Anxiety... Your heart is racing. Your palms are sweating. You can't think clearly. You feel everyone's eyes are on you. The butterflies in your stomach have teeth! You. Can't. Move.
These are just some of the descriptions of what it is like to be in the throws of anxiety. Next time you feel like you are being hijacked by fearful thoughts and feelings, consider these suggestions:
1. S l o w - d o w n: When we are anxious, everything seems to speed up, including our thoughts, our heart rate, and our breathing... At the first sign of things speeding up, see what you can do to slow things down... Take 10 conscious breaths.. Inhale slowly for 5 seconds, 1-2-3-4-5, and exhale completely for 5 seconds, 1-2-3-4-5. Give it a try right now....
2. Create a little distance between you and your anxiety: If you think about it, when you're observing something else, there is a space between you and what you're observing, right? So observe where you are, right now (not where you think you are, but where you really are... walking to class, working at your desk, going down the aisles at the grocery store, etc). Observe, with words, what you are thinking or feeling. Notice what it feels like to separate yourself from your anxiety.. just for a moment.
3. Engage your senses: Anxiety lives in your mind, but often presents itself in the body making it difficult to connect to where you are right now. Take a few moments to notice something from your sense of sight, sound, smell, taste, and/or touch.. Lie down and watch the passing clouds, listen to music, smell some oil of lavender, notice the sweetness of slowly eating a tangerine, or when available, squeeze some old fashioned silly putty.
4. Check the facts: Anxiety feels very real yet often stems from fears about events that haven't happened yet, or ever. When you have anxious thoughts, ask yourself, "Are these thoughts really true? How do I know they are true?" Thoughts are just thoughts, nothing more, and your own gentle inquiry may help you manage anxiety in ways that feel genuinely helpful.
5. Channel it: Not all anxiety it bad.. Just like other mental events, anxiety lies on the continuum from mildly uncomfortable to very debilitating. If the anxiety you are feeling is not too severe, you might want to channel it into something productive, like taking a walk, cleaning out a closet, creating a new playlist, or going to a yoga class.