How Your Mind Can Relieve Anxiety
When anxiety strikes, it’s uncomfortable, maybe even painful; the tremors, shakes, panic, sweat, pounding, nausea, and often debilitating, unbearable physical discomfort.
Desperate, you look for something or someone to provide relief; and when symptoms become more than you can bear, expert assistance can be an important step.
Yet, whether you seek help from a provider, medication, or alternative resources, discovering how your mind can relieve anxiety is important to your overall health and wellness.
Anxiously Seeking Relief
Anxiety has definitely knocked me to my knees in sheer panic; it’s taken my breath, and my voice.
Honestly, I’ve held onto my legs during body tremors that I believed would totally swallow me whole.
Likewise, I’ve felt my heart beat right out of my chest and my stomach flip into knots.
And, even though I’ve lived anxious most of my life, I’m clear that a lot of the anxiety I’ve experienced, I created in my mind.
My negative, self-deprecating belief system, made up of a whole lot of crappy thoughts, fed my anxiety well and exercised it regularly.
Desperate for relief, I resorted to drinking, drugs, eating, and shopping trying to find something to ease my symptoms; yet, my anxiety continued…and actually increased.
Talking with a counselor helped, and yet when anxiety would strike in between sessions, I never felt prepared to self-talk my way through the overwhelming panic and flood of emotion.
Tentatively, I tried medication, and it did give me some relief, but eventually numbed all my emotions.
Determined to crack the anxiety code, I dove into the research, read the reports, and explored the various practices, while continuing to dig into my own anxiety.
Throughout my 20+ years in academia training counselors, I studied the biological, neurological, and psychological causes of anxiety…and trust me, I’m not debating any of it.
But I always wondered, “Why am I so anxious compared to others? What’s wrong with me?”
Fortunately, through research using functional MRIs, I learned about the differences in brain functioning between people with higher than normal anxiety and those with normal anxiety.
“Okay! I’m not totally flawed!”
Whereas this information was priceless, I still longed for how to relieve my anxiety and help others relieve theirs.
What I’ve discovered through deeper dives into the research is that even though our brain might be hard-wired for more anxiety than average brains, our brain can also provide relief.
In other words, because anxiety starts in our brain, the brain is also where relief can occur.
Without getting too neuroscientific with you, because of the brain’s plasticity, or capacity to change and adapt, strategies that alter the brain’s chemistry and structure can lead to anxiety relief.
How Your Mind Can Relieve Anxiety
Meditation – I use guided and unguided. The two apps I use, Calm and Headspace, offer great guided meditations, even for anxiety or stress. Tara Brach also offers many different types of meditations on her website.
If you’re new to meditation, ease into it by closing your eyes and noticing your breathing; inhale and exhale slowly. As thoughts will come and go, watch them as you would clouds drift through the sky. If your mind wanders off into anxious chatter, that’s okay; gently bring it back to your breathing without judgment. You can also add a mantra such as, “I am calm,” or “I am peace,” or “I’m okay.”
Mindfulness – It’s the bomb…and it’s free. Mindfulness techniques, such as mindful breathing, can transport you into the present moment, connect your mind with your body, and regulate your emotions.
To use mindful breathing, sit or lie in a comfortable position. Close your eyes, or keep your eyes open, especially if you’re driving! Breathe in through your nose slowly while giving your full attention to your breath entering your nose. Feel the coolness. Exhale slowly while focusing on the breath leaving through your nose. Feel the warmth. Repeat for 5-20 minutes, or until anxiety eases.
Mindset – Developing your mindset is ongoing and lifelong; and like meditation and mindfulness, a variety of ways exist to evolve your mindset. Two of my favorites are: 1) reframing challenges into opportunities, and 2) consciously challenging thoughts.
Everyday, a myriad of events, exchanges, and encounters cross our paths; and with each one, we get to choose how to respond. Likewise, we are fully responsible for what we think about others, most notably, their behaviors and actions. No one and nothing has control of how we think, feel, and act…only us. Therefore, evolving our mindset is a sure-fire way to relieve anxiety.
In addition to using my mind, I use yoga, journaling, creativity, calming teas, essential oils, nature, massage, and even acupuncture to ease my anxiety.
Whereas each of these strategies provide more relief and are part of my whole-health lifestyle, my mind gives me the greatest anxiety relief.
Now, I’m not suggesting that you forgo the help of expert practitioners to teach, guide, and support your anxiety relief.
Yet, what I am offering is how your mind can play an active role in your anxiety relief, and research supports it.
By involving my mind in my own anxiety relief, I have a deeper awareness of all that goes on in mind and how to use it to create the thoughts that I want to think and the feelings that I want to feel.
Consequently, I’m calmer, more at ease, and am living, breathing proof of how your mind can relieve anxiety.
Sending you inspiration,