5 simple ways to ease anxiety
Ignoring anxiety doesn’t make it go away. Use these simple strategies to calm your inner worrywart.
Everyone worries. “We can’t help worrying as a first response to unknowns, mistakes, or perceived threats,” says Tamar E. Chansky, Ph.D., the author of Freeing Yourself from Anxiety. But what we do next is key. “There’s a moment when we say, ‘Enough!’” she says. “That’s when we are ready to move into problem-solving mode.” Chansky suggests these 5 steps.
1. Hit reset with mindfulness
Mindfulness is a practice that teaches you how to stay in the moment. Start by focusing on your breathing. Feel the sensations that come with each breath in and out. Maybe you notice a subtle breeze around your nostrils or the gentle rise and fall of your chest and belly. Simply keep your awareness here for about 5 minutes, bringing it back any time your mind wanders.
2. Rename your worry
“Learn to recognize the ‘sound’ of worry and realize that it’s unreliable,” Chansky says. Listen for that little voice in your head that makes worries sound bigger than they are. Then give it a name like Miss Perfect, The Nag, or The Criticizer. Discounting anxiety with a silly name can help you reduce the weight you give it.
3. Fact-check your anxiety
It can help to write down your worries. Next to each, describe what you believe will really happen. Then, do a comparison. When you see the two columns side by side, it might become clear how overblown the worry is. “Worry is the story we are telling ourselves about the situation,” Chansky says. Decide to tell the story in a more realistic and positive light.
4. Schedule worry time
Just like you would with an overbearing friend, you can set boundaries and make Miss Perfect wait. “Make worry appointments with yourself every day,” Chansky suggests. “Rather than getting off track with worry throughout your day, choose 5 minutes when you’re going to focus on your worries.” Putting worry to the test can make your mind be more honest with you.
5. Ask for advice
If you’re stuck worrying, call in your own panel of experts in your mind. “Write down four trusted voices of reason: Oprah, the Dalai Lama, your mother, a best friend,” Chansky says. Imagine that you’ve asked them about the situation. “Even though it’s you thinking of the options, you’re stretching your perspective and slipping out of the vise grip of your anxiety,” she says.