15 ways to control anxiety
Nowadays many people seek to quell their thoughts in a bid to soothe an anxious mind, but counsellor and psychotherapist Abby Wynne believes that, as we are hardwired to have up to 70,000 thoughts a day, working with the mind is the key to calm
When our mind goes on overdrive, we tend to give in and allow fearful thoughts to take over. It's a survival instinct, a natural thing, but the stress we all feel in our daily lives never seems to stop, and our minds don't really get a chance to rest.
When it comes to calming the mind, we often look to meditation as the answer. Our idea of meditation is stopping our thinking altogether. This is very difficult to do, because our mind is constructed to think between 50-70,000 thoughts per day. I prefer to work with the mind rather than against it, so stopping thinking isn't on the menu here. I see this not as a quick fix, but as an investment. You have to spend time working on yourself, making a commitment to help yourself feel empowered in life. Once you do this, your mind then calms itself because it knows you've got things in hand.
1 Slow Down and Breathe
Feel your heart beating, imagine a clock ticking and your breath slows down to match, and then the speed of your thoughts slows down too. Bring yourself more into focus and ask yourself for clarity on your thoughts. Give yourself permission to take a break, even just five minutes, to gain perspective. You don't need to know what the perspective is, you just need to give yourself the space.
2 Step back
Now you are the observer in the space that you have created, look at the thoughts you're thinking and start to ask yourself "Is this thought helping me or making things worse?", "Have I worked through this already?" Just be with these questions, without judgement, so you can get to know your pattern of thinking and work with it, not against it.
Imagine yourself flying out of your body and looking down at yourself and your life. Imagine going up a bit higher, looking down at the building you're in, the whole street, the town, the country you're in, even the world. Breathe. Gain some perspective on the thoughts - how important is this issue really? If it is really important, that's ok. Bring your awareness back into your body. After doing this, do you feel a bit differently about what's going on?
If the thought that is stressful is important and action is required, make an action plan. If there's nothing you can do about it, say to yourself: "I let go of my need to control the situation, and accept the situation as it is." And if the thought is not important, then replace it with something that you prefer to think about. Every time it comes back into your head, speak to the thought like it's your friend, saying: "Yes I know, thank you, I'm aware of this, and I'm doing all I can." Then swap it consciously, until you do it naturally.
If you can't hold onto the preferred thought for very long, you need to make sure that you have given yourself permission to be happy. If you're not allowed to be happy, then you will fill your mind with unhappy thoughts, no matter how hard you want otherwise.
Look at what's holding you back from being happy - do bad things always happen when you are happy? Does what makes you happy get taken away from you? Let the adult part of you speak to the child inside you that's terrified, and reassure it that you're going to be ok, that you're grown up now and you can look after yourself. Tell yourself that being happy is really and truly allowed.
This can take some time to sink in, but it's very rewarding work.
6 Calm the body, calm the mind: Disconnect
Switch off anything that is pulling on your attention - television, radio, social media, emails, your phone. Take a few minutes in silence, where all you can hear is your mind. This could be more difficult than you expect, so go back to step 1, staying disconnected, and go through steps 1-5 again.
Focus your mind on a body-reconnection exercise where you bring your awareness into your head, your neck, your chest, your stomach, your legs and your feet. Breathe and bring your awareness to your head. Breathe and bring your awareness to your chest, and so on. As you come deeper into your body, notice how much calmer you feel. Your mind should be busy focusing on doing this, and not on the stressful thoughts.
8 Ground yourself
By feeling connected to your body, you are centred. By connecting to the earth, you become grounded.
Being grounded brings a strength and confidence into your body and mind, and you can handle life's situations better. Visualise energy cords coming from your feet going deep into the earth. Imagine roots of trees wrapping themselves around your feet, or you could imagine throwing an anchor from your stomach deep into the sea. Try it and notice how you feel.
You can find deeper grounding exercises if you like doing this and want to bring it further.
9 Change your Energy
Go for a walk, a swim, a bike ride. Play some music, dance or sing. See how long you can stay connected to your body as you do this, so you're focusing your mind on your body and how it feels to move it, stretch it, be in it and not on your stressful thoughts. You might need to re-do steps 1-5 to become more comfortable doing this.
10 Remember who you are. Take your power back
If there's someone or something that is the cause of your worry, it is because you've invested a part of yourself in them/it, and you have no control over it. You can take your power back by telling yourself you no longer need to invest so much of yourself in that person, place or thing. Imagine that part of yourself is coming back to you across space and time, then visualise that person, place or thing without so much of your investment in it.
By getting perspective, grounding yourself and using affirmations you can gain confidence in your abilities and feel empowered. Here are some affirmations to try - you need to believe them 100pc for them to really work. "I am safe", "I can do this","I will get through this", "It will be ok". Try making up your own, and change them when you feel you have grown out of them.
12 Accept yourself as you are.
We are not perfect, we never will be. Know that the ideal you, the one you keep pushing yourself to become, will never exist. This is big work, but it really takes the pressure off. You are doing your best, you really are. Be with that.
13 Do your work
When you're feeling calm, go deeper within yourself to find out the root cause of the stress. Is it a belief that you have that you're not good enough? You need to do internal work to build a stronger foundation on the inside so you can handle life better on the outside, and grow and blossom too. This is so important and so many people don't want to take responsibility, but it is so worthwhile, and if it changes the entire quality of your life, then isn't it worth the risk?
Learn how to value yourself for the person that you truly are, release the pressure you put on yourself to be perfect, and accept yourself for the things that you are still learning. You will make mistakes! That's what learning is about.
14 Be grateful for what you have
You might have heard this many times, probably because it's true! Being grateful changes your thought patterns, your perspective and increases your happiness levels. Make a list of everything you are grateful for, starting with the fact you're alive, that you can read this article, that you're living somewhere relatively safe, that you can choose the types of thoughts that you are thinking.
15 Have a daily self-care practice
It's not enough to do these things when you feel overwhelmed or anxious. They're great to break you out of those patterns, but why allow those patterns to remain? If you practice self-care every day, whether you think you need to or not, you'll find you become overwhelmed by your thoughts less and less often.
The more time you spend remembering who you are and what is really important to you, the more you will value yourself. You then become less likely to invest yourself in things out of your control. Once you do this, you will become more balanced in how you see the world, spend less time lost in fear and anxiety, and gain more confidence for life.
Abby's new book 'Energy Healing' is available in all good bookshops nationwide priced at €12.29 or from her website: abby-wynne.com/