Certain times in our lives will be more anxious than others. Whether we are someone who suffers regularly with anxiety, someone who is prone to certain types of stress, or even someone who very rarely worries, there will be times we live through that will have the quality of apprehension, concern, or unease. The key is to recognise when the external world is affecting us, and take steps to soothe ourselves.
Anxiety can be infectious
I’m writing this blog as the UK is within the coronavirus pandemic. The current mood is one of building anxiety – at the supermarket this weekend, where I resolutely refused to panic-buy any extra items, I queued for an hour to pay for my measly trolley’s worth. And guess what? Of course, it made me anxiously wonder “Should I be buying more?” Because other people are, because I have to queue for so long, because I can? The anxiety is all around, viral, you might say.
Even the most calm among us has rising stress levels, and is finding it difficult to ignore the constant rolling news, the endless social media posts, and the non-stop topic of conversation. We find ourselves drawn to the internet to seek out more and more information, and unfortunately a lot of this is unhelpful. Ultimately what we are doing is trying to regain a sense of control, by having the most up to date information, but the reality is that there is little we can do to control what happens next.
In this kind of anxiety-inducing situation, the only thing we CAN control is our own responses. The important thing is to consider your own mental wellbeing, and take steps to stay balanced and reduce your stress levels.
How to reset to the positive
An easy technique that I find to be very helpful in times of anxiety is to practice Gratitude. It is as simple as setting time aside to intentionally give your brain a break from worrying and focusing on the negative. Instead, you focus on the positive, by reminding yourself of the things you are grateful for. Some people find this is useful to do first thing in the morning, in order to set your day up well. Others will do this last thing at night to help with sleep. I would encourage you to try it any time of day you are feeling anxious, or just in need of resetting your brain from the negative.
Gratitude practice can be as straightforward as thinking of three things that you are grateful for. This could be anything at all – people, places, music, animals, food, memories, smells or sights. It can be the tiniest thing (toothpaste / water / a pillow) or the bigger things (a partner / job / friends). Simply bring them to mind, and say how grateful you are to have them. Call to mind how they make you feel, how they help you, what the thing allows you to do, or how the sense makes you feel. Revel in the thing you are grateful for, feel its positive impact for as long as you can, and notice the effect that it has on your body.
Having a regular gratitude practice has been shown to improve our health in many ways, including reducing blood pressure, and improving sleep. It will also improve your relationships, and your overall self-esteem.
Stop and Smell the Roses!
I encourage you all to try this today – go ahead right now and tell yourself how thankful you are, and remind yourself of your own positive attributes and resilience in the face of times of stress. Most importantly, stop and smell the roses today.
For more information about gratitude practice and its benefits, I found this to be a helpful article https://positivepsychology.com/benefits-gratitude-research-questions/