I am thinking a little more about anxiety and anxious thinking today. I have two sons who started a climb yesterday up Mt. Rainier in Washington. We know they made it to the base camp last night, and I know they were going to sleep by about 7 pm and arise at 12:30 AM to begin the hike up to the summit. There have been deaths and rescues on the mountain in the news lately, so I am anxiously awaiting word of their return. They have guides and a group, they have supplies and are prepared, so that helps my worries.
So, what do we do when we can tell we start overthinking, our breathing is faster, our heart is pounding, and we have ruminating or anxious thoughts?
Quick Cures for Anxiety and OverThinking
As a counselor, I see all kinds of anxiety. But it always follows patterns. Today I am not going into what anxiety or anxious thinking is, but rather some of my personal favorite quick cures:
- Move: Get the adrenaline moving somewhere else than to your heart. This happens so that it will pump more oxygen to your brain. The brain dominates in neediness, then the heart. So move, skip, jump, hop or if you can’t be that obvious because other people are around you, tense your muscles in place, the key is to activate muscles.
- Breathe: Deep slow breaths. I like to think about 4 seconds breathing in, pause by holding it in, then 4 seconds out, and pause holding it out. As I breathe in I like to say “in with all that is good” and as I breathe out I like to say “I release all that is feeling stressful or unsafe”. (I have also heard it is good not to even think of the stress, so instead say something like “my life is abundantly blessed” as you breathe out instead.)
- Visualize: As you are breathing, go to your favorite spot in your mind, the place that calms you and slows your brain a bit. I like to imagine my favorite quiet spot on a beach in Kauai, HI. I am alone, noticing the warm white sand on my feet, watching the waves ebb and flow gently. Watching the seagulls glide above the soft white caps, hearing the waves, tasting the salty, humid air in my mouth. Smelling the salty ocean and fresh air. (Notice I am using the senses: Touch– sand, Hear-waves, See: birds, waves. Taste: salty air. Smell: salty but fresh. You need to find and practice going to this place in your mind during meditations first, or it will be hard to find during an anxiety attack.
How These Exercises Reduce Anxious Thinking
Each of these exercises reduces anxious thoughts or overthinking by engaging your muscles, brain and creativity. You can shift from a narrative of stress and worry to a calm and relaxed manner. You can become the creator of your experience instead of feeling the victim of high anxiety. (Feeling like you want to get out of your own skin!)
Good luck in your journey to calm, find peace, and focus on creating a spirit of acceptance rather than resistance (another story for later)
GayLyn White, CCMHC, NCC
GayLyn is a clinical mental health counselor who worked with the community domestic violence crisis center for several years. Additionally, she worked with LDS Family Services and a private practice in Ogden, Utah. Her specialties include depression, anxiety, marriage relationships, and women’s issues. GayLyn now works part-time in her private practice at Tremonton, Utah; providing individual, marital, and family counseling.