Stopping Anxiety in its Tracks

All around us, with or without our knowledge, people are functioning with anxiety. Unfortunately, COVID-19 is increasingly worsening stress and anxiety, and the outcome is completely out of our hands.


Anxiety looks different for each person, and high functioning anxiety is as important to manage as debilitating anxiety. Humans are incredible at adaptation, but like chronic stress, chronic anxiety must be managed. Buried emotions around control, unanswered questions, and being overly involved with what bothers you most contributes to, and worsens anxiety. Uncovering buried emotions may be the first step to facing anxiety struggles.


A leading factor in people with anxiety is the urge to control the uncontrollable. There are many instances of high functioning anxiety and there has certainly been no way to escape the burdens of COVID-19. People experiencing high-functioning anxiety seem to have it together but maintaining a facade is like a bandaid on a bullet wound, and things will eventually start to unravel.


It is vital to reflect on what you can and cannot control, and set a boundary. Setting a boundary does not negate the stress, worry, and fear associated with the pandemic, and now the holiday season is upon us, but having a “toolbox” of resources and strategies is a sure way to overcome the anxiety you may be dealing with.


Remember, conscious and deliberate practices are necessary for handling anxiety. Acceptance builds tolerance in challenging situations and establishing greater self-awareness is key.


Find The Lesson


There is something to learn from every situation and circumstance. Perhaps the learning occurs outside of yourself, perhaps you learn something about yourself. Becoming an observer can help you to navigate anxiety when it surfaces.


React with a Distraction


While physical movement can help to negate monkey mind, you could also turn to something like reading or journaling in order to escape the grips of overwhelm. This does not mean suppress your feelings, but doing something to distract yourself can help you to protect yourself from spiraling.


Create a Restful Space (in your mind)


Monkey mind is real. When the lights go out, does your mind go on?


Keep a journal near your bed and write down your thoughts instead of spiraling in your mind. Do not over do it, but instead just write stream of consciousness style to get your thoughts out of your head and onto paper so your mind and body can rest. Writing weakens the impact of anxiety. Reinforce positivity with affirmations that reinforce enoughness; write down your accomplishments (big or small) for the day; or make a gratitude list.


If writing is not your favorite pastime, consider creating a manageable bedtime routine. Avoid caffeine and screens, drink a cup of tea, or read a book in bed.


Take note, lack of sleep can make it challenging to identify with emotions and makes it almost impossible to healthily process.


Surround Yourself with Good People


Your mental health is influenced by the people you surround yourself with, and perhaps it is time to take stock of the people you spend the most time with.


Boundaries are a mental health necessity. Exercise your right to say no, exercise your right to be wrong, and exercise your right to take breaks.


Responding v Reacting


When it comes to anxiety you get to decide on responding or reacting. There is a simple difference between responding and reacting, responding requires a pause while reacting is impulsive. This is the difference between a beneficial or harmful response. Impulsive behavior can point to unhealthy emotions. This is why healthy coping mechanisms are invaluable.


Take a few breaths and see how you feel, if you still feel reactive, remove yourself from the situation and see how you feel. Once emotionally activated, if you can wait 90 seconds before reacting, you will save yourself.


3:1 Ratio


For every anxious thought, think 3 positive thoughts. Think about what makes you happy, what you have gratitude for, or think of something that makes you laugh.


While the journey to managing your anxiety may not be easy, there is no need to be overtaken by anxiety. When you start to choose your reaction, you start to take back your power.


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© 2020 by Markesha Miller, Ph.D.