one another. Surrounding ourselves with people who make us audibly laugh or are actively supportive has a bigger effect on us than you might realize. We can control who we hang out with or who we want to be around, and that is one of the greatest parts of being an individual. To have a better sense of who is good for you pay attention to how you feel about yourself and in general when you leave. Personally, I had never realized the benefits of doing this until I was in the wrong crowd.
If the people around you don’t share similar values, the meaning behind the friendship could be misinterpreted. It might be time to reassess what each friend is bringing to the table and what you’re benefiting from the friendship. It’s okay to distance yourself from peers who are no longer serving you. It’s not selfish to put yourself first, it’s your time and who you decide to spend it with is something you can determine.
I like to think of my anxiety as my ex-best friend, sure she knows everything about me and how to push my buttons, but we have to learn to stand up to her and talk back. Just like your Ex-BFF, we must create space between us to make room for growth. Thinking of it in this context helps me create this mental divide where I separate my thoughts from my anxiety. I think of my anxiety as a separate entity, an unwanted visitor if you will. In other words, learning to compartmentalize your anxiety, will prevent it from taking up too much brain space. OK I know this can sound ridiculous but it helps me not “become” my anxiety, your anxiety cannot consume your life if its not part of you. When we think of our anxiety as part of us it’s hard not to internalize that. To do this I will simply repeat to myself that it is my anxiety talking, not me. Or, a thought is just a thought, we don’t have to analyze and attack it, it doesn’t mean it’s significant, and let it go on. In other words, learning to compartmentalize your anxiety, will prevent it from taking up too much brain space. However just like your ex-best friend, anxious thoughts will keep coming back unless you address the problem, so acknowledging its presence can give you peace.
Taking a break in relationships gets a bad rep for being a negative response to an overstimulating scenario. Instead of getting frustrated with your body’s desires, take it as a hint that maybe it is time for a reassess your intentions. To benefit most from your hiatus, try to incorporate it into your schedule, by making time. What can you do to healthy distract yourself from the present moment?
My favorite escape is a tough group workout class, there’s nothing like some secret competition next to the workout buddy you never speak to, to release some steam. Focusing my thoughts on something physically difficult is enough to get me out of my head. This could also look like bingeing an episode of your favorite tv show, or 30 minutes of adding to your most aesthetic Pinterest board. Whatever mindless, yet stimulating activity to give you the break you deserve will suffice. Living with anxiety, is exhausting, draining, and frustrating, but taking time to zone out can give you that space to process what’s happening inside your head.
By Kennedy Baker