6 Steps to Calm Anxious Thoughts

Posted by on Mar 15, 2015 in Anxiety | 0 comments

Anxiety moves into every part of your life. It fills your nights with nightmares and worry and your days with distracted thinking and fear. It keeps you jumpy and distrustful. It damages your health in a number of ways: high blood pressure, stomach upset, headaches, achy joints and muscles, dizziness, and numbness. If your anxiety is prompted by a specific event, it likely will end on its own. However, some people – actually, a lot of people, 40 million in the U.S. alone – become trapped in their anxiety and the effects of that perpetual anxiety become worse unless treated.

Fortunately, anxiety does respond to treatment. Seven of the top things you can do to ease your anxiety are:

1Practice relaxation: You’ve heard the advice, “Just breathe.” It applies beautifully to anxiety. Deep breaths naturally ease tense muscles and flood your body with oxygen; gone is the sensation of choking. Sit comfortably, draw a deep breath into your abdomen and release it slowly. You can do this anywhere. Adding in aromatherapy (lavender is great for this) will enhance the relaxation. Another effective technique is progressive muscle relaxation. Beginning with one foot and then the other, tense the muscles for a count of 10 and then relax them completely. Work you way up your body.

2. Meditate: A technique called mindfulness is very helpful for anxiety. The discomfort of anxiety prompts you to seek escape, but mindfulness asks you to simply experience the anxiety without judging how it makes you feel. Mentally step back and notice if your hands are sweaty, which muscles are tense, how your breathing feels. By distancing yourself from the sensations, you rob them of their intensity. 

3. Think differently: Become your own private investigator. Examine when you worry and what, specifically, you worry about. Consciously turn on your rational mind and examine each worry. How realistic is it? What can you do to reduce the likelihood? If you’re afraid of fire, invest in a reliable smoke alarm and a window ladder. Acknowledge to yourself that you have taken steps to address that remote possibility. 

4. Find support: You’re not alone in your anxiety (remember the 40 million figure). There are support groups in almost every community and thousands more that meet online. Sharing your experiences with others and exchanging ideas for relief can go far to ease your symptoms. Individual therapy can be very effective in helping you understand why you are anxious and what you can do to defeat it.

5. Exercise: Moving your body encourages the release of the chemical serotonin, which improves your mood and helps you relax. Studies have shown that exercise is as beneficial as medication, is immediately effective, and is much better for you over the long run. Exercise also distracts you from your worries and, if you exercise with friends, you get the benefit of social interaction. Yoga and tai chi are particularly helpful for relaxing a stressed body.

6. Go to a peaceful place: Get as comfortable as you can, close your eyes and visualize a place where you feel safe. Focus on that place, the smells, the view, the textures and sounds. Make it whatever you want it to be. Stay until you feel relaxed and comfortable. 

If your anxiety persists, find a therapist who can help you examine what’s going on and how you can banish unrealistic worries.

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