Sometimes it creeps up on me slowly. Other times it’s sudden, like a ton of bricks, triggered by an event or an observation. Clenched jaw, tight fists, fast heartbeat, racing thoughts. Anxious. Has this every happened to you? Anyone? It’s hard to focus on anything else when anxiety takes control of your mind, filling it with worries and uncertainties. You can’t calm down or rest. All you want to do is stop anxiety, STAT.
Thankfully, mercifully, there ARE ways to control anxious thoughts and stop anxiety in its tracks.
It just takes practice to master the techniques I am going to share below. It’s a journey. Some days I’m all good. Some days I have to run through this list below a few times in order to settle myself down and stop anxiety. Only to find myself working through the list again a few hours later.
Try These Tips To Stop Anxiety
1 // Reshape Worry By Defining Your Reality
Learn to look at your anxious thoughts in a different way by reshaping how you think about the object of your anxiety. When you get an anxious thought, immediately identify it as a sign of your worry and not your reality. Labeling your thoughts correctly raises self-awareness and makes it easier to control them and stop anxiety. It also gives you a moment to focus on this labeling exercise vs. giving life to pervasive worry.
2 // Clarify Anxiety With Questions
When you get an anxious thought, stop anxiety by asking yourself these questions:
- What is the real reason for this anxious thought? What am I really afraid of?
- Is there a real danger, or is my mind simply playing games with me?
- Is the negative outcome I’m imagining likely to happen?
- How can I stop or change these negative thoughts into something positive?
3 // View your thoughts as data
Sometimes it’s helpful to view your thoughts as data and your mind as a data processing center. You receive tons of data throughout the day. Some of this data can be incorrect or confusing, causing thoughts. Why?
You may be interpreting the data incorrectly inadvertently allowing anxious thoughts to take over, begin to fester and take control of your mind and actions.
As the data processing center, you get to decide how to handle all the information.
Remember you are in control. This means you can choose to toss out or ignore the incorrect data. Also, keep in mind that the brain is designed to detect danger and is hypersensitive to it. You may pick up on things that aren’t even real. Go back to step #2 and run through the questions to validate the incoming data.
4 // Focus on the present
Many anxious thoughts are focused on either the future or the past. You can break free by focusing on the present. The past is done. The future is a promise. No room for anxiety in either situation.
You can help stop anxious thoughts by trying to avoid thinking too much about the past or future by interrupting these thoughts. Sometimes thoughts from the past can make you afraid of the future. Remember that the past doesn’t have to repeat itself. You have the power to change how your future will be shaped. Recognize when thoughts of the past or future seem to fuel anxiety, and through deep breathing and brief medatation focus on the present moment.
5 // Take action
Anxious thoughts often prevent you from taking action. They keep you stuck in fear and worry. Learn to take action even when you’re afraid.
Find one thing you can influence positively in that moment and take an action even if that action is unrelated to your anxiety.
Moving around the room, a quick walk, jumping jacks, gently redirect yourself just as we would a child who’s behavior we want to modify. Action can actually decrease the number of anxious thoughts you have on a daily basis. It can show you that there’s nothing to be afraid of, that you’re powerful, and that you can make a positive difference. You are in control and your action can stop anxious thoughts.
6 // Get rid of unhelpful thoughts
Some thoughts may be true, but they aren’t helpful. Learn to tell helpful and unhelpful thoughts apart. How? Ask yourself, does my thought help me or hurt me right now? Do these thoughts bring me closer to calm, or further away from it? Then, start to filter out the unhelpful ones.
For example, if you are gripped by anxiety over making a perfect presentation at work, this is not helpful to you. It doesn’t encourage you to do your best. As humans, we are destined to a life of beautiful imperfection. Affirm yourself by saying, “I have important information to share and I am ready to serve my colleagues to the best of my ability by going in as the best version of my self.” Way more powerful and fun than, “I need to be perfect.”
Remember! You control your thoughts, not the other way around. Daily practice and meditation will allow you to use these tips and tricks to effectively take control of your mind and stop anxious thoughts. If these tips aren’t enough, and you find yourself increasingly overwhelmed, please consider talking to a counselor or therapist for additional help. We all need someone to lean on from time to time!
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