Anxiety is a natural dialogue between your mind and body. It’s a red flag that something might be going on in your surroundings that requires your attention.
For most of us, anxiety is an uncomfortable but fleeting feeling that pops up on occasion during particularly stressful times.
For some, anxiety may be more present and color more of their daily life. And for still others, anxiety is a constant torture; a nightmare they can’t awaken from.
Easing it can be painful if you don’t know how to calm down. Likely, you’re wondering how to distract yourself when anxiety hits.
How can you ease the frustration and stress?
Depending on your level of anxiety, there are some healthy coping strategies you can use to manage it.
Here are 5 ways to help you distract yourself from anxiety when it’s happening.
1. Mind your mind.
How often are you aware of your own thoughts? Your thoughts tend to bubble up from your subconscious without much control from your conscious mind.
For those experiencing anxiety, many of these thoughts will be negative and frightening, although the majority will not be based in reality.
Start to pay attention to the thoughts behind the feelings. Instead of thinking the worst will happen, challenge the thought. What is the realistic likelihood the worst will happen on a scale of one to 10?
The more you do this, the more you will re-train your mind to process life differently.
2. Remind yourself of what anxiety is.
Beyond frightful emotions, anxiety often comes with physical sensations like tightness in the chest, rapid heartbeat, and shortness of breath. In other words, it can feel like you’re dying.
But you’re not.
You’re having a physical response to an irrational fear or thought. Remind yourself of that ancient dialogue your mind and body are having, and know that, in reality, you are OK.
3. Learn what your triggers are.
Once you learn to pay attention to your thoughts and remain calm knowing you’re having a natural reaction to what you perceive as a threat, find the threat.
Observe your surroundings to find the potential trigger that activated your reaction. If there are other people in the room, notice their reaction to your trigger.
Do they seem uneasy or concerned in the least? Chances are they don’t, because the threat is not real. Store this information away so eventually, your subconscious mind will stop thinking of the trigger as a threat.
4. Remember to breathe!
Slow, deep breaths have been shown to instantly calm a person. Your heart rate will slow, your muscles will relax, your entire body will return to a normal state of being.
Don’t underestimate the power of just taking a moment to breathe.
Anxiety can be terrifying and limit your ability to see past the things that are bringing it up. But with a little bit of effort, you can get in control of your thoughts and emotions, and keep it from sidelining you.
5. Spend time in nature.
Make sure to get outside and relax. Spending time in nature is proven to decrease your overall stress and anxiety levels, keeping you calmer over the long run.
Take 10 minutes to go outside and have a light walk. If you can’t do that, maybe sit outside on the porch with your morning coffee, or spend some time in your garden.
In order to learn how to distract yourself when that stress is getting the best of you, pay attention to what’s going on. Remind yourself that you don’t have to give in to those crushing, negative thoughts, and really spend some time getting your emotional fight or flight response under control.
Babita Spinelli is a psychotherapist and CEO of Opening the Doors Psychotherapy and Embrace Coaching. To learn more about how she can help you accomplish your goals, visit her website.
This article was originally published at Opening the Doors Psychotherapy. Reprinted with permission from the author.