Sometimes life feels easy, breezy and pleasant. What a blessing it is to be alive!
Other times it feels torturous. What’s the point? What a curse!
Ever since I was little, I suffered from bouts of excessive worry. I continue to go through periods of all-consuming anxiety and thoughts that steal my joy, tighten my chest and cause me great fear. But I’m 29 now and have thrown some tools in my kit along the way.
Here’s what I’ve been doing to battle my anxiety:
1. Read spiritual texts. My homeboys Deepak Chopra and Eckhart Tolle are powerful. Rumi too. I don’t know why I only seek them when I’m in a desperate state of panic. These teachers remind me not to believe my mind, not to seek my identity in it. Eckhart Tolle says that mental noise creates a false mind-made self that casts a shadow of fears and suffering. These reminders take the truth out of the depressing and anxious thoughts my mind tries to convince me of.
2. Focus on the moment. All anxiety comes from thoughts of the future. Depression comes from thoughts of the past. Now is where peace is found. But how do we get there when the mind over-powers and spirals out of control? I’ve found a couple of things to work:
- Open an essential oil and smell it. Focus all your attention on the scent. It really pulls you to the present. Try lavender, peppermint, lemon, rosemary or cinnamon.
- Focus all your awareness on whatever task you’re doing, even if it’s changing a diaper or washing dishes. When you realize you’re no longer in the moment, then you are bringing yourself back to it. So don’t get discouraged, just stay aware of your presence in the now.
- Meditate. Focus on your breath, or pay attention to each sense, one at a time. If this task seems too daunting, choose a guided meditation.
- Observe your thoughts but don’t become them. Even as you meditate, thoughts will likely still be there, except a quiet state makes it easier to simply hear them and dismiss them without clinging to them, judging them or feeding them with a powerful emotional response.
3. Replace caffeine and alcohol with herbal tea. When I’m in my funks, I avoid coffee and alcohol. However, I recently learned the hard way not to give coffee up cold turkey. I got the worst nausea-inducing headache. I started doing half-caff, instead. The mind and body feed each other. When anxiety already has me feeling jittery, I don’t need anything to intensify it. A warm mug of Chamomile on the other hand is soothing.
4. Have a mantra. The best mantra will be whatever quells your particular worry. I’ve always liked something as simple as, “Everything’s okay.” Sometimes I think the word, “Peace.” Or sometimes I choose to say, “I am.” It reminds me that my existence is not bound by name or form. I am consciousness. My deepest self is at one with all of life and the divine. There is no need to worry.
5. Go out and be around loved ones. Break your routine. Laugh, play and enjoy life. Be around people. Be in nature. Connect with others.
6. Talk about it. Our worries are more consuming when we keep them in. It feels bigger and badder than it really is. I used to not want to share my dark thoughts with others, but have learned that it not only helps me release them a bit, but helps me feel more connected and understood, thus lessening my anxiety.
7. Exercise. It’s meditative, at least for me. When I’m running it’s easy to focus on my breath alone. Plus, it is a natural outlet for stress and tires the body to promote rest.
8. Color. Last night I colored with my 4-year-old before bed. I didn’t only enjoy his quiet company, but also the gentle repetitive action of rubbing a crayon back and forth. When my mind got busy, I reminded myself to focus only on what I was doing.
9. Remember it’s passing. When I’m in one of my anxious states, I worry about how long I will be there and how the hell I will dig myself out. But when we are in the now, we accept all that is, and problems we imagine dissolve.
10. Choose to be in control. We fear and worry because we feel powerless. But despite circumstances, we always have the ability to choose our attitudes, beliefs and perceptions.
Speaking of choice—this time around, I’m choosing to see my anxiety as purposeful, as a sign I must pursue a spiritual path. It’s true I’ve attempted to before, but as soon as I feel better, I pretty much give it up and carry on as usual. However, without focused concentration, my old, anxious habits return. This time—even once I feel better—I am going to remain on a spiritual path.
Viktor Frankl said, “If there is meaning in life at all, then there must be meaning in suffering.”
My anxiety has me on the pursuit of peace. True peace.
Author: Amanda Elder
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina