It’s funny how things come full circle, isn’t it?
I know that I wouldn’t have guessed that we’d still be in the pandemic environment a year later. Yet, here we are, so we thought it would help to provide more tips to help knock anxiety down a notch!
As I’ve mentioned before, we shouldn’t focus on getting rid of anxiety entirely, but rather on reducing its impact on our health and well-being. We detailed several tools in the blog post referenced above, but here are more to add to your anxiety management toolkit:
1. Acknowledgement: Know that this anxious moment is fleeting. By definition, high anxiety and panic attacks are short-lived. Try to stay in the present and not catastrophize your thinking. Look at your watch and recognize that this point in time won’t happen again, and in fact, is already in the past. Give yourself a little grace.
2. Mindful walking: Now that it’s warming up and the world is blooming, get out and walk. Walk with purpose. Notice your posture and how you hold your body. How does it feel when you walk? What muscles do you notice? Are they telling you something? The goal is to be mindful of each step, letting each one land with softness and with your full attention. You can also do this with other forms of activity.
3. Look at your hands: Take a moment to pay close attention to one or both of your hands. Notice what they look like and how they feel. Are there any memories you get from taking a moment to truly look at your hands? Think of all the things you do with your hands every day. Take this time to appreciate and be present with your hands. If your thoughts drift, it’s OK; gently bring your focus back to your hands.
There are some terrific guided mindfulness resources provided gratis from the Portland Psychotherapy Clinic as well.
4. Curious scientist: This is a mindfulness exercise where you look at your anxious feelings and sensations with objectivity and curiosity, like a curious scientist. Notice where a feeling is in your body. Zoom in on it. Observe it as if you’re a researcher who has never encountered anything like this before. Notice all the different sensations within the feeling.
5. Be the sky: Feel a sense of calm as you close your eyes and imagine yourself as the sky, which allows clouds, storms, and sunshine to pass through. The sky doesn’t try to fight what’s passing through—it just is. Try to imagine yourself as the sky so feelings of worry and anxiety simply exist, but move away.
6. Starfish: An effective acceptance exercise and personal favorite of mine is the Starfish, as mentioned in a prior post. Imagine a starfish that’s open and vulnerable, stretched out as far as it can. It doesn’t curl into a ball when the physical environment around it changes or change its posture when threatened by a predator.
When anxiety is rising, our first reaction often may be to take a closed posture. This means we are physically closed-off and defensive with arms crossed, curled into a ball, or avoiding eye contact. The opposite of a closed posture is the starfish exercise:
- Lie on your back.
- Stretch your hands, feet, and head out to their most extended possible—really stretch out!
- Once outstretched, hold the pose and do a breathing exercise—I like four square breathing for its simplicity.
7. Index cards: This exercise is one of my favorites as it turns our thoughts into something tangible. The goal here is to write down your difficult thoughts on index cards and carry them with you. Use this metaphor to carry your history without losing your ability to control your life. There they are, in your pocket, not some abstract stream of worrisome thoughts.
8. Problem-solving: Remember that your mind is just doing its job—problem-solving. Our brains have evolved to protect us, noticing when we’re in pain and trying to find a way to “fix” it. Your job is to decide when your mind is being helpful and effective and when it isn’t.
I hope these tips help knock down any anxiety or worry you may be having. Please note, I’m not a mental health professional, but I’m happy to be a resource to anyone who is interested. If you or someone you know is experiencing mental health challenges, please consult with a medical professional. They can change—and save—lives. Remember to give yourself a little grace in these trying times. We will get through this, together.