Do you find yourself struggling with anxiety?
I certainly used to, and still do from time to time.
No matter how hard you try to rid yourself of anxious thoughts, they seem to keep coming back. And the more you think about how to get rid of them, the more they stick in your head!
I know the feeling and it sucks.
Yet, there is always hope to get better. If you keep working at it and are willing to look at and try new ideas, then eventually, you will improve. The thing that helped me the most for relieving anxiety was focusing on living in the moment. As Seneca said:
“We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.”
Much of our own suffering and anxiety happens in our minds, not in reality. It follows that the best way to relieve anxiety is to get out of your own head and become more connected with reality.
So below are 6 ways of bringing your mind back into reality and relieving anxiety. Each one of them helped me to improve my mental health and live fully. I hope they do the same for you, too.
Having a routine
Anxiety is defined as a feeling of worry and stress about the future. You’re experiencing those feelings because of the natural uncertainty of the future. One way to mitigate that uncertainty is by having a routine.
A routine is simply an established structure or set of activities you do each day at the same time. You don’t have to get up at 5 AM or do some next-level Navy SEAL training. You just have to establish some kind of regular structure into your day.
For example, my routine starts with waking up at 6:30 AM. After about 15 minutes of stretching and a glass of water, I sit down to write. By 8:30 AM, I’m eating breakfast and getting ready for work.
Doing those same things every day helps me to remain centered and establish a bit of control over what I do and the future outcomes that normally bring anxiety.
You can set up any routine that works best for you. Pick something that makes you feel more comfortable and puts your mind at ease. You’ll find the extra bit of structure in your day helps with relieving those anxious thoughts.
Defaulting to action
One of the key things about anxiety is that it involves worrying, and worrying can only be done by thinking. So to reduce anxiety, it helps if you can think less, and default to action.
When you’re sitting down and thinking, that’s when anxiety has a chance to creep in. Thoughts of fear may cross your mind as you think about uncertain things going on in your life. But if you can get yourself moving, then the anxiety goes away because you’re already absorbed in the action you are doing.
For example, one writing tip given by a lot of pro-writers is to get the first draft done as fast as possible. Editing can be done later. Personally, I like using timeboxing for this.
What this essentially does is leans you more towards getting into the motion of work. Once you’re in the motion, there’s no stopping you. You’re no longer thinking because you’re too busy working; anxiety doesn’t stand a chance!
Negative habits stack on top of each other and one thing leads to another. A bad habit of lack of sleep, an unhealthy diet, or poor exercise can all lead to anxiety. Some research even shows that things like an unhealthy diet and lack of sleep can directly impact mental health in a very negative way.
Establishing these three pillars of good physical health: a full sleep, a healthy diet, and regular exercise will help tremendously with anxiety relief.
- Getting a full sleep helps to rest your head from the day prior so you can re-energize your mind for the day to come. A well-rested mind will have a much easier time fighting off anxiety and thinking positively
- A healthy diet will give you more energy throughout the day. The balance of getting all of your nutrients will feel amazing, boosting your mood too
- Regular exercise will boost your heart rate and keep you healthy. Your physical strength and ability to use your body in useful and productive ways is a big booster for self-esteem
Establish these three pillars and you’ll find yourself with more energy and better mental clarity throughout your day.
Unplug from the digital
Many of us, myself included, are so used to skimming through our phones. On every commute to work or go out with friends, and even when I arrived at the place, I’d be using my phone. Honestly, it was mostly just endless scrolling reading through pretty meaningless stuff or watching YouTube videos.
What really really helped me with anxiety was unplugging from that digital world. Specifically, when I’m out with friends or family, or at work, I put my phone out of arms reach, across the table, or in my backpack if I’m carrying one.
The digital world isn’t real. It’s all on the screen, which in turn leads to imagination and thinking in your own head. Remember, to break free from anxiety, we want to focus on living in reality. Reducing digital screen time and committing your mental energy to what’s happening in real life in front of you is a way of doing that.
Express and understand your thoughts
Anxiety only creeps in when you’re thinking about something. I’ve discovered that it’s really a mistake to keep all of those thoughts bottled in. One of my favorite ways of relieving thoughts from my head is to write in a journal.
As Anne Frank said:
“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn”
Journalling is a way of moving the thoughts from your head and onto the paper. From there, you can forget about them. You don’t need to remember or think about them in your head because you have them documented on paper. No more worrying!
If you do feel that one day you would like to spend some time understanding those thoughts for self-improvement, they’re there waiting for you in your journal. You can look at them from an outsider point of view, a more objective perspective to better understand your own thoughts.
Live in the moment
Last but not least, live in the moment. Focus your energy and actions on what lies in front of you.
Much of our anxiety stems from thinking about something else that’s not happening right in front of us. At work, you’re thinking about getting another job. Out on a date, you’re thinking about what the person across the table thinks of you. At least, those were once my thoughts.
But are those things really important? Thinking about getting a new job while at work won’t help you get a new job. Thinking about what your date thinks of your looks won’t change how you look.
The best thing to do is to just live.
Do the work in front of you so you can have time later to look for a new job. Enjoy the great food while out on your date and the company of your partner. The future is uncertain, so let it come later and you’ll handle it. But today, right now, have fun with this life you’re experiencing!