”Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.”
This last one is the most difficult but the most important. Often anxiety is so painful that we become fascinated, obsessed even, with understanding and solving our worries. We want to get rid of the pain of anxiety as soon as possible.
Sometimes this is useful, as we come up with strategies to manage our emotions, but a lot of the time it validates the power of our anxiety and adds fuel to the fire. The mind will only focus on what it values; if you can manage to become bored with your anxiety, it will loosen its grip on your life.
Why am I anxious?”
“Is there something I’ve forgotten?”
“Is there something coming up that I’m nervous about?”
“Am I sick?”
And then the most dangerous question of all:
“Have I really been anxious this whole time and the calm isn’t real?”
This question is very tricky. If I was a character in a movie, I’d been standing up out of my seat and yelling at myself on the screen, “Ignore it! Ignore it! You’re fine, go back to sleep!”
But it’s tricky because it feels like there a grain of truth to it; on some level, we can all relate to that sense of doubt. Our minds tend to come up with explanations based on our feelings, so this sensation of anxiety was (unsurprisingly) causing my mind to come up with a story based on these feelings.
The whole ordeal lasted less than five minutes. Fortunately, in this moment of tension, I was mindful enough to see how far-fetched these thoughts were. I settled on a far more pragmatic explanation; I’d become so unused to feelings of anxiety, that when they did arise, they were a shock to the system, so my mind immediately tried to rationalize them.
And then I went back to sleep.
Moments like this one would come again, and what I needed to do was simple. Any five-minute mindfulness book would have had the answer.
All I needed to do to keep the calm was to not care that these thoughts and feelings were there. I just needed to be completely disinterested, to not touch anything in my mind. Following the instructions in a moment of distress, however, is much easier said than done.
So I remembered what I’d heard a yoga teacher say once in an uncomfortable pose where the students had their hands above their heads for a long time.
“Just tell your mind that things are going to be like this for the rest of your life. It’ll get bored of the pain and move on.”
I took that idea and started applying it whenever worries came up. I managed to convince myself that I didn’t need to fix anything and that feelings of anxiety were just really not that interesting. It worked out pretty well, so well in fact, that I thought I’d go into a little bit more detail of how I managed to do so and share it with you.
It’s OK To Let Yourself Feel Anxious:-
Feeling anxious is never pleasant, but if you refuse to accept your anxiety, you’ll only make it worse. Trying to deny that your anxiety exists, or trying to get rid of it the second it flares up, will only make your anxiety seem more daunting.
“Acceptance is critical because trying to wrangle or eliminate anxiety often worsens it.”
If your initial reaction to anxiety is to deny it, you’re basically telling yourself that your anxiety is intolerable, and this idea will only make it harder for you to deal with your anxious feelings.
Your Anxious Feelings Will Pass:-
This one can be really challenging to remember when you’re feeling super anxious, but it’s true. Feelings are fleeting, and they can’t physically hurt you, so sometimes the best thing you can do is just wait them out. It may take longer than you like for your anxious feelings to go away, but they’ve gone away before, and they’ll go away again.
You’ve Handled Your Anxiety Before & You Can Handle It Now:-
Personally, nothing helps me relieve anxiety like going for a long walk or hitting the gym. Which brings us to…
And Being Productive Will Probably Help, Too:-
I realize that anxiety can be so overwhelming sometimes that the only thing you’ll initially feel capable of focusing on is binge-watching your favorite show and stress-eating donuts. Additionally, sometimes a chill night of being unproductive is exactly what we all need. Trust me, I’ve been there. That said, sometimes doing nothing but relaxing can exacerbate anxiety, whereas crossing a few items off of your to-do list can help you feel more accomplished, capable, and in control of your own life and feelings. Plus, forcing yourself to focus on a productive task will give your brain and body a break from the stress of feeling anxious.
Breathing Techniques Are Your Friend Right Now:-
Being mindful of your breathing is so important when you’re anxious because deep breathing actually helps your body to relax and recover after it’s gone through the adrenaline-spiking “fight-or-flight” response that fear and anxiety triggers. So the next time you’re feeling anxious, remember to focus on your breathing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve caught myself literally holding my breath during a period of extreme anxiety, and it only makes my anxiety that much worse.
Our Anxiety Might Be Trying To Tell You Something:-
Like I said before, sometimes anxiety seems to serve no real purpose, and if you have an anxiety disorder, then you already know your anxious feelings are generally not circumstantial. But if you’re not dealing with an anxiety disorder, and you’ve been taking care of yourself physically, then you need to consider the possibility that your anxious feelings are trying to tell you to make some changes in your life.
Some of the most stressful years of my life were caused, in part, because I wouldn’t listen to what my anxiety was telling me. If your relationship, your job, your spending habits, your sleeping habits, or any other part of your life is unhealthy, they could be what’s causing you to feel so anxious. Pay attention to what’s triggering your anxious feelings, because if you listen to what your anxiety is trying to tell you, it just might help you create a better life for yourself.