Tools for Dealing with Anxiety – Part 2: Habits of Thinking

Tools for Dealing with Anxiety – Part 2: Habits of Thinking

In dealing with anxiety the number one thing that must be done is to change our habits of thinking. It is the way we think about ourselves, others, and the world around us that creates our stress, making us feel overwhelmed, and creates anxiety in us. In order to overcome our anxiety we must reprogram our brains into thinking in more positive and proactive ways and thus creating in us the mindset to act in positive and proactive ways and let go of our negative and self-defeating ways.

There are a number of tools for doing this that I would like to discuss: 1) meditation, 2) journaling, 3) affirmations. All three of these activities will help you to ground yourself in reality, help you identify the things in life that are really causing you stress, and give you the mental tools to overcome the stress to keep it from leading to over whelming anxiety.

Meditation

I recommend starting everyday with meditation. To do this sit in a quiet place where you will not be disturbed. You can sit in lotus position, on the floor or couch, with legs crossed, or lay down on the floor. Do not do this in bed. The point is to clear your mind of thoughts, quiet the mind, and get comfortable with just being, the point is not to take a nap.

Once you are comfortable close your eyes and take inventory of your thoughts and feelings and begin to breath in deeply through the nose and exhale through the mouth really concentrating on your breath. Slow down your breathing to a normal easy pace. Slowly start to let go of all your thoughts. Just let them happen and image them disappearing. Don’t fight them. Just relax and let all your thoughts go. You might find it helpful to repeat a mantra such as “breathe in peace” on the inhale and “breathe out love” on the exhale (I borrowed this from Miracle Morning author Hale Elrod). Give yourself time each day to practice this and realized that it will take you time to quiet your mind and go deeper within yourself.

I suggest doing this for 5 to 10 minutes every morning to start. You can extend your meditation time as you desire. You can also do this at any time during the day or at night before you go to bed. You may also find guided meditation helpful as it helps you focus on areas where you may need help such as feeling grateful, feeling compassion, or just feeling at peace with the world. Two great apps for this are Headspace – www.headspace.com (can also be found in Google Play or Apple App stores) or Stop, Breathe, & Think – www.stopbreatethink.org (also found in Google Play or Apple App stores).

Journaling

Journaling is a great way to identify what you are feeling, why you are feeling it, and how to deal with it. It also helps you to see your progress over time so that you can see how you are making progress and to help you feel that you are moving forward and getting better. A word of caution – do not make your journal a place to inventory negative feelings and feed your feelings of self defeat. I am offering a free journal template that you can use to make the most productive use of your journal – Anxiety Journal.

I suggest making this a daily routine either first thing in the morning as part of your meditation, or at night before you go to bed. In this journal you will want to identify what is causing you stress, how you are reacting to that stress, what elements of the cause you are in control of, what elements you are not in control of, and what actions you can take to avoid or reduce the stress. Be honest with yourself and really try to get at the root of what is causing the stress – ask your self why until you really get to the root of the problem. Then once you’ve identified the problem recognize what element are within your circle of influence and control and which elements are not. This will help you to focus in on the things that you can really change and let go of those things that you cannot. Finally, take action. Based on your areas of influence and control identify positive actions that you can take to avoid or reduce your stressors.

Affirmations

Affirmations are statements of positive sentiment about oneself or intentions for improvement. Intentions should be based on reality and actionable – meaning they are true or have the possibility of being true if you put the action into doing what needs to be done to make them true.

Sit down and write down at least four affirmations – two should be positive statements celebrating something good about yourself, and two should be statements of what you would like to change about yourself and what you are committed to doing to make them a reality.

For a great discussion of affirmations see this article from Entrepreneur.com – Why Affirmations Have Failed You and 4 Steps to Change That for a great discussion of how to write effective affirmations that really work.

For additional resources check out:

The Morning Miracle by Hal Elrod – get the book

The Five Minute Journal: A Happier You in Five Minutes a Day – get the book

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