How to stop Anxiety and Stress
Do you seem to be worrying most of the time with thoughts buzzing round in your head?
And then do you find yourself feeling anxious and unable to relax?
Worrying is part of our survival mechanism, allowing us to turn a problem over and over in our mind until we either find a way to resolve it or find a way to accept it. Some of us become habitual worriers, especially at night, or when we are feeling low, and we let our imagination run away with us. We spend way too much time thinking about what we fear will happen – and guess what? We end up feeling very stressed and anxious as a result!
Read on for my simple exercise in how to reduce your worries.
One of my clients , a business woman in her 40’s, was stuck firmly in the ‘What if ?’ way of thinking: “What if my company goes bankrupt? What if my teenage daughter gets in with the wrong crowd? What if my husband’s knee operation goes wrong?” And with these worries she attached the ultimate fear – “If the company goes bankrupt I won’t have any money to pay the mortgage, if my teenage daughter is in with the wrong crowd she will get drunk and/or take drugs, if my husband’s knee operation goes wrong he won’t be able to walk.” Because her mind was so swamped with worrying about what could go wrong, making her stressed and anxious, when something relatively small happened at work she lost control and stormed out – and then berated herself that she was weak and pathetic!
Does this sound like you?
I find it to be a very common vicious cycle!
The good news is that by adopting some small changes you can change the worry cycle to make it far more realistic and manageable.
The FIRST STEP is to check out your negative thinking patterns.
Only notice or imagine bad stuff? Filtering out any positives? Are you wearing those ‘gloomy’ specs? What would be more realistic?
Are you assuming you know what others are thinking? What’s the evidence? Is there another more balanced way of looking at it?
Do you imagine that the worst possible thing will happen? Is that helpful? What’s most likely to happen?
Do you believe that something or someone can only be good or bad, right or wrong? What about anything in-between or ‘shades of grey’?
Are you self-critical of situations or events, do you blame yourself for things that are not totally your responsibility? Would most people you know say that about you?
Being able to recognise your worries and any negative thinking patterns you have, will give you the awareness to challenge and find more logical and positive thoughts.
Staying in the present is also very important. If we spend a lot of time worrying about what might happen, particularly if the consequences are negative, then not surprisingly levels of anxiety will be pretty high!
Research has shown that being ‘mindful’ is a very powerful way of managing our anxiety and stress. Rather than fighting to not have the worrying thoughts, mindfulness is about accepting that you will have them, yet not attaching a meaning to them. Again, research has shown that trying to stop thinking a certain thought is very difficult!
Here is an example: I simply ask you not to think about a pink elephant for the rest of the day. The truth is that you have to think about it first to then try and not think about it, yet because it has now made its way in to your mind it will probably keep popping up all day, even though you are trying to resist it!
A thought is just a thought until we attach a meaning to it – for instance, you may have a thought that is about paying a bill and then because you know it is due you may start to feel anxious about it. Then, even though you can’t do anything about it right away it changes your mood for the rest of the day!
Here is a great exercise that will help you to manage your thoughts and keep everything in perspective:
Imagine lying on some thick comfy grass looking up at the sky watching fluffy clouds drift by. Imagine that as your thoughts come in to your mind you place them in to the clouds.
Then watch as your thoughts drift by in the clouds, without analysing or judging just observing them as they go by. If you find that your mind gets stuck on a thought or you drift off, bring your mind back to imagining lying on the grass looking up at the sky and start again.
This takes a bit of practice but the good news is that if you manage this for as little as 5 minutes a day it will make a significant impact in reducing anxiety and stress.