Do you ever get stuck thinking about something that happened earlier in the day? Does it ever feel as if your mind won’t stop imagining worst-case scenarios?
This is your anxious mind at work, and it can be exhausting! When you experience these anxious thoughts, you may engage in some of these common behaviors:
- Ruminating: Excessively mentally reviewing or analyzing
- Seeking Reassurance: Asking others if they think you made a mistake, if they think there will be a problem, if they are upset with you, etc.
- Avoidance: Avoiding places, people, or situations that trigger the anxiety
- Checking: Excessively researching online, redoing tasks to be sure they were done “right,” looking for mistakes, etc.
These behaviors are part of the “worry cycle,” and they can keep us stuck. Here are some helpful tips for managing the worry cycle in the moment:
- Take a breath: Slow down your breathing for a few minutes. Try inhaling, holding, exhaling, and holding for four seconds each.
- Label the thinking: For example, “I’m having a thought about work, but I don’t have to give this my attention right now.”
- Redirect attention: Shift your attention to what is happening right now by focusing on your five senses.
- Engage in a hobby: Doing something you value deserves your attention more than the what-ifs.
- Get moving: Take a walk, go for a run, or just dance!
- Play with a pet: It can help break out of a rumination cycle.
- Sing: Singing can interrupt ruminating and boost mood.
- Do for others: Random acts of kindness can shift our focus to something other than our worries.
While these strategies will help when you are experiencing anxiety, long-term strategies can help set you up for less anxiety overall. Some of these strategies include:
- Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness is the practice of noticing distracting thoughts, allowing them to move on without judgment, and bringing attention back to the here and now. Click here to learn more about mindfulness and how you can incorporate it into your daily routine.
- Take a news and social media break: Put your phone down, and unplug more often. Limit your news, and take a break from social media.
- Improve your overall health: One of the simplest and best ways to manage mood and anxiety is improving overall health. The foundation for better health includes: regular exercise; drinking enough water; limiting caffeine and alcohol; eating a healthy and balanced diet; and getting consistent, restful sleep.
Although we cannot control when our anxious minds are triggered, engaging some of these strategies can help keep us from getting stuck in the what-ifs, so we can pay more attention to what’s truly important and happening right now.