Anxiety has a way of hijacking our mind and body to a point of exhaustion. It wants to convince us that worrying can help us control the problem and prepare for the future. Even though we know, that many of the anxious thoughts are illogical, we often can’t seem to shut them off. Here are 5 easy techniques you can use when faced with maladaptive thoughts.
- Distraction. Find a way of diverting your attention away from the thought, even if it is just for a second. Do that continuously until the thought goes away. For example, listen to music, think of something positive, or mindfully drink a glass of water. You can also wear a rubber band on your wrist and every time a certain thought arises, snap the rubber band.
- Exercise Outdoors. Anxious mind often contributes to a tense body. When you engage in intense exercise, you help your body release tension and your mind often times relaxes as well. Not to mention a set of physiological processes, that help to elevate dopamine and other helpful neurotransmitters. A series of studies have also shown that walking in nature can stop rumination. Go hiking or running in a park and tune into the sounds and smells around you.
- Be an observer. Mindfulness meditation can be very helpful with this one. You can practice observing your thoughts and being able to disengage from them. You can allow the thoughts to come, knowing that you do not have to act on them or have an emotional reaction to them. They are just thoughts, not facts, and you get to decide which ones you want to pay attention to. You can notice a negative thought and say to yourself:”my brain is creating stories again but I don’t have to listen to them, I chose to focus on something else”. You can imagine your mind is like a hotel and the thoughts are like guests trying to check it. You can welcome them and kindly say:” I am sorry, I have no rooms available for you”.
- Talk back. Because anxious thoughts are irrational, you can try to question them. Ask yourself: “Is this really true? What evidence do I have? Am I helping myself by worrying? How can I make this easier for myself? How can I think of this differently?”. You can also come up with short words or phrases you can say to yourself when certain maladaptive thoughts arise. For example: “Let go”, “Not helping”, “Thanks for sharing but I’m not getting on this train of thought”.
- Have a plan. When experiencing anxiety, we often go towards worst case scenarios. If there is an issue you often worry about, come up with a plan of what you will do if the worst happens (even if unlikely). Also, making To Do lists and creating structure in your day, can calm the anxious mind.
If you are interested in creating a personalized anxiety management plan, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or schedule the appointment directly through my website. In person or video sessions are available. I can work with you on developing the skills you need to bring more calm and balance into your life.