Ever have one of those days (or nights) when your mind goes to a negative, anxious place? And the more you try to change your thoughts, the more negative thoughts come up? I mean, thoughts that make you roll around in bed and get short of breath. Like when you start off in thoughts of regrets of that great relationship you let go of years ago, and move on to all the overwhelm you feel in your job, and that leads to the horrible regrets you have around your dog’s death…and now you are in tears, having an anxiety meltdown. And you think, WTF? How did I get here and how do I get out?
Sometimes things trigger us. And for that matter, sometimes we just need to let go of that shit to make room for the good stuff. Emotions can be challenging and scary sometimes. Especially when they come in waves like this and cause anxiety. Anxiety sucks. And it does come in waves for me. I spend a lot of my time happy, positive and enthusiastic – but when anxiety steps in, it becomes quite a wrestling match in my brain. How do we find ourselves suddenly in a downward spiral of bad thoughts? And how do we make it stop?
Fear and Anxiety are Friends
This can happen at any time in a person’s life, but I find that when I want to make big changes in my life, I open the door to fear. Every bad thought, worry, overwhelm, and old failure or unforgiveness is going to come up. It’s a bit of a clearing process really. Out with the old and in with the new. It can be really scary, but if you can get through it, you can move forward.
Here are some ideas that have helped me to work though my anxiety:
- Notice when you are going to a negative place with your thoughts. Don’t try to change it though, as sometimes it will spiral into a more negative place. Notice it as an outside observer would. Approach it as a patient and loving friend. Don’t panic, don’t worry, just be gentle and kind with yourself.
- Use a distraction to bring you out of it. If it’s really overwhelming and getting worse, sometimes a distraction can be really helpful. Play a game on your phone, listen to some upbeat or relaxing music, turn on a funny show, whatever works for you.
- Or – Stay in it. If you want to stay in the anxiety and work through it constructively, do that. No one says you should panic and make anxiety stop. It’s not always a bad thing. It’s like a barometer for us sometimes. So maybe sit down and write about your feelings? Maybe dig to the root of them? Sometimes this can be highly therapeutic. I’m a firm believer that feelings happen for a reason, so go deep and figure out why they are there. Even if you can’t do this in the moment, it may help to do it later once you’ve calmed down. Understanding is step 1 in keeping yourself in a calm and peaceful place in the future.
- Don’t get frustrated or upset about it. It’s totally normal to go to a negative place sometimes and have bad thoughts and anxiety. Take care of yourself – be gentle – and just move through it. Know that everyone experiences it. This too will pass.
- Talk through it with someone who understands. Perhaps you just need someone who can relate? Who has also experienced anxiety. With social media, there are many ways to find people who can relate, if not in your own home town. And by all means, if it’s bad enough, reach out to a help line or professional for sure. There is no shame in asking for help!
- Don’t get discouraged! Changes in life are intimidating (and so is the anxiety that often comes with it) and initially it might bring out the worst in us. Be patient with that. Allow the emotions to flow. Know that it’s part of the journey – clearing out the old (fear, worries, regrets, insecurities), bringing in the new (courage, love, passion, opportunities).
One last idea for you. This is a lovely mantra from Lee Harris Energy. Say this out loud (and slowly) as many times as needed. Use this or find your own mantra for anxious moments. It can be highly soothing and healing for the mind – body – spirit.
Anxiety is Normal
Anxiety and fear and all that comes with it is NORMAL. For some reason everyone thinks they have to be happy and perfect all the time, but that’s not true – and not normal. When the anxious thoughts come up, it’s usually us clearing out the old stuff. Letting go of it and moving forward. If you can embrace it as such and then pull yourself gently away from it as needed, you can easily move through it. Know that it is temporary, and it will help you to move forward in the long run. (That said, if you find that you can’t pull yourself out of it and it’s a long-term issue – do seek help from a professional.) Don’t get overwhelmed and discouraged. Keep moving forward. Breathe. Relax. Bring yourself back to center. You can do this!
A book for you – Wherever you go, There you are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Cabot Zinn