5 things to do now to reduce your anxiety, for people who don't have the time to manage their anxiety
Sometimes strategies to manage anxiety can just feel like another thing you have to find time to do, in an already busy and exhausting day. And for individuals who already feel overwhelmed and that there isn't the time to meditate or do yoga or many other healthy and helpful wellness habits, here are some practical strategies anyone can implement today, and everyone can benefit from making a daily practice. By doing so, they should actually free up some time for you, where you hopefully can relax with you anxiety in check!
Use a paper calendar
The more information kept in your working memory – the part of your brain that is actively tending to information – the greater your state of alertness and energy required. For someone who is managing anxiety, the sympathetic nervous system is already in a state of hyperarousal, and needs help experiencing calm and quiet.
By writing down all events and obligations, it frees up the mental space that was being used to remember it, thus making your brain not work as hard. This helps to minimize the mental exhaustion common with anxiety.
Also, use the calendar to schedule and plan positive events. What wellness activities do you want to make sure your doing every week? When you look at the month, what do you have to look forward to? Anticipating a positive event can be a mood boost as well as a reminder and opportunity to savor it after it has passed. Seeing it on the calendar gives these experiences greater impact than just the event itself.
Here is one of my favorites and what I will be using in 2018:
Created by Danielle LaPorte, bestselling author and member of Oprah’s Super Soul 100, The Desire Map Planner is for women who want to put their soul on the agenda. What I will do to feel the way I want to feel...is the daily declaration you make with this planner. And with fresh daily Soul Prompts like, “What do you want to revolutionize?” “How do you want to feel in your body?” and sections for Gratitude notes and a weekly Stop Doing List ― this planner is where inner attunement meets outer attainment.
Make it automatic
What parts of your day or week can you implement a routine? Every time you have to make a decision, it requires brain energy. And again, this energy is a state of alertness, which has a similar neurological pathway to anxiety. (Which is why so many people with anxiety report having a hard time making even simple decisions sometimes).
When life looks predictable and consistent, this also feels calming, which is the opposite of anxiety. A morning routine, a monthly meal plan, or a consistent self-care regimen can all help. Just like when you leave the dentist they suggest scheduling your next cleaning, when life activities are scheduled, they are more likely to happen and energy is not wasted wondering or worrying when they will occur.
Thoughts naturally come and go, flow through your awareness and are replaced by the next one. When you focus on a thought, you can hold on to it for longer. This ability is helpful when you are trying to complete a task. But nearly everyone has had the experience of thinking, “what was I just going to do?” or “what were we talking about?” Because as things naturally happen in the world around you, your focus shifts and your thoughts move.
Use this to your advantage when you are stuck with anxious thoughts. Let them flow and move, let the next thought come. Moving your body might help if you are really stuck. A change of scenery or location gives a natural opportunity for your thoughts to move on to something else.
Write it down
A common strategy to mange anxious thoughts is to try to shoo them away, just like an annoying fly. This form of distraction might work temporarily, but the thoughts tend to return. Generally, these concerns are important and need attention: instead of being dismissed, they need to be examined. By writing them down, you are respecting them and their importance. Also, the process of writing forces you to focus the thought and make it specific, as opposed to anxious thoughts, which are often non-specific and quite nebulous. Once they are written down, you can choose when to give it attention; you may even choose to designate a time to return to it. By doing so, you start to put boundaries around worries, so they don’t rule your day. Instead of holding them in your head, allow the paper to hold your worries for a while.
While any paper will do, I encourage you to pick an organized and dedicated place to record these thoughts, so you can come back to them when you need to and because you are respecting them. Here are some of my favorites:
The simplicity of a composition notebook:
The blue water color of this book serves as a reminder to let thoughts flow, just like water.
Talk about your worrisome thoughts
Anxious thoughts tend to sound the same in your head again and again and again. People often get stuck in anxious thinking, making no progress or transformation in the thoughts. But when you share your anxious thoughts with someone, they naturally will change and evolve. Just the experience of sharing creates change, by moving from isolation to connectedness. And a different perspective from the person you share them with will provide input that helps those thoughts take a different shape, so the next time they emerge, they will sound different than before.
Of course, it is important to be purposeful in who you share these thoughts with. Identify who can be most supportive in the way you need. There are effective ways to tame the anxiety (and also ways that can promote the anxiety). As a Licensed Professional Counselor, I am available to work through these thoughts with you and gain strategies to manage and change them. A "walk and talk session" allows you to get some fresh air and fitness while also improving your mental health. Or a distance session might be right for you, via phone or online platform. Please contact me if I can be of help:
If you found this useful, please share with someone else who might also find it useful. We all benefit when we help each other have more calm in our lives!
I'm a mom of four children, a wife, and a Licensed Professional Counselor. My parenting life helps me be a better counselor, and my professional experience helps me be a better mom. Both allow me to be creative, to learn and grow, to make mistakes, and to rarely sleep. I love the beach and gardening, reading if I can stay awake, running (which these days is after my kids and not much else), and using humor through it all!
DISCLAIMER: This site is designed for educational purposes only and is not engaged in rendering medical advice, legal advice, or professional services. If you feel that you have a medical problem, you should seek the advice of your physician or health care practitioner.