Simple Ways to Calm an Anxious Mind
Do constant worries and anxious thoughts plague you? These three simple tips can help calm your anxious mind and lower your anxiety.
At any time in the day, do you have at least five things going on in your head and three things happening at your desk simultaneously? When we are constantly trying to problem solve, fix, plan, save or organize something, it can be the gateway to anxiety in your life (well disguised as multitasking or being somebody’s hero).
I see a lot of professional and ambitious women who are constantly on the go and pride themselves on their ability to multitask. They are often surprised that they are overwhelmed, always overthinking, stressed, physically a hot mess, and anxious. Does that sound like you?
What are the symptoms of anxiety?
- Feeling nervous, restless, or tense
- Having a need to constantly be doing something
- On the verge of panic or afraid, you will have a panic attack
- Constant worry, overthinking, or feeling like you always need to be doing something
- Trouble focusing or making decisions
- Disrupted relationships (passive aggression, easily reactive, anxious attachment, fear of rejection)
- Avoiding things that trigger anxiety (projects, pending deadlines, socializing, etc.)
- Headaches, stomach issues, tiredness, shortness of breath, butterflies in your stomach, sweaty palms, or everything
What anxiety steals
Anxiety not only affects the mind but the bodies of individuals. The most concerning part for the clients I support is it’s a feeling that keeps you from being present in your everyday life. It’s sometimes a false sense of doing, but in fact, you have accomplished much of nothing and drained yourself physically and mentally.
You can inadvertently be involved with multiple projects and ideas, but not giving each the full attention it needs- so really making little progress, missing mistakes, and not as efficient as you could be. You could also be responding to internal fears and avoidance that your busyness gives you the luxury of avoiding. On a day-to-day basis, anxious overthinking, constantly doing, and this drive for constant achievement can make you overlook the details of life. Details like your strengths, success, reasons to smile and celebrate, social connections, opportunities to help and serve- the things that give life meaning and value.
Let’s dive in deeper. How often have you worried, dreaded things that never happened, or thought yourself out of doing something? How often do your worst fears come true? How much time and energy did you spend on those what-if scenarios that could happen in the future? Facts- it only robbed you of the present.
When you are overly focused on future fears, it contributes to anxiety. When we look back too much on past issues and what could’ve been, it kicks up depression, both of which don’t allow you to enjoy what is.
What can you do to calm your anxiety?
The first step is recognizing that you have anxiety. That drive you wear as a badge, the trouble turning your mind off at night, those heart palpitations and GI issues, yup, that’s anxiety and anxiety is exhausting.
It’s valuable to learn to live in the moment and stop waiting until everything is perfect before doing the things we feel we need to do. Mindfulness and the power of stillness and awareness is one way to calm the anxious body and mind.
Tip 1: Infuse Mindfulness Into Your Life
You can improve your health every day by taking time to pause and create space for yourself. By starting a mindfulness practice, you will notice that you can calm your anxious mind. You may first notice how hard it is to sit still or be comfortable with “doing” in a different way. Still, you can interrupt the endless loop of anxious thoughts and worries by being fully engaged in the present moment.
Mindfulness is paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, without judgment. That means noticing what you are doing and where you are, without worrying about the future or the past.
Let’s practice: I invite you to take three deep breaths. After each breath follow the instruction.
First breath: Bring your full attention to the breath in your nose and out your nose or mouth. Whatever feels right at this moment.
Second breath: Relax the body. Drop your shoulders.
Third breath: Ask yourself: What’s important right now?
To be clear, the practice of slowing down doesn’t stop the thoughts. Thoughts will come and go while you tune into your breath or your focal point, but the key is to notice and let it go. It’s about not entertaining the bazillion ideas that come to mind. Attachment to these thoughts and outcomes is often where our pain and distress are often rooted.
“When I was walking out of the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew that if I didn’t leave behind my bitterness and hatred, I’d still be in prison.”Nelson Mandela, after being release from prison
Tip 2: Add a Guide to Strengthen Your Experience
Left up to our devices we sometimes deviate from the plan. An easy way to stay on course is to introduce a guided practice. I often use Stop, Breathe, Think on youtube for guide exercises with clients and they also have an app. Calm.com is also another great option, and to add tapping which is another way to use your brain to reduce stress. Try this example by black Psychologist Damon Silas.
Tip 3: Practice often
Being Mindful is a practice that gets easier the more you do it. So get creative, and RIGHT NOW, think of 5 places or times you can intentionally pause to engage in this practice. My top 3 places:
- With clients in session
(Join our next pay what you want mindfulness session for Minority Women who lead here)
- In the car before I go into the house after work
- After a workout or before bed
The most important thing you can do is give yourself a moment to breathe and be still. Learning how to become still is a gift in itself.
Don’t forget to share where or when you will practice mindfulness in the comments below.
Amanda Fludd, Psychotherapist, Mental Health Trainer & Mindset Coach