Life is often unpredictable. Anxiety is what we feel when the uncertainty of life becomes overwhelming. Our minds frantically bounce from one thought to the next trying to fix, repair, predict, prepare, relate, or overcome. As our inability to control everything becomes apparent, so does our discomfort. Soon the headaches, backaches, or stomach pains set in. The small healthy fire that burns inside of us to be productive, rages into a forest fire that consumes all of our thoughts and energy. If your anxiety has become a common companion during your week, here are a few practical steps that could offer you some relief.
Quick Note: Some anxiety can reach levels of intensity that need extra attention. If that’s you, start with a full physical from your doctor and then find a trusted therapist to help you on your journey.
Divide and Conquer.
It seems impossible to ignore our anxious thoughts for an entire day, but 10 minutes is a reasonable start. When today’s anxious thought comes crashing in on you, decide to set it aside for 10 minutes. For example, if you are stressed about how you’re going to make ends meet financially, resolve to set the issue aside for 10 minutes. Say to yourself, “I will not think about my finances for the next 10 minutes”. If after that time, you decide to pick the thought back up, you can. If you would like to set it aside for another ten minutes, then that’s your prerogative as well. Remember, it’s not laziness or procrastination to set aside a topic until a time when our brain can think more clearly about it! Once your mind is clear enough to find the first step in the task at hand, you are ready to proceed. One step taken is better than ten steps obsessed over. Oftentimes the overwhelming size of the forest keeps us from chopping at the first tree. Take a deep breath, find one tree, and start chopping.
Give Yourself Permission To Rest.
When we are tired our anxiety feels especially intense, and we are unable to think as clearly. Life feels like a thousand issues that we can’t resolve, swirling around all at once in our brains. Battling anxiety requires a great deal of mental energy. So, as hard as it can be, take a (guilt free) nap. At night, set a time to be in bed and stick to it. Tell yourself (out loud if necessary) that your day is done and you cannot accomplish anything else until morning. At that point, stop making lists (either on paper or in your head), let go, and go to sleep. This may take some practice and could include a few nights of staring at the ceiling waiting for sleep to come. But stay committed to the routine and your body will adjust.
Repeat After Me: “I am more than what I do”.
It’s tempting to believe that we am only doing well when we have done everything and have done it perfectly. That is just not true. Life is hard and we are imperfect. Even at our best, some tasks are impossible. Who you are is more than just a reflection of how well you perform. You can control your effort but not always the outcomes, so show yourself a bit or mercy. Think of all of the imperfect people that you love, odds are, several of them love you back just the way you are. You are more than your biggest mistakes.
Implementing these three things into your life will reduce your anxiety and give you greater clarity in your thinking. We may not be able to avoid all of life’s anxiety, but we can take steps to address it in healthy ways.