Twenty Ways to Calm the Anxious Mind:
Feeling anxious, worried and fearful is not a fun way to go about life, is it? But getting rid out the anxious mind is not easy either, right? Having had anxiety at different times in my life, I can totally relate to that.
I am sure you have thought to yourself that "it would be nice if I could relax" or, "if I knew how to stop my worries, I would do it". Many of my clients suffering from anxiety say that all they really want is to be able to clear their mind from worry and move on. Maybe you feel the same way. I know anxiety feels so uncomfortable that it makes us believe it is a "forever" mind set, and while you may feel as though the worries and the high anxiety don't ever go away, let me tell you that there are things you can do to help yourself. And that while getting rid of anxiety is impossible, we can definitely have a healthier relationship with this important survival response.
I have compiled 20 techniques I often use for myself and with my clients. I have seen these techniques work their magic. I hope they do so with you as well. If you do try any of them, please write and let me know what you thought.
#1 Inhale and exhale: I know this sounds too simple to be effective but there is indeed a correlation between the mind and the breath. If the mind is agitated, the breath is agitated. So, in order to calm the mind down, we can use the breath. The longer and deeper the inhales, the slower the breathing and therefore, the slower the mind will be. I suggest you count to four while you are inhaling, hold your breath to the count of four and exhale to the count of four. Do that sequence several times in a row until you notice the mind slowing down too.
#2 Exercise: Indeed, one of the best ways to produce "happy hormones" is by moving the body in some way. When was the last time your mind was really worried while running a mile, playing a soccer game or, practicing yoga? Unlikely, right? Join a physical activity that you actually enjoy and do it often. Think of exercising as preventative and also as an intervention to maintain a healthy mind.
#3 Acupuncture: This ancient Chinese medical tradition is known to help restore energy in the body. It relaxes the muscles and it allows the body to bounce back to its healing tendencies. Yes, they do put needles in your body but they are very small and an experienced practitioner will ensure to be gentle when applying them. The best naps I ever had have been during acupuncture sessions!
#4 Practice yoga: Yoga is a form of meditation. The physical movements require concentration and balance. Two things you can't do when you are worried. So, if you want to experience "worry free" moments, got to a yoga class or, download a YouTube yoga video and practice at home. All yoga practices focus on strengthening the mind and body connection to discipline the mind. Both of those things are incredibly beneficial to the wild mind :)
#5 Go for a walk: Taking the time to pause what you are doing and going for a walk can break the tension created by anxiety. Breathing fresh air, allowing the brain to receive new oxygen, change of scenery combined with the movement of walking can really bring some silence to the busy and loud mind. Set a reminder on your phone or, use your anxiety as the cue to go for a walk. Try doing it as you are feeling stressed or worried, see what happens when you switch from an unhealthy reaction, to going to a walk outside.
#6 Be around nature: Similar to the point above, being around nature, plants or even animals can be very restoring for the mind. Nature is a great teacher. It is always showing us the better way to go about life. If you think about it, plants and animals live in the present. They are not worried about what will happen tomorrow, nor do they keep track of the past, and they emit a calming energy. Spending time in nature, buying plants for your home and being close to a pet, are all things that will shift your inner energy to one of peace and health.
#7 Write your worries down: Worries in your mind and worries out of the mind are two very different stories, right? Well, there is actually a therapeutic component to putting all worries onto paper. Believe it or not, we process and let go of some worries the moment we put them somewhere other than in the mind. Write everything: how you feel, what is bothering you now, what you are thinking. This technique is also known as journaling and it can be done every day.
#8 Talk to a friend: Telling a good friend of yours that you are worried and expressing your worries aloud in a relationship of trust can be a great relief. Often those around us have great wisdom to share, but it is not about what they will tell us, it is about letting our thoughts out. Have you ever noticed that many times when we say our worries and thought aloud, they do not seem as big of a deal as they do inside our head? It's true! Some things just don't carry as much power when they are spoken. Try phoning a friend and let them know what's on your mind.
#9 Listen to music: Music is a mood changer! It really is. Can you list a few songs that you know for a fact change the energy in your body and make you want to sing, dance and feel happier? I know there has to be at least one song that has that kind of impact for you. Have it handy and whenever you are feeling worried, sad or anxious, play this song and see your body transform. Music has healing powers, so make good use of it!
#10 Meditate: Remember we talked about a wild mind? Well, if you do really think your mind needs a little settling down, meditation is your answer. There are many different types of guided meditations and they all have the same purpose: to calm the mind. Download an app on your phone or look up my free meditations and sit down to follow this guidance. As with anything else, meditation brings the best results when it is done on a regular basis; however, it is worth doing even if you only do it once in a while.
#11 Do a mindful activity: Mindfulness is when the mind and the body are in the same place at the same time. Can you think of any activities that you already do where the mind and body are in the same place at the same time? It is time to do more of those!! If you couldn't think of anything, don't worry, I've got you covered! Yoga is a great example of a mindful activity. You really have to be focused on the pose to keep balance, but once you think of something else, you come off the pose instantly. Well, doing a mindful activity is like that, you want to engage in any activity while activating all your senses. So, choose an activity you already do (showering, laundry, dishes, driving, etc...) but this time, do it noticing all the things that you can see while doing this task. What can you hear? What can you physically feel? Does it have a smell? What is the texture like? What temperature it is? And like that, you can engage your senses finding a renewed curiosity in the present. You can definitely purchase my online course Mindfulness for Every day, if you are interested in learning more about mindfulness.
