3 Simple Mental Shifts to Ease Anxiety
Anxiety is a widespread condition in our world today. While anxiety is natural and unavoidable — and even a little bit of anxiety can be helpful — most people deal with anxiety on a daily basis that harms their mental health and interferes with their ability to function.
While there’s no “one true” way for everyone to handle anxiety, there are some holistic ways to address it, simply by shifting the way you think. The tips below are based on methods used in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which has shown to be very useful for anxiety.
#1 Pay Attention Negative Thoughts
Anytime we feel anxiety, there’s an anxious thought that has led to that feeling, even if we aren’t aware of that thought.
Many people with anxiety are very hard on themselves and have very negative self-talk too, which is these types of thoughts directed internally. This can lead to ruminating on those thoughts until you start to take them as reality.
Being able to identify these types of thoughts and question their authenticity can be extremely helpful in reducing anxiety. Examples of these negative and distorted thoughts can include:
- Believing that other people are thinking or saying negative things about you
- Making negative predictions about what will happen in the future (without true evidence for those things happening)
- Making a judgment about others or yourself that is strictly black and white, rather than seeing the gray areas in between
- Thinking of the worst case scenario in a situation and assuming that will happen
#2 Question the Negative Thoughts
Starting to notice when the thoughts above arise, accept that they’re happening, and get better at asking yourself what thoughts you’re having when feeling anxious or overwhelmed.
Then, you can question those thoughts and counter them with more positive and skeptical thoughts like, “do I know that this thought is the reality?” or “What are the positives that could come from this situation instead?” Over time, this makes it easier to cope and feel in control of your mind.
#3 Focus on Your Senses
Mindfulness is an amazing tool for reducing anxiety. So much of anxiety comes from being up in our heads, worrying about the past or the future, and not being present with what’s in front of us.
To help bring yourself back to the present moment, give yourself a few moments to focus on each of your senses:
- Pick five things around you to look at. What do you notice about the colors, shapes and textures of each item?
- Now, focus on touch. Pick five things around you to touch, one at a time. What do you notice about how they feel, their temperature, etc?
- Switch to your ears. What do you hear around you? Maybe it’s a sound outside your window or in your home. Try to recognize five different sounds and where they’re coming from.
- Notice what you can smell. Are there any smells around you? What do they smell like?
- Lastly, notice your tongue. Can you taste anything? If not, think about the last thing you tasted. What did it taste like?
This little exercise can help bring you back to the present moment, which can quickly ease anxiety and remind you that the present can ground you. Other ways to do this is by practicing meditation or yoga.
Anxiety is often hard to pinpoint, but these mental shifts can help you get better at understanding your thought process and yourself, helping to address the underlying reasons for your anxiety.
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