Learn how to manage your anxiety and cultivate calm
You’ve woken up and had your coffee. Maybe you’ve even gotten in a morning run. The house is quiet and you’re ready to tackle your to-do list.
Then, a nagging feeling tugs at your gut. Something doesn’t feel right. You’ve forgotten something, right? Oh, and remember that silly thing you said in a meeting last week? And there’s that ridiculous deadline that you’ll never make. Your thoughts spiral and spiral. Worries compound and soon your hands start shaking.
This is anxiety. This nagging, worrying feeling is very common. In fact, it’s a remnant from early humanity when danger lurked around every corner and fear about what may wait in that dark cave kept you safe.
But we aren’t hunters and gatherers anymore and excessive worry doesn’t serve us. If anxiety is interfering with your daily routine or completely out of proportion to the risk, it’s time to find coping strategies to reduce your worry.
For many, work can trigger extreme anxiety. We’re conditioned to think that our job performance is an indication of our value, which can lead to overworking, poor boundaries, and excessive worry about minor things.
Step 1: recognition
The first step to coping with anxiety is recognizing when it’s happening. Anxiety is different for everyone and can even manifest differently throughout your life. However, there are some common symptoms:
- Upset stomach
- Muscle tension
- Elevated heart rate
- Feelings of impending doom
- Racing and/or unwanted thoughts
You’ll notice anxiety has a lot of physical symptoms. One of the best ways to recognize worry is understanding how it manifests in your body. (Increasing your mind/body connection is always a great idea.)
Step 2: Identify your triggers
Even if you know what anxiety feels like to you, it can be very difficult to recognize it in the moment. One strategy to find your triggers is to journal at the end of each day. Reflect on what you accomplished and any negative feelings that popped up. After a few weeks, review your entries and see if there are any patterns. Here are common anxiety triggers:
- Presentations at work
- Relationship conflicts
- Health issues
- Unpredictable events (like the pandemic)
- Political issues
- Large groups of people
- Too much caffeine
- Financial strain
- Family situations
- Death or illness
There are no right or wrong triggers. Everyone is different and beating yourself up about your anxiety isn’t going to make it go away. Also, the point of understanding your triggers isn’t so you can avoid them, as this can be counterproductive. Instead, recognizing your triggers will help you cope with them more effectively.
Step 2: Coping strategies
Now that we can recognize anxiety, what do you do when you are feeling overly worried? There are lots of things that can help soothe your anxiety, and it’s best to have multiple tools at the ready. Here are some exercises to get you started:
- Get moving: Exercise is a great way to release negative emotions and breaking a sweat regularly also keeps anxiety in check. You can go for a jog, walk around the neighborhood, or throw ball with your kids.
- Try a breathing exercise: Checking on your breathing is critical when coping with anxiety. Doing a breathing exercise is a way to connect with yourself and take a break from spiraling thoughts.
- Visualize peace: Find a quiet space and think about a comforting place. It could be your grandmother’s kitchen or your favorite coffee shop. Close your eyes and visualize it. What are the smells and sounds? Is anyone there with you? Breathe in the feeling of peace and calm.
- Find the moment: Often, anxiety is about something in the future or in the past. By rooting ourselves in the moment we stop the cycle of worrying thoughts. Take a moment to check in with your body where it meets the floor or chair. Study your surroundings. Concentrate on your breath. Remind yourself that you exist here and now.
- Stretch it out: If you’re feeling anxious, odds are your muscles are tight. Hit pause and give your arms, shoulders, and legs a stretch. If you’ve been sitting, stand up and walk around to get the blood flowing through your legs. If you prefer, practice a few yoga poses.
- Learn from others: There are loads of resources for managing anxiety. Find voices and communities that appeal to you. Take a look at this recent Dharma talk at Be Meditation for inspiration and consider signing up for the next Dharma Talk on January 23.
Step 3: Have compassion
Understanding and coping with anxiety can be challenging. You’ll encounter setbacks and have frustrating moments, but if you follow the steps in this blog, you’ll also make steady progress.
Have compassion for yourself throughout the process. Anxiety is normal. It’s tempting to beat yourself up, but try to stop any negative self-talk. Be kind and care for yourself like you would your best friend. If you need inspiration, join Be’s Loving Kindness meditation class.
We hope this post has been helpful. We encourage you to build upon the ideas about identifying triggers and coping with anxiety to serve you best. We’ve linked to a few classes in this post but browse the Be Studio’s full offerings for more meditation options that can help you cultivate calm.