With so much turmoil going on in the world today it’s understandable that people are experiencing higher than normal levels of anxiety on a daily basis. When the state of the world and perhaps also your personal circumstances are uncertain and challenging, it is still possible to cultivate a predominantly peaceful and calm mind.
Here are some suggestions you may wish to try to help manage anxiety:
- Watch minimal TV and news media. Most TV and news media today unfortunately tends towards sensationalism and fear-mongering rather than objective, balanced and quality reporting. It’s easy to get sucked in by the latest doomsday story and feel like you need to keep abreast of everything that’s happening in the world in order to be prepared for the worst. However the truth is, your mental health will suffer if you are exposed to too much of this kind of “news”. Be selective in what you give your attention to, and notice how it impacts your mood. Watch or read with a degree of detachment so you can decide for yourself what is worth being concerned about. This will also allow you to maintain your ability to think critically about what you are seeing, rather than getting swept up in the emotion of it.
- Learn to detach from anxious thoughts. The ability to notice anxious thoughts without becoming entangled with them is a key skill in managing anxiety levels. It is generally unrealistic to try to “stop” anxious thoughts from entering your mind, but if you can simply watch them, assess them and consciously decide to let them go if they aren’t useful, you can avoid spiralling into full blown anxiety.
Becoming more aware of the thoughts you are thinking is a valuable cognitive skill that needs to be practiced frequently until it starts to come more naturally, and there are many different techniques to help with this. Taking a few minutes throughout the day to watch your thoughts, and practice remaining neutral about them, will begin to train you in this way.
Sometimes people say “I’m just an anxious person, it won’t work for me”. However all that means is that you learned the engage in anxious patterns of thought from a young age. It’s never to late to change this or at the very least improve it. Your personality is not as fixed as you might think.
- Learn to realistically assess risk. People who experience anxiety regularly tend to overestimate the risks they face in their day-to-day life. Learning to realistically assess risk can prevent you getting fixated on a negative outcome which has very little chance of ever transpiring in real life. This can be done by seeking external proof of your fears rather than going purely on emotion or imagination, which may not be based on anything tangible. Also, seek out your most rational and chilled out friends, and find out how they view the kinds of situations that you are worrying about. Learning to think in different ways will broaden your perceptions and allow you greater flexibility in the way you respond to life.
- Take action on things you have influence over. Instead of focusing on things you have no control over (such as world events), concentrate your attention on your immediate sphere of influence. What can you do today to feel like you are progressing in your life?
Even small actions will contribute to giving you a sense of personal empowerment. For example, committing to regular exercise, keeping your home tidy and eating in a balanced way will all contribute to a sense of order within your personal sphere.
Finally, don’t forget that spending time with people who bring you joy and doing things that are playful and fun are more important than ever when things seem heavy in the world outside.
We should never judge ourselves for our feelings, whatever they may be, after all it’s a part of being human – but learning a few simple ways to manage your internal landscape can allow you to navigate difficult times with more ease and grace.