How to Calm Anxious Thoughts
"Hi there. It’s nice to be with you again. This week I'd like to cover the topic of anxious thinking. There are a few things that I want to cover. The first is to validate if you're having anxious thoughts the last few months or so and explain why that might be. The second is to give you a little bit of brain information to help you feel empowered to make some changes. The third is to give you a personal example of an anxious thought process that I went through and to go through the steps that I take to help myself calm down and find my inner peace again. So hopefully that will be helpful for you.
I want to start with just validating if you've been having more anxious thoughts the last few months… it's to be expected given the amount of violence we've been exposed to in our country and in the world recently. So that's the first thing… you're not crazy… this is a normal process. And the reason why it's normal is because our brain has this really fascinating mechanism that turns on a system know as fight or flight. So our brain and our nervous system really work to keep us safe in the world. They work to make sure that when threatening events arise that we can go into survival mode and make sure that we have our best chances of surviving. So this fight or flight mechanism goes on whenever we feel threatened in some way.
In our field we talk about psychological trauma being an event where… it could be where violence is present and you either experience the violence firsthand or you're witnessing the violence, and the result is one of helplessness and fear. And while we may not be there in person witnessing these violent acts we have been witnessing them over and over in social media and on the news. So one may argue that all of us are traumatized on some level. With that being said our brain and nervous system is on a little bit more of a heightened alert, so that fight or flight response is more likely to activate more frequently than it would if all of these violent incidences weren't going on. Okay? So that's information that I want you to have because that can be very empowering so you know what is going on within you.
Once you have that knowledge you can start to take steps to help yourself calm down and practice skills to find that inner peace again. S the example I want to give you is, the other day I was driving through the tunnel in the city and it was bumper-to-bumper traffic, so I was stuck in the tunnel for about an hour. My brain started to go to that place of what-if. A lot of what if questions are anxiety producing questions right because it's projecting something into the future that hasn't happened. So my brain went to that what if… what if this happened…what if that happened… how would I get out… what would I do… so when you start… your brain starts to question and try to figure things out that aren't real, that haven't happened. Okay?
So the first thing that I did, was, because I know all this information, is I observed what was happening. So I have this observing part of my brain that comes in and says this is what's going on here, I’m in a heightened state. So I was able to observe that rather than getting so into the story, getting more and more anxious, where then maybe my breathing would change and I would've started to really struggle. Instead of going to that place I was able to observe it and then practice my skills. The most powerful tool that we have to help her nervous system settle down is our breath. So I started deep breathing, and the deep breathing is slow breaths in through the nose and out through the nose. So I took a few deep breaths and immediately I started to feel better. Then what I do is I say a mantra to myself. Some of my mantras are things like “I am safe now”…”I am protected”... “I am loved”. Sometimes I'll go to my spiritual practice and say something like “God in front of me, God behind me, God above me, God below me”… and really allow myself to feel that protective energy around me. So once I observe, take my breaths, say my mantra, usually I'm feeling much better and then I make a choice to do something that puts my brain out of that fear/fight or flight state and into a more enjoyable state. So then I turned on one of my favorite songs and I really allowed myself to enjoy it, and then I was in a much better place, back to my balanced and ground self.
So I'm going to encourage you to practice that. It doesn't have to be necessarily exactly that - find what works for you. If there's mantra that works for you - maybe it's not a song, if it's talking to a friend or doing an activity, going for a walk, something that helps you get into a better space. So the steps are to 1. Observe what's happening and validate it. It makes sense that you're feeling that way or feeling anxious. 2. Take your deep breath - they will immediately start to calm your nervous system. 3. Say a mantra that resonates with you. And 4. Do an activity that helps you get back into a better space.
I hope this is helpful for you. I'm sending you so much peace and love and I hope that you have a beautiful week ahead. Be well."