Once anxiety is active, the body and mind are being signaled to create a fear reaction to protect us from whatever is making us anxious. Our stress hormone levels increase, our mind processes faster (thoughts can race, reactions become faster, we feel more full of nervous energy etc.).
At this point the mind has switched on areas of the brain that are looking for danger, risk, or how things can fail. All to help us avoid them.
Because it wants us to be safe, our mind starts to imagine problems. For example if we’re not looking forward to seeing the boss and are stressed about that, the mind will create thoughts of the meeting going badly, seeing the worst case scenarios and so on. The mind is looking for what can go wrong and is running possible outcomes to see if it can find a solution. If we’re being mugged our mind will spot any escape route and have us running like we never knew we could, but sadly in most stressful situations there is no actual clear solution. The things that make us anxious are usually not real dangers so there is no immediate action to be taken, and so the mind just keeps going over it, looking to help us but actually torturing us, making us keep feeling bad, running over and over the unpleasant thoughts, upping our stress levels and so on.
So, understanding this, here’s one very good way to interrupt that and lower stress levels:
The mind has to keep thinking into the future to worry, to construct the possibilities and images that keep us stressed. Each time our mind jumps into that future thinking, just notice it and bring it back to the here and now. It’s fine that it jumps, that’s normal, don’t beat yourself up over that, just keep taking control of it and bring it back to the now.
Noticing when its winding us up and then bringing our consciousness back to the present each time, will help break the cycle. The less time it runs the torturous scenarios, the less stress hormone is released, the easier it is to relax and get on with life.
Its estimated that the average person spends 47% of the waking day daydreaming of future events in this way. When feeling worried, stressed or anxious, just bring the mind back to the present.
Notice how it physically feels in the here and now. This focuses the mind on the now, and keeps it from worrying. It also trains the mind to be more under conscious control, and to worry less.
Focus on breathing – really noticing the physical act, and return your mind to noticing the breath any time it wonders. Feel each part, really notice the motion and airflow involved in breathing. It’s a form of Mindfulness.
Spending 3 minutes, four times a day being mindful like this it has been shown to have a huge positive effect over time. Even reducing depression in 50% of cases. But using it even for a few seconds whenever we worry can help big time.
Try it. I’ll post a few more tips in the coming weeks.
Thanks for all the positive comments and feedback on the posts. I’m delighted and blown away by the response. Keep building your better life one step at a time. Make tomorrow a bit better, do that every day for a year and look how big a change that is!