Emotional and Mental
9 Strategies To Tame Anxiety, Regain Peace of Mind During Difficult TimesPublished: April 18, 2022
Saying that the past two years have been hard for many of us may be an understatement.
We’ve lived through and continue to face difficult, uncertain times. We’ve dealt with COVID-19, lockdowns, job losses and similar changes, grief, civil unrest, supply chain issues, inflation, and international conflict. These challenges have affected us all differently, and the intensity of our individual struggles have varied. But a common theme that has emerged is anxiety.
As a counselor, it seems that not a day goes by when I’m not meeting with someone struggling with feelings of apprehension, fear, uneasiness or panic. In many of those cases, the world we’re living in is feeding anxiety and keeping it front and center.
Strategies You Can Try Today
There isn’t necessarily a quick fix for anxiety, but these tips, tools and actions can help you deal with it and move toward better mental health.
Get moving. Take a walk, go for a jog, do jumping jacks, start a workout program online, join a gym or a workout class, or take the time to walk the stairs at home or work. It doesn’t matter how formal or informal your exercise is. Just move.
Meditate. Start slow with this by spending two quiet minutes alone. As you adjust to the silence, increase the time. It often helps to think of one three- or four-syllable phrase as you breathe in through your nose and then another three- or four-syllable phrase as you breathe out through your mouth. For example:
- “I am calm – and at peace”
- “I feel restful. My mind is clear”
- “Father God, bring me peace.”
Avoid “what ifs.” Stay away from thoughts that can send you into a negative spiral. If a situation threatens to overwhelm you, ask yourself these three questions:
- What can I control? In every situation, there’s always something you have control over. It may be something small, but by focusing on it, you’ll feel more empowered and in control of your life.
- What do I know to be true? Staying focused on the facts helps you avoid making up scenarios and thinking catastrophic thoughts.
- Am I staying in the present? There’s a saying that goes, “Keep my head where my hands are.” Your hands are right in front of you. Keep your head there, too, and focus on what’s happening now.
Unplug. Turn off the news and limit your time on social media. Those breaking news sound bites can be a lot to take over and over. Staying informed is important, but you need to find a balance between knowing what’s going on in the world and being inundated by it.
Ground yourself. If you’re feeling anxious, employ a tactic to keep things from escalating. For example, find an item in your bedroom and overly describe it with as much detail as possible, grounding yourself to that tangible item.
Listen to music. Whatever music you enjoy can be helpful, but to really relax, try songs with no words. Follow the music as it rises and falls, and gains and loses intensity. Make the movement of the music your focus.
Journal. Don’t overthink this. It doesn’t have to make sense or be grammatically correct. Just write, putting whatever’s in your head to paper.
Relax intentionally. One technique to consider is progressive relaxation, which involves relaxing your muscles a section at a time, moving from your head to your feet. Tense your muscles as you breathe in, and relax them as you breathe out. Hold each contraction for five seconds, and relax for 20-30 seconds.
Keep it positive. Most of us have certain affirmations or phrases that can help to calm and reassure us. Try putting them in the notes section of your phone – ready for you when you’re feeling anxious. Seeing them in writing can be more calming than trying to remember and recite them in the heat of the moment.
Help Is Available
Anxiety affects each of us differently, but you know yourself best. Pay attention to your anxiety levels, and take action if you’re going beyond what’s normal and acceptable. The strategies above are a good place to start, but it’s OK to seek help.
Consider speaking with a professional if the majority of your day is filled with anxiety, if you feel like anxiety is consuming your thoughts or if your physical reactions to anxiety bring you discomfort. Your employer may partner with an employee assistance program like Best Care EAP that has counselors who are well equipped to help you. You can also call the Methodist Emotional Support Line from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Whatever you’re experiencing, know that you’re not alone. Feelings of anxiety are normal, especially during challenging times. If self-care techniques aren’t easing your anxiety, don’t hesitate to take the next step and reach out for help.