I know how difficult anxiety can be to live with; at times, it's crippling. Before I really understood my anxiety, it seemed to control my life. I didn't really know how to identify the uncomfortable feeling of anxiety because it was such a pervasive experience that totally took over. I didn't know how to detach from it. But once I discovered these 3 important tools, I found my anxiety to be much more manageable.
Here is my quick 3-step process for coping with anxious thoughts.
Step 1: Stop and take a deep breath.
The most helpful thing to do when I feel my anxiety coming on is to just pause, take a deep breath, and center myself in my body. The breath is an incredibly powerful tool to help us soothe and relax the nervous system when anxiety starts to kick in. Taking a few deep breaths can shift how I feel in an instant.
Try it right now before you read any further. Take 3 deep breaths, exhaling with a big sigh. Feels great, right?
Anxiety is kind of like a domino effect, and if I let it start to gain momentum, it becomes much more challenging to get control over it. So by pausing to take a breath, I can stop the anxiety cascade before it even starts.
The breath also helps me get into my body and out of my head (where anxious thoughts live). Feeling my breath in my belly and feeling my hands and feet gives me this grounded feeling so that I can get centered and feel calm.
Step 2: Detach from the anxious thoughts.
One of the most profound things I have discovered is how to detach from my thoughts. This is done by recognizing that thoughts are just thoughts. However scary they may be, they are not who I am or what I choose to believe.
Anxiety is a very real experience, but it isn't WHO I AM. Underneath the feeling of anxiety is a place of peace where I can just witness the anxious experience as it comes.
I like to imagine anxiety as a violent storm on the surface of the ocean. It lasts for a short period of time, but it always passes. And all the while, I AM the vast, deep, calm ocean underneath the storm.
I am witnessing the storm from the vast depths of the ocean; I am witnessing my anxious experience from the depths of my inner peace.
This detachment from anxious thoughts has been crucial to my personal growth and well-being.
Step 3: Reach for a better feeling.
Once I have recognized my anxious thoughts for what they are and detached from them a bit, I can see that they aren't really true. They are steeped in fear that isn't grounded in my present reality. They are often about an imagined, disastrous future that will never come true. And all of our power lies in the present moment.
So if my anxious thoughts aren't true, then I can choose to believe something else.
I like to ask myself, what is the opposite feeling from this anxiety that I'd like to experience?
It could be peace, joy, ease, hope, love, etc. And then I reach for that feeling in my mind and heart.
Imagine that each emotion has a frequency that you can tune to, just like tuning into a radio station. I like to close my eyes and dial into the energy of whatever emotion I choose to feel. I breathe it in and imagine it filling me up. I surround myself in this peaceful feeling.
It's so empowering to remember that I can choose my thoughts, beliefs, and feelings.
By stopping to take a breath, detaching from my anxious thoughts, and reaching for a better feeling, I have found immense improvements in managing my anxiety.