#12 See a therapist: Just like I am sure you visit your doctor once a year or, whenever you are not feeling well, visiting your life coach or therapist is important when your mind is spending too much time in the worry zone. Undergoing stress for a long period of time can lead to more serious mental health conditions. While there might be some stigma around this area, don't let what others think stand in the way of your happiness and health. Self-care is something that no one can do on your behalf. You only have one mind, so take good care of it. If you do not know what a counselling session is like or, whether or not you need one, look up in your local area for someone who shares your values and ask if you could have a free 15-minute phone consultation. Ask as many questions as you want and then decide on the best match for you. I see clients all over the world, if you want to consult with me, send me an email here.
#13 Diffuse essential oils: Have you ever walked into a spa, taken a deep inhale and felt immediately relaxed? Scents can definitely play an important part in our relaxation routine. Essential oils are extracted from plants and have a natural component to them. Inhaling a calming scent tells the mind that all is well. I suggest using the same oils at bedtime or, when you are relaxing. Over time, your mind will begin to associate the scent with that relaxing activity and eventually, any time you diffuse that oil, the mind will know it is time to relax. My favourite scents to relax to are: eucalyptus, peppermint, lavender and orange. Orange is an up lifter, so I usually diffuse it in the mornings or early afternoons to be a little more alert.
#14 Read before bed: Reading before going to bed allows the mind to rest from screens and overstimulation and it calms it down. Reading on a subject that is interesting but not highly demanding is recommended for the bedtime routine. Put a book on your bedside table so you won't forget to read. Go to bed 10-15 minutes earlier than the desired sleeping time, get comfy and read 5-10 pages. When you begin to feel sleepy, close your book and drift away into the dream land. Reading books before bedtime has been known to reduce night anxieties as it gives the mind something concrete to do. So, rather than letting the wild mind wonder around, occupy it with interesting information. Give this a try!
#15 Eat healthy: We are what we eat. Food has a HUGE impact in the way we feel. Your brain consumes more energy than all other organs in the body. If you tend to eat foods that make your body weak, bloated and hyper, you are likely not going to feel very happy and calm. It is well researched that sugar, alcohol and toxins increase anxiety. These types of foods do not nurture the body and are, in fact, very taxing on it. A body that's already depleted of energy due to high levels of stress, gets to a state of panic and therefore, does not work optimally. Consequently, having episodes of anxiety and depression can be more likely to occur. So, if you never thought about the correlation between food and mental health, I think it is time to look into it. The book, Strong Head by Dave Asprey, is a wonderful resource to get started into a healthier diet for a healthier mind. In the meantime, reduce your sugar, alcohol and free radicals’ intake and see how the mind and body feel.
#16 Check to see if your worry is a fact: Not every thought you have is real. In fact, if you have anxiety, it is very possible that many of your thoughts about your fears are not accurate. A great strategy to see whether or not you can trust your thinking is by looking for evidence that proves they are factual. A fact and an opinion are two different things. Opinions can be changed, whereas facts are always the same and everyone would agree to them because they cannot be argued. So, next time you are worrying about something, ask yourself: Is this thought a fact or an opinion? If it is a fact, move into acceptance. But if it is an opinion, think if there is another, more helpful, opinion you can have about the situation.
#17 Look for the good: Often when worried and stressed, we tend to look for other evidence that shows life sucks. Your brain will do its best to find evidence to prove your thinking is correct. So, if you think I am ugly, the brain will start to look for small and big evidence to prove it. Having said that, notice the thinking you are having and the type of evidence that your brain is therefore looking for. When things are not going well, give yourself the purpose to look for the good in people, in your day and in you. This will shape the brain's detective job to look for evidence that will make you feel happier.
#18 Let gratitude in: People let go of gratitude when under stress. But, did you know that gratitude is one of the healthiest feelings to host? That's right, remembering to be thankful for another day of being alive, for the health of those you love, for the home in which you live, for the food you are eating, etc... can not only change your mindset but it can also contribute to your overall health. Once a day, take a moment to look around and give thanks for what's in front of you. Grow the habit of being thankful and soon you will notice the abundance in your life.
#19 Accept your distress: Funny enough, not recognizing that we are in distress is in fact stressful. Fish don't know they are in water until they are pulled out of it. You cannot do anything about your stress and anxiety until you recognize that it is there. Accepting that you are not feeling at your 100% can be helpful in that it will stop the resistance of wanting things to be different from what they are. Accepting the distress in your mind does not mean that you have to like it, it simply means that you are aware of it and that your plan is to transform it into something more helpful but that while you get to do that, you will accept that it is there.
#20 Visualize: Use your imagination to visualize yourself as the calm, strong woman that you want to be. I know that if you have anxiety, you are definitely good at using your imagination to create scenarios that are not there. So here is your opportunity to use that wonderful skill and put it to good use. Close your eyes and visualize with detail what it would be like to be stress free, notice the feelings and thoughts of the strong woman you want to be. Know that the woman you are visualizing is already within you and all you have to do is let her show up. Do this visualization often, make sure you add all the details that are important to you. It may be weird at first, but trust me, it is totally worth it!
Thanks for reading, I hope these techniques become useful to you! If you know of others who could benefit from this info, please do not hesitate to share it.