Anxiety is often the result of negative thinking – something which is so deeply ingrained in many of us that reversing its effects takes a lot of hard work and effort. While negative thoughts are automatic and exist subconsciously, positive thoughts are much less frequent and require conscious input. There is no magic ‘fix-all’ pill, but with time and knowledge, recovery is possible. Try the simple tips and tricks featured in this post to learn to keep your head above water in times of stress.
The Big 5 Challenges
Challenging our thoughts is a necessity if we are to disprove them and relinquish their effect on us. Next time you feel yourself start to panic, try these five challenges:
- What are the chances?
What are the chances that things will go wrong? Have you been in this situation before and found that, actually, it all worked out, or is there a genuine risk to your health and wellbeing?
- What is the worst thing?
What are you worried about? Often, the things we’re actively worrying about aren’t at the roots of our anxiety, so ask yourself what’s the worst thing that could happen? Suddenly, the situation won’t seem so scary.
- Am I right to think that?
How many times have you told yourself that nobody likes you, that you have no friends and are unlovable? Challenge it. You can’t be right about nobody caring if Auntie Brenda gave you a call this morning can you!?
- The five year rule
This one is simple – will it matter in five years? 95% of the time, the answer is no, it won’t.
- What is this worth?
Are you anxious about popping to the shop to buy a bottle of milk or walking into a crowded room? Ask yourself if the situation really merits the stress, panic and upset it’s causing? Chances are, it doesn’t.
The mind-body reaction
The inextricable link between our minds and our bodies plays a huge part in anxiety levels, but it can also be the key to recovery. When our minds are racing at 100mph our bodies react accordingly. Thoughts like ‘I can’t possibly leave the house’ and ‘nobody likes me,’ cause us to tense up, panic and prepare for the worst. This is because the negative thoughts we experience are wrongly perceived as danger, causing our bodies to enter ‘fight or flight’ mode, flooding us with excess adrenaline.
Quickened heartbeats, sweaty palms and headaches are all familiar symptoms to sufferers of anxiety, and can lead the body to a fully-fledged panic attack, even when we are not conscious of our thoughts.
For example, try breathing rapidly for 30 seconds – your mind will associate this with danger, or the memory of your last bout of anxiety. Your thoughts will automatically jump to the negative, (I am having a panic attack; I am in danger), and your body will respond with further panic. It’s terrifying feeling so out-of-control right? Wrong. You are in complete control. Slow your breathing and the rest will follow.
When your head is in the clouds, get your feet on the ground!
If breathing can influence our anxiety levels so much, what about our physical stance? Anxiety can make us feel like we’re floating away, about to lose grip with reality – when this happens, ‘grounding’ is a great way to feel rooted to the world around us.
- Place your feet flat on the ground
- Smell something strong, like coffee or perfume
- Touch something – perhaps keep a token of some sort in your pocket?
Using our physical senses to centre ourselves is a good way to restore our natural levels of adrenaline, and can sometimes be necessary before we are ready to use the positive thinking ‘challenges’ above. Breathe deeply and ground yourself, calming the body, so that the mind may be receptive to positive thoughts.
The holistic approach
Natural Dermatology are, of course, firm advocates of the holistic approach when it comes to treating all sorts of varying maladies, from anxiety to skincare. Diet, exercise and lifestyle have a huge role to play in anxiety levels, so consider living every day to the best of your ability, rather than only skipping your morning coffee when you feel a panic attack coming on. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, and take up running, or any other cardio exercise, to burn up all that extra adrenaline you produce during times of stress. If your body is calm, your mind will follow, and vice-versa.