There are seasons in our life where feelings of fear or anxiety consume us. Sometimes the cause is obvious and other times we can’t identify a specific reason, we just feel unsettled. Multiple people in my life, including myself, are in this season, so let’s explore ways to manage these feelings.
First, we have to acknowledge that we’re feeling anxious. When we ignore our feelings, especially when we are unclear of the cause, we can start to unintentionally demonstrate destructive behaviors including:
- picking fights with those close to us
- overeating, especially comfort foods
- drinking excessively
- hibernating – sleeping more, escaping to a dark place for extended periods of time
- avoiding responsibilities by playing video games, binging shows or otherwise “hiding” from our responsibilities
- giving in to our emotions– losing our temper more easily, crying more, or maybe putting up a stoic front by disconnecting from our emotions
Although these actions may provide a release from the anxiety in the moment, they commonly lead to further anxiety fueled by feelings of regret or self-loathing.
To avoid these traps, try to identify the root of your worry. There are many potential causes:
- changing our responsibilities at work
- accepting a new position
- stretching ourselves personally or professionally
- buying a new house or planning a move
- experiencing health concerns for ourselves or others
- worrying about events in the news or in our community
- taking a vacation
- supporting kids going back to school
- transitioning through a change of seasons (welcome fall!)
And the list goes on. Some causes are more subtle and innocuous, so the impact they are having on our state of mind may not be as obvious. Try pausing (put down the phone, turn off the TV, find some solitude) to survey what is changing in your environment and life to see what spikes these feelings as you reflect on them. Then you can develop an action plan to begin to reduce the anxiety.
There are several other actions we can intentionally choose that will help ease the pent-up anxiety we feel, even when we don’t yet recognize the source.
- Exercise – being physically active allows your body to burn off pent up energy that can be feeding the sense of anxiety. Exercising also causes a chemical reaction in the brain. The article “What are endorphins and what purpose do they serve” on Healthline.com explains, “Endorphins are neurotransmitters that are released by the brain to alleviate pain and promote pleasure,” similar to the effect of eating some comfort foods. Consider participating in a team activity so the commitment to the team keeps you accountable to being active even when your mood tells you to snuggle up with a chocolate bar.
- Make a connection – reach out to a confidant. Connect with a trusted friend or advisor who will listen without placing judgment on you or the situation. Ideally, confide in someone who can offer you balanced advice. This could be a friend, relative, mentor, coach, counselor or therapist.
- Lean into your faith – getting too far away from your faith community can make you feel alone and out of sorts. Reconnect with your spiritual community for nourishment of your spiritual self.
- Gratitude journal – sometimes it takes intentionally focusing on what is good in our lives to feel better about them. Too often, we are overwhelmed with all of the negative noise and actions around us. By writing down the good things in our life, even the small things like someone greeting us with a smile, will refocus our minds on the positive. With 24-hour news, and all the events of the last few years, it is easy to get mired in gloom and doom. We have to draw attention to the silver linings and positive activities taking place in the world around us. At least once a week, try writing down 3-5 things you are grateful for.
- Meditate – give yourself 10 minutes of silence and breathing. Deep breathing for 10 minutes lowers your heart rate and blood pressure faster than medicine can. At first, meditating may feel uncomfortable but stick with it. There are apps that will guide you through the practice. See what is revealed to you as you try to quiet your racing mind.
Overwhelm and anxiousness are natural reactions to change that feel beyond our control. You are not alone in experiencing these feelings or being confused by them. The key is not to let the feelings bring you down or cause you to stay in this mental state for long. Try these different techniques to alleviate the anxiety distracting you. If you have another method that works for you, we’re interested, so please share it with us.
Wishing you well,