Who doesn’t know that anxious feeling? Like your brain is on a one-way course towards who knows where at a million miles an hour. Try as you might, you just can’t harness it in. In your head, you’re saying, “Did I mess this up? Everyone’s staring at me! No one likes me! The sky is falling!” I could go on and on, but if you’ve experienced anxiety, you probably already know the script.
The reality is, 1 in 5 Americans struggle with anxiety, making it the most prevalent of all mental health issues in our country. In fact, over 30% of us will experience an episode in our lives where we struggle with an associated disorder. For those not well versed on the inner workings of our brains, there’s a whole host of anxiety disorders you could potentially be afflicted with, including panic disorder, PTSD, social anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and, of course, generalized anxiety.
So, what’s a person to do? How do you smother a grease fire when it ignites in your brain? Don’t worry! We have a few solutions to extinguish those flames.
Challenge Faulty Thinking
At its core, anxiety results from irrational thoughts that consume our worrying brains. Below is a list of thinking errors that plague us all, courtesy of helpguide.org.
All-or-nothing thinking, looking at things in black-or-white categories, with no middle ground. “If everything is not perfect, I’m a total failure.”
Overgeneralization from a single negative experience, expecting it to hold true forever. “I didn’t get hired for the job. I’ll never get any job.”
Focusing on the negatives while filtering out the positives. Noticing the one thing that went wrong, rather than all the things that went right. “I got the last question on the test wrong. I’m an idiot.”
Coming up with reasons why positive events don’t count. “I did well on the presentation, but that was just dumb luck.”
Making negative interpretations without actual evidence. You act like a mind reader: “I can tell she secretly hates me.” Or a fortune teller: “I just know something terrible is going to happen.”
Expecting the worst-case scenario to happen. “The pilot said we’re in for some turbulence. The plane’s going to crash!”
Believing that the way you feel reflects reality. “I feel like such a fool. Everyone must be laughing at me.”
Holding yourself to a strict list of what you should and shouldn’t do and beating yourself up if you break any of the rules. “I should never have tried starting a conversation with her. I’m such a moron.”
Labeling yourself based on mistakes and perceived shortcomings. “I’m a failure; I’m boring; I deserve to be alone.”
Assuming responsibility for things that are outside your control. “It’s my fault my son got in an accident. I should have warned him to drive carefully in the rain.”
Can you relate to a few of the items above? If so, you’re not alone. These are common thinking errors that most of us are guilty of at some point or another.
So, we challenge you to take a second to examine those thoughts the next time they arise. Are they logical? Do they make sense? What would you think if you put yourself in someone else’s shoes during the situation that triggered your anxiety?
The truth is, most of the time we are our harshest critic. So, take a second to logically examine those negative thoughts and make sure to give yourself a little grace. No one’s perfect, we’re all flawed in some way- that’s what makes us interesting.
If you struggle with anxiety, then we strongly recommend you add mindfulness to your wellness tool belt. If you’re a newbie at practicing the skill, below is a breakdown of how you can start adding it to your mental health arsenal.
Acknowledge and observe your worries. Take mental note of your anxieties instead of trying to ignore them. Notice them as an outsider would, without judgement, and peacefully let them pass. You might feel the need to hold tight to those anxious thoughts, but don’t give into temptation. Your need to control them only fuels your worries.
Stay focused on the present. When you get anxious, pay attention to how your body feels, the rhythm of your breathing, your fluid emotions, and your thoughts. As thoughts filter into your brain, let them pass through your mind as if you were an objective bystander. If you start spiraling, thanks to a particularly anxiety provoking thought, work to re-center yourself back into the present moment.
Release That Nervous Energy
Have you ever seen a caged lion that paces back and forth in its tiny environment? Or, perhaps you’ve felt that uncomfortable energy radiating from someone who’s about to come unglued?
The truth is, when we’re experiencing anxiety, we generate a great deal of emotional energy which we reflect inward into ourselves. However, by making it a regular habit to work up a good sweat, we can release some of that energy and diffuse our worrying minds.
Whether you make it a daily habit to hit the gym or you take a break from a nerve-wracking situation to go for a run or climb some stairs, exercise can really help tame that brain. So, the next time you’re struggling, try a little exercise to help calm down. Even if it doesn’t stop your anxiety in its tracks, you will still reap the health benefits of giving it a try!
Talk to Someone
If you have a friend or family member who you trust to help bring you down to earth when your brain is floating away, give them a call or talk to them in person. Sometimes, just saying things out loud helps. Plus, a second person can help center you back to the objective reality of a situation that’s causing you to feel anxious.
Also, know that if you’re struggling, you can always seek the support of a therapist. Even if you live in a remote location, there’s tons of teletherapy options out there. For children who are struggling, Youth Dynamics provides a host of mental health services, including anxiety support for Montana kids.
Are you looking for more content to guide you on your path to a happy, healthy life? Check out the rest of our blog and don’t forget to follow us on social media. We can be found at youthdynamicsmt on Instagram, or People of Youth Dynamics and Youth Dynamics of Montana on Facebook.