In the midst of always having something to do, somewhere to go, some email to respond to, and someone to call, it’s not uncommon to get a bit nervous and anxious, worrying about things that haven’t even happened yet. Dealing with anxiety isn’t easy, but taking it one step at a time is—it’s the only way to really get back in control.
Although many people have different methods of working with anxiety, all of them have one thing in common: Calming the mind, not letting it wander and worry, and bringing the attention to the present moment as much as possible. As the Lao Tzu saying goes: Depressed people live in the past; anxious people live in the future.
Focus on Your Breath
Starting with the simplest and most effective way of all, focus on your breath and let it bring you to the present moment. Make your inhales and exhales as audible or as quiet as you’d like; do it in the dark of your room or on a bench in the park in the middle of the day; stay in silence or turn on the music; listen to an app to help you, or take away all distractions.
Tuning in to the sound and rhythm of our own breath is close to meditation: It pulls us in and keeps us present during the most natural function our bodies are doing every second of every day, without mistake. And whether this is your first time or your hundredth, the effect is always the same. It’s the only method that will never fail you and be there for you to turn to no matter the time, space, or situation. Inhale; exhale.
Another great way to calm your mind and get you in a more relaxed state is by getting outside and breathing in some fresh air. Even if it’s raining, snowing, windy, or gray, being surrounded by nature will do its magic. We spend so much time indoors nowadays, illuminated with artificial lights and staring at screens and papers, we lose track of time and seasonal changes. No wonder our brains get so cluttered and all over the place.
Take a walk whenever you can. Observe the trees and the sky. Take a moment to really feel the outside temperature and that morning breeze or first drops of rain. Smell the flowers in bloom and freshly cut grass. Nature is a living organism with incredible energy, and by getting more immersed in it, you’ll notice your thoughts slowing their pace, letting your shoulders relax, and bringing a sense of peace all over you. It’s magic, we tell you.
Move, Twist, Bend
Moving your body gets everything flowing, and it decreases muscle tension, which helps ease anxious feelings. Getting your heart rate up changes your brain chemistry as your body starts producing all sorts of hormones, and with them, the happy endorphins and serotonin, which lower inflammation and overall stress. You don’t have to run a marathon or go crazy in your cycling class to feel it; workouts like yoga, pilates, or barre will definitely do the trick. As will going to salsa lessons or learning how to do a front flip in gymnastics.
It’s not about the workout itself. It’s about finding a way to move your body that makes you feel good. You’ll shake off the nervousness, get some laughs in, and get diverted from the very thing that makes you anxious. Which brings us to our last method.
Although it might seem easier said than done, getting distracted is actually fairly simple, and a great way to deal with anxious feelings when you find yourself completely caught up in them. Anxious energy is still energy, and it’s really powerful. Learning how to channel it toward accomplishing other tasks and projects is not only going to help you calm your mind, but it also yields success in whatever you set out to do.
If you like cooking, get yourself a new cookbook and channel your energy into creating a more complex dish, kneading your own dough or making something that requires focus and determination. If you’re more of an artist, start painting, scrapbooking, or taking a photography course. If you’re a person who lives for organizing and design, clean out your closet or rearrange your furniture and give your house a new look.
Whatever it is, make it be something that requires your undivided attention, so you’re letting all other areas of your brain relax and take a break. Don’t mistake this for binging on TV shows or reading books or magazines—chances are, your mind will wander more times than you can count, and you’ll find yourself mindlessly scrolling through your phone or doing a million other things at the same time. The distraction technique will work only if the task at hand requires you to focus and really channel all of your energy to accomplish it.
Feeling like you’re late to something that hasn’t even started yet and worrying about the outcome of situations that haven’t even happened doesn’t allow you to be here and now. Although this isn’t something you can just wish away, dealing with anxiety is an everyday job and you need to put in the hard work to yield any results. Try these easy methods whenever you feel like life’s getting just a bit too much to handle, and implement them into your self-care routine. After all, what good does a bubble bath do if your mind doesn’t even acknowledge the warm water?