An anxious mind is a powerful force. It was spin and swirl thoughts, worries, and fears around at a mighty pace and handicap your ability to focus, make decisions and be at peace The most common initial strategies for dealing with anxiety I use are: 1. accept that you are anxious. 2. manage your thoughts.
Accept that you are anxious.
This might initially sound counter-intuitive. People often try not to be anxious or to ignore that they are worried. This results in the equivalent of ignoring a bear in your living room. If you are anxious, then you ARE anxious. It is wasted energy to try not to be anxious when you already are.
Manage your thoughts.
Anxious thoughts are like a wayward pilot on auto-pilot. You don’t intend to be worrying or be thinking about things but you just find yourself doing it. We must take the plane off of auto-pilot and learn to steer manually. You can steer straight into the thoughts and worries or you can steer clear of these issues.
To dive straight in, spend some time purposely thinking about your worries and concerns. I strongly recommend you do this by writing out your thoughts. First, identify one worry and write everything associated with that worry. While doing this, you will identify another worry. Write it in the margin and write about it after finishing the first worry. Do this process until you have written through what is on your mind. Don’t try to be logical or fix your worries as you write. Just write down your thoughts.
When you are finished you might find that the process of writing it down, alleviated your concern. If you still feel anxious, reread it. Are your fears realistic? Proportional to the situation? Is situation changeable? What’s the repeated theme of your anxiety? Is there a core fear?
Option two in managing your thoughts is purposeful distraction. When you catch your mind on anxious auto-pilot, tell yourself to stop those thoughts. For example: I am not going to think about that now, I have already thought about all of it. I am not going to think about it now, I will think through it all tonight. I have already thought about all of it, I just have to focus on ______. Switch over to different thoughts (i.e. favorite memories, plans for this weekend, what task you need to do next) or a new activity that requires more focus. The anxious thoughts will probably creep back in. Every time you find it there again, you have to tell yourself to stop and switch over again.
Keeping a calm mind is difficult and requires focused effort. You have to work with your anxiousness regularly to keep it in check. The goal isn’t not to worry but to worry in control and in proportion.