BALANCED LIVING: Calming the Anxious Mind

Anxiety rates have risen dramatically

Is your brain jumping from one anxious thought to the next, cycling through stressors, fears, and worries? You aren’t alone. Uncertain times are taking a toll on our mental health. As of April 2021, the National Center for Health Statistics and US Census Bureau estimate 27.3% of US adults report anxiety symptoms [1]. This number is up significantly from 8.1% in 2019 [1].

 

Tips for calming your mind

There is no magic fix for anxiety, of course. Therapy with a licensed counselor or mental health professional can provide a safe environment for untangling overwhelming thoughts. Medications can be helpful in some cases. We can also calm our minds with simple practices like the ones below:

 

Write it down

Acknowledge your anxious thoughts through writing. Set a timer for at least ten minutes. Let the thoughts flow directly from your brain to the piece of paper or screen. Write as fast as you can. Resist the urge to edit or filter your words. When the timer goes off, read what you’ve written. Notice any patterns or themes? Is your mind obsessing over things it can’t control? Are the thoughts based on facts and reality, or do they stem from an irrational place of fear?

Remember, just because we think something doesn’t mean it’s true. Reading the scattered thoughts in black and white can make it easier to say, “Okay, anxiety, I see you. I hear your feelings and concerns. I can’t control the future. Obsessive worrying makes me feel worse. I am choosing to release these thoughts and am redirecting my energy elsewhere.”

 

Take some deep breaths

Your sympathetic nervous system, commonly referred to as the “fight or flight” system, may be in overdrive. Deep breathing practices can activate your parasympathetic, or “rest & digest,” nervous system instead.

Try this brief breathing exercise:

  1. Take a deep inhale, filling your lungs completely, and slowly count to 5 in your mind.
  2. Pause and hold your breath for a count of 5.
  3. Slowly exhale to the count of 5.

Notice your belly expanding on the inhales, emptying on the exhales. Repeat it at least three times. It’s an easy way to pause anywhere, anytime.

 

Connect with nature

Nature has always been my happy place. One of my friends refers to her backyard as “the sanctuary.” Participants in a 2016 nature campaign and study reported significant increases in happiness and well-being after “doing something wild” every day for a month [2]. So, go for a walk in a park. Sit by a pond, lake, or stream. Smell some flowers. Listen to the birds. Let yourself tune in to the beauty of the present moment.

 

Shift your focus

Yes, there are plenty of valid reasons to be anxious in today’s world. But most of those things are out of our control. We aren’t meant to live life chained to worries. Shifting our focus away from anxious thoughts (and seeking professional help when needed) creates space for us to experience life’s joys. It certainly feels better, too.

 

References

  1. “Mental Health – Household Pulse Survey – COVID-19.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 5 May 2021, www.cdc.gov/nchs/covid19/pulse/mental-health.htm.
  2. Richardson, Miles, et al. “30 Days Wild: Development and Evaluation of a Large-Scale Nature Engagement Campaign to Improve Well-Being.” PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, 18 Feb. 2016, https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0149777.

 

Fifteen years of professional experience in nutrition & bodywork fields and eight years of small business ownership taught Danielle Ratliff to value balanced living over hustle. Rising from the ashes of trauma, mental illnesses, burnout, and societal expectations led to an awakening. Now she empowers overwhelmed humans with guided meditations and articles so they can calm their minds and create aligned, joyful lives. Learn more at www.joyfulrising.com or contact her directly at danielle@joyfulrising.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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