You know the old saying "laughter is contagious." Laughter, happiness, joy; a lot of things fall into the category of being easy to spread. Unfortunately, bad things are contagious, too. Colds, illnesses, and even a bad mood. Your stress, frustrations, and anxiety can spread to those around you. Protect them by protecting yourself.
How Anxiety Affects Us
When we are stressed or anxious, it’s difficult for our brains to absorb any facts, much less decipher fact from fiction, and we go into survival mode. Intellectual information doesn’t register because we are running away from danger. When our brains perceive safety, our brain can “come back online” so to speak.
When we’re anxious, our brains aren’t set up to store new information. It’s like saltwater – we are thirsty for more information, but the more we drink, the thirstier we get. And the cycle of anxiety continues.
Knowing this about our brains (and about anxiety) is a good start in helping ourselves during these trying times.
Then, we need to ground ourselves, take a few conscious, deep breaths. Practice mindfulness. A good way to do this is to consciously feel your feet on the ground. Go ahead and do that right now. Pay attention to how they feel in your shoes. Are your feet hot? Cold? Comfortable in the shoes you picked today? Notice the wind on your face or the cold on your cheek. If you’re inside, how does your face feel right now? Listen to the sounds in your office or home, or wherever you are right now for 30 seconds. What can you hear that you never noticed before? Can you hear the sound of the furnace or a floorboard cracking? Are people laughing or talking? Is there a tick or clack you never heard before?
After you’ve done a few of these things, have you noticed that you stopped thinking about your worries and fears? This is the beauty of mindfulness and of training your brain to shut off. Your brain can be trained. You can shut off the worries and the anxiety. Practice these mindfulness techniques as often as you need to; several times a day, several times a week … whatever suits your needs.
Give your brain a break! Do something that makes you happy or something you can focus your brain power on. Call a friend who makes you laugh. Do not go on social media if it triggers your anxiety! Watch a funny show. Read a book. Listen to your favorite music. Set a designated time each day that you will check in with the news for an update. Once a day; that’s it. Then assign yourself a designated “worry half-hour” or “worry hour” if you need a little more time. And then decide that’s it for today. Tomorrow, you can worry more at the same time, but for today you’re done. Setting boundaries for yourself will help calm your anxiety and give you a sense of control.
Remember that anxiety is part of everyday life and feeling overwhelmed is normal. Check in with yourself. Take deep breaths.
If your anxiety feels like too much, is a constant in your life, or interferes with everyday activities, it might be time for some professional help. Counselors at The Village can help with a variety of mental health concerns, including anxiety. Give us a call at 1-800-627-8220 or contact us online.