Many of us experience worrisome or anxious thoughts from time to time. Worry is a natural emotion which reminds us to be cautious when making decisions and embarking on new experiences. Worry can also be a sign of consideration or concern, like when we worry over a loved one. Additionally, worry can help us be productive. For example, a student who worries about their grades may be more motivated to study, or a person who worries about their health may monitor their eating habits and exercise often. However, like any potentially overwhelming emotion, worry is best experienced in moderation. Excessive worry goes beyond cautiousness and begins to cross over into anxiety. Anxiety, as defined by the American Psychological Association, or APA, is “ an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.” Those who have anxiety disorders usually experience recurring, intrusive thoughts or concerns. This can lead to avoiding certain situations out of worry, even if that avoidance is ultimately detrimental to their quality of life. Excessive worry can also make us less productive and even interfere with our sleeping patterns, making us more tired and irritable.
If you happen to be experiencing anxiety or worrying too much to the point where it takes away from your enjoyment of your day-to-day life, there are a number of ways to calm your worries and relax both your body and mind.
5 Methods to Quell Anxious Thoughts
1. Acknowledge Your Fear
Initially when we are confronted with a distressing thought or one that makes us uncomfortable, it might be tempting to just ignore it. However, ignoring problems seldom ever helps, in fact, it could actually make those problems worse. Instead, it’s better to acknowledge why you feel anxious and accept it. That will allow you to be able to move on.
2. Engage in Problem-Solving
An important step in dealing with anxious thoughts is learning to separate the things we can control from the things we can’t. Rather than expending our energies on trying to fix the things we can’t control, our efforts would be better focused on trying to fix the things we can. For example, if you’re worried about looking unprofessional at a job interview, take time to dress properly, or if you’re worried about debt, create budgets. There are solutions we can take to many problems, and it’s important to remember to turn anxious or worrisome thoughts into productive behavior whenever possible.
3. Reframe Unrealistic Thoughts
It’s not uncommon for anxiety to lead us to think of the worst possible outcomes. However, these catastrophic predictions are seldom reflective of reality. One bad grade will not ruin one’s future, nor will one small mistake lead to the loss of one’s possessions and loved ones. Instead, it’s better to replace our exaggerated, negative thoughts with more realistic ideas. In the event of having to give a speech, rather than thinking “I’m going to mess up and look stupid”, instead think “I have important things to communicate and if I mess up a few words it won’t be a big deal.” Such thinking puts anxious thoughts in better perspective so that they have less power to overwhelm us.
4. Practice Mindfulness
We can’t live in the past nor can we predict the future. Therefore we should practice living in the present. Practicing mindfulness can allow us to become more in tune with our surroundings. By doing this, we can reduce anxious thoughts as well as reduce feelings of stress and tension in our bodies.
5. Calm Your Body
Building on the previous strategy, it’s important to remember that our bodies and minds are intricately connected, so a calm body can help maintain a calm mind. Anxiety can often bring with it unwelcomed physical symptoms like increased heart rate, sweaty palms, dry mouth, and upset stomach. When we experience anxiety we may have trouble sleeping or have difficulty sitting still. Unfortunately it’s a vicious cycle, as these symptoms can then fuel our anxious feelings and upsetting thoughts, making our anxiety seem worse. There are several ways we can try to calm our bodies and, in turn, calm our minds. Good methods of redirecting our energies include practicing deep breathing, or even simply exercising by going for a jog or performing some yoga. A healthy body is key to a healthy and balanced mind.
Practicing these strategies can help us overcome worry and anxious thoughts to allow ourselves to remain happy and productive, unhindered by our troubled minds.