Unlike fear, anxiety is all about perceived future based threats – the ‘what-ifs’ that we all experience from time to time. Anxiety tells us to fight or run (which, if we are under threat, would be the right thing to do!) however, paradoxically, if the anxiety alarm rings when it doesn’t need to and we respond, we actually reinforce it.
Here’s five ways to help reduce anxiety’s power, take back control and restore calm:-
Breathe – When anxiety strikes, our breath quickens. This is because our ‘fight or flight’ mechanism has been triggered. Deliberately slowing down our breathing sends a message to the brain that there is nothing to worry about. The exhale is the really important bit – long and slow is best – as this is linked to our parasympathetic nervous system, the part of us that helps to restore calm.
Feel the Fear and do it Anyway – Consider this; if, say, supermarkets are a source of anxiety and we respond to this discomfort by running out the minute we get in one, we are telling the brain that it’s absolutely right to be anxious! We are reinforcing the fear. If however, we stayed put the brain will eventually get the message that we’re not in any danger.
Oh, hello anxiety…
Observe and Honour the Feeling – It can be helpful to acknowledge that anxiety is simply your brain and body working together to protect you. Assuming there is no real and present threat, we can acknowledge the feeling, name it and show it gratitude. This could look something like “Oh hello anxiety, thanks for popping by, but I’ve got this, so no need for you to be here”. It may not go away immediately, but by allowing anxiety to simply ‘be’ without engaging with it, it’s power will eventually fade.
Count – When anxiety strikes, it can be really hard to think clearly. We’re not actually supposed to; anxiety wants us to act, right now! But, if we’re able to create a focused distraction using the ‘thinking’ part of the brain, anxiety will get the message that it’s not needed. Counting is an easy way to shift our attention and the more challenging the better – try counting backwards, in multiples, or both!
Use imagination to find peace and tranquillity
Use Imagination Positively – We are blessed with the tool of imagination and often, our brain cannot tell the difference between that and reality. We can therefore use our imagination to create calming scenes in our minds, enriching them by bringing in all our senses, replacing feelings of anxiety with those of peace and tranquillity.