I’ve been having a very difficult last few weeks juggling stress at work, family life and the monotony of day to day. During the time I’ve realized there are two different ways to deal with this anxiety. There is the short term and the long term management of this stress.
Today I am focusing on the short term. The “how the hell do I get through another day (or hour or minute) like this” solutions. When you’re stressed, it’s not often that your issues are resolved quickly (or ever sometimes). So, you have have a way to reach down deep and find a way to carry on to the next minute so you even have a fighting chance to get through to the other side.
- Meditate – If you haven’t already started meditating, download the Headspace app and start the trial version. Or use any number of guided meditations you can find online now. The breathing and mind-quieting techniques you will learn will be the most valuable tool in your arsenal.
- Put someone else’s needs first – Doing this instantly takes you out of the self-loathing mindset. You may just put a smile on someone’s face or fulfill a long ignored need or obligation, but either way you are not focusing on yourself and this helps stop the viscous cycle in your mind.
- Go out – Change your scenery, take a walk, take a different route to work, just do something to change up your environment. Your brain will notice new things or be distracted by new challenges or just be uplifted by the sunshine. This is a change you don’t have to work to hard at that can make an instant difference.
- Declutter – A messy desk or room or to-do list can make you feel overwhelmed and buried under loads of confusion. When you clear out the mess, your brain is able to realistically envision what is on your plate and ignore the garbage.
- Do one thing – Anything. Sometimes you can’t even drag yourself out of bed or off the couch, however, just getting up and doing something else will occupy your brain with something other than dwelling on the misery. Also, accomplishing something, anything, can send a small burst of triumph your brain and get you moving in the right direction. Wash the dishes, fold some laundry, write in your journal, call your mother, any number of things will qualify.
- Stop dwelling on it – Your mind is a steal trap when it comes to toxic thoughts. Once those thoughts cease to be helpful, though, they need to be dropped. A common technique in meditation is “noting and releasing”. This is where you note the thoughts your having and then refocus on the present. Every time the thought arises, you acknowledge it’s there (“hello, demon thoughts”), then go back to your task at hand (“I have work right now, I’m not able to focus on you”). This becomes easier and easier the more you practice.
- Wallow in it – This is directly contrary to the last two items, but sometimes letting your brain take the misery as deep as it can go will allow you to basically exhaust the cloud of anxiety that surrounds you. Allow your mind to envision the worst scenarios and take you to the darkest place, cry your heart out and wallow in the self-misery. Then, miraculously, at some point, your brain gets tired of doing that, bored of it really, and will make the decision for you to get up and move on with your day.
Finally, and maybe most important, realize that your brain is a stress machine! It is why we still exist on the planet and have not been eaten alive by everything bigger and stronger than us. We fear, we limit, we stress. It is how our brains are wired. Understanding that your downward spiral of pain may not be a direct reflection of the world around you, but rather the symptomatic results of 100,000 years of evolution is really the FIRST and BEST step towards a happy, healthy and content life.