When people suffer from anxiety very often they are not aware of it, or, on the other hand, they obsess about it which causes them to worry even more. It has become a modern day social problem, something so overwhelming that there is even a Mental Health Awareness Week focusing on the issue. As much as this can encourage people to open up about their mental health problems, it may not necessarily give them the opportunity to learn where anxiety stems from and what they can do about it. The thing is, often as much as we focus on our problems and the things that we do not like about our life, often we just get more of the same – the same situations, the same people and the same chemical responses in our body. The reason for this is that our brain cannot tell the difference between imagination and reality so it responds the same way.
1. Change your self-talk
Everything starts in the mind, so the first thing we need to become aware of is our inner monologue. In the privacy of our own mind we tend to think whatever we will. It may feel like our sweet little secret sometimes as we believe that nobody will know about it. The fact is, every thought we have eventually becomes manifested. The best illustration of this is when we think of something we love and suddenly start to feel great and have more energy. Conversely, if we think of things we don’t like, we tend to feel tired, miserable and ready for bed at noon! It is not easy to pinpoint negative thinking sometimes as it has become autopilot. The easiest way to do this is to observe how you feel in your body. The moment you notice discomfort, tension, nausea, problems with breathing, sweating, increased high-rate, or low-energy quickly check your thoughts and you may find some recurrent themes. This is your chance to stop them right there.
2. Be disciplined
Now, you may think: ‘ I don’t have enough money’…‘I worry about bills’… ‘This person is making my life difficult, they don’t allow me to!’… ’How can I be positive?’ I would say – ‘You have to, otherwise the vast potential you have within will go to waste. ‘ Change doesn’t happen unless we invest energy into it and this rule can be applied for all things, especially our mindset. The more we practice something, the more it becomes like muscle memory to the point that we do it automatically. So, if negative thinking has become commonplace, it can also become uncommon. All of our programming can be changed, and repetition is one of the ways you can practice achieving this all by yourself. In my blog ‘How to rewrite negative thoughts’ I will guide you step by step through this process.
3. Focus on how you want things to be
I love the quote from Jon Kabat-Zinn: “ You cannot stop the waves but you can learn how to surf”’ . We cannot stop life or things going on. We cannot change people from being who they are. Still, there is one big thing we can do and that is: focus on ourselves and how we want things to be. Waves will be there always, but if we keep in mind what we want to achieve, it will give us strength and resilience in the times of hardships. Even if you feel that you have no control over your life in this very moment, you can always decide where to focus your thought energy.
4. Pick your battles wisely
When we are prone to negative thinking anxiety easily starts to build up and we lose intellectual control. Instead of being thoughtful, we become reactive, and very often respond to situations which are actually not really relevant to us. Time is a precious commodity, just like energy. So if we allow ourselves to get upset or emotionally engaged in situations which are of minor importance to us, or none at all, then all that could have been instead invested into achieving our goals will be lost. The more we practice this the more positive we become, which leaves us with more energy for things that are really important to us. Moreover, we gain back emotional control so we we can assess unfavourable situations as they occur and decide whether to respond or just remind ourselves of the bigger picture.
5. Take time for play
The older we get, the more roles we take on. On top of that, we grow expectations towards ourselves and what we need to achieve. If we run our own business it becomes even more consuming because we love what we do – don’t we? The thing is, that same love requires a lot of mental engagement and effort, so is it so different to just jogging in the park or dancing to Zumba. Taking time for play is so important as it gives us so much needed headspace and encourages our body to produce a lot of happy hormones. It is essential we always have this in our diary as it will keep us mentally strong. The Greek philosopher Thales summarized it well in his famous quotation “A sound mind in a sound body.”
6. Surround yourself with the right people
Early men and women used to live in communities so they were able to deal with the pressures of daily life by sharing responsibilities and knowledge. Nowadays, on the other hand, society is very fractured , family members live in different parts of the world or barely talking to each other. We have learnt to think this is normal as it is part of our daily life, but it is one of the main reasons why people feel isolated and prone to anxiety and depression. We have all experienced this, no matter what we are going through, having someone we can share our thoughts and feelings with, makes all the difference. In addition to this,good advice from a friend or a family member can help us dissipate our worries and get a clearer picture. Due to the brain’s negative bias we may be prone to think negatively and building things up to the point that it becomes detrimental to our health. Having the right people around us can prevent that from happening. After all, who can beat the laughs and cries shared in a great company?
Want to read more? Try this – Why is positive thinking so important