Anxiety is something that has touched all of us. Most of us have experienced anxiety in some way whether it was consistent worry that we would be called on in a class setting or we have some deep consistent fear that something would go wrong. If you are like me, you deal with anxiety everyday on some level. The thing about anxiety is it is totally normal. Without it we wouldn’t know when to go into fight mode or when we need to run in order to be safe. Dr. Nadine Burke Harris said it best is her eloquent Ted Talk on childhood trauma. Anxiety and fear are normal when you are in the forest with a bear. It is not normal when you are safe at home on your couch. When we are anxious in safe spaces it may be associated with past trauma stored in our body. It may also be associated with thoughts that we are unable to control.
This month on Smith Behavioral Health and Wellness social media platforms we focused on ways we can manage anxiety. Mindfulness/meditation, journaling, managing thoughts, and last but not least exercise are all ways we can manage anxiety. Mindfulness and meditation help us to be in the moment, to know we are safe. Mindfulness requires us to be in the moment, to be present and intentional. When we can mindfully listen to a conversation or mindfully taste and our food or take in the smells around us our full attention is required which takes away from our ability to dwell in the past or the future. Mediation is similar in that it pulls us into the here and now to still our thoughts and control them. Meditation usually requires time that is set aside solely to focus on clearing our minds. Mindfulness can be practiced anywhere at any time.
Journaling is a great way to get thoughts and feelings out so that they can be outside of us and or managed. When anxious thoughts and feelings arise journaling can be helpful in helping us get those feelings out and leave them where they are. When anxious thoughts and feelings remain in our heads and bodies and left to their own devices they can become overwhelming and life altering. Journaling is a way to get those thoughts and feelings out in a safe way to free up space for more positive thoughts and feelings. We might not always have access to family or friends, or therapists. Journaling can help us to separate ourselves from those thoughts and feelings and walk away from them. When we can get into a practice of journaling anxieties this can be a great way to control how we manage them and control them. Journaling doesn’t have to just be about anxiety. It can also be about random thoughts, things you are grateful for, things you would like to do and plan for. Journaling is a healthy way to cope with many things in life.
Managing your thoughts can be difficult but it can be done. One way I manage my anxious thoughts is to deal with what I know. For example, I tend to have a lot of anxiety when I know my family members are traveling. My mind goes all over the place and the what ifs flood in and I tend to fixate on them. I often have to bring myself to the here and now and focus on what I know. I focus my thoughts on the last time I talked to them and at that time they were fine. Until I am told something different they are okay. Brené Brown says worrying and overthinking only steals your joy in the here and now, neither worrying or overthinking
will prepare you IF the worst happened. The key word is IF. More times than not we are functioning as if the thing has already happened and it hasn’t so we can’t be fully present or fully feel any other emotion. Use that energy on what you know and stay in the moment.
Lastly, exercise helps anxiety. Many of you knew that was coming but it does. Exercise often takes your mind off of what is making us anxious. It also relieves tension in our body that keeps us from being able to relax. This helps us to function better and sleep better. Exercise may be considered a natural anti-anxiety medication. Exercise intensity may yield different results. For example a high intensity interval training workout (HIIT workout) may tire you out while making you feel accomplished and release endorphins to make you completely mellow while a yoga workout may help you release endorphins or completely mellow you out or both. Working out consistently helps to provide some consistency in mood and allows a space to focus on something other than anxieties.
Anxiety and uncertainty is real and many of us are feeling it especially as we endure COVID-19 and the new normal that will come as a result. We can manage our anxiety but it takes practice and effort. Mindfulness/meditation, journaling, dealing with what we know, and exercise are all ways we can manage anxiety and uncertainty even now. We just have to find a place to start and try. If anxiety is keeping you from being happy and living your best life please reach out to a mental health professional. Sometimes our anxiety can be so great that it is makes it hard for us to function on the daily. In situations like this medication may be recommended so that you can engage in the practices listed above. Anxiety doesn't have to be the reason you don't live a happy and full life. You can reach out to me through an inquiry on the website. You can also find a therapist through psychologytoday.com. You don’t have to struggle with anxiety on your own. A mental health professional can help and offer additional resources. Don’t let anxiety stand in the way of your wellness or happiness. Be Well, Be Happy!