10 Ways To Ease Anxiety When You’re Busy
“Be gentle with yourself, you’re doing the best you can.”
I love this quote. It’s calming, reassuring and has one key word — doing.
A friend of mine recently contacted me about anxiety. After reading my blog she reached out because in her words, “I would love to just chat with someone who just gets it”. I completely understood where she was coming from. Talking to someone who doesn’t have anxiety about anxiety can feel like you’re talking to a brick wall, even if they’re working hard to understand. After messaging back and forth, she highlighted one of the hardest parts of learning to accept anxiety: the difference between trying and doing.
It took me back to the days before I accepted anxiety was a part of my life. I was always TRYING to get rid of my anxiety but never really accomplishing anything. It wasn’t until I accepted anxiety as a part of me that the trying turned into DOING. Suddenly, I wasn’t struggling to fight anxiety every day; I was taking action instead.
But, taking action means finding the time to take action and in today’s world with our go-go-go lifestyles it can be hard to do. These 10 ways to ease anxiety are easy to fit in your daily life and most can be done anywhere. So make a list of your favourites, put it in your wallet and use them whenever you need.
And, A, this blog is for you <3
1) Create tiny habits.
My girl, Chris at Sweaty Wisdom, just interviewed expert Abbi Perets on a Facebook Live about creating tiny habits. In essence, by creating tiny habits you bring more structure into your life and trigger moments of reflection, positivity and productivity. The key is to find an anchor point, create a tiny habit and then celebrate the heck out of your success — whether it’s big or small. The momentum will help carry you forward! I highly recommend watching the video for more inspiration.
2) Use the acronym S.T.O.P.
If you find your thoughts spiraling out of control, picture a big red stop sign or say the word aloud. Then, use the following steps to evaluate what is really happening. All in all, the process should take less than five minutes and bring a sense of clarity and awareness back into the moment.
S – STOP what you’re doing
T – Think about what is going on
O – Observe your thoughts, feelings, sensations, and needs
P – Practice another skill or engage in a different activity. Give your brain a chance to focus on something else
3) The art of distraction
This builds on S.T.O.P. Once you’ve gone through those four steps, find something that you enjoy doing to distract yourself: Doodle, colour, write out your thoughts, play a song you love. Make sure it’s simple, easy to access and moves your thoughts forward in a positive direction.
4) Set a worry clock
Still anxious? Set a timer (I recommend 10 or 15 minutes) and start rambling off all your worries, thoughts, anxieties and problems. Get it all out, whether it’s on paper, talking out loud to someone or on your own. Have no judgment, these are your thoughts and it’s important to recognize them. Once that timer dings, your time is up! Move on, leave those thoughts in that moment and let them go. (I know this sounds easier said than done, but I’ve tried it and it works!)
5) Create an email reminder of affirmations
I made a list of five affirmations that are waiting for me in my inbox every morning. I chose five areas I wanted to make changes to in my life and then wrote a corresponding affirmation. My biggest affirmation right now is, “I will not fear anxiety, I will show it love”. Then, I used the email app Boomerang to send me the email every morning so it’s ready for me to read and incorporate into my day.
Affirmations help me to remember what I’m working towards, to stay motivated and what to focus on if my mind runs astray. There is no right or wrong way to write affirmations — they only have to be meaningful to you and be present in your daily life so your mind, body and soul begin to accept them wholly.
6) Practice pointing out the positive in every day
Building on my affirmations, I have a reminder set on my phone telling me to think of three positive things that happened that day. Sometimes, they’re “I had a shower today, I took my medication when I needed it and I listened to my body”. Other times, they’re “I wrote a blog post today, I visited with a friend and I went to the grocery store.” Doing this has helped me find the positive in what I considered to be a “bad” day before. I’ve even involved my family and boyfriend in it! If the reminder goes off when I’m sitting with one of them, I ask them for three positive things that happened to them that day too. It’s a great way to connect!
7) Ground yourself
There are many ways to ground yourself and bring balance back into your life. One method of grounding is called earthing — literally going outside and interacting with nature. You can put your feet in the grass, make a snow angel or just stop and smell the flowers!
If you’re in an office working and need to ground yourself, try using your senses. List:
- 5 things you can see
- 4 things you can touch
- 3 things you can hear
- 2 things you can smell
- 1 thing you can taste
Repeat until your mind has settled or add in a breathing pattern as well. I find focusing on the feeling of air moving in and out of my nose or placing a hand on my stomach and feeling it rise and fall, helps to bring me back into the moment.
8) Add meditation
My favourite way to add meditation into a busy life or day is to use it to help me fall asleep. I use the app Insight Timer and turn on an hour-long meditation that I usually fall asleep to before it ends. Incorporating meditation this way has made it easy for me to find time for it, has taught me the basics of meditation (focusing on your breath) and has improved my sleep quality — something that anxiety itself can ruin. It’s also made it easier for me to learn how to add meditation into the daytime if I’m feeling anxious. Practicing it nightly, and therefore turning it into a habit, has taught my body how to breathe and release stress. Now I can use this skill any time of the day!
My favourite sleep meditations on Insight Timer are:
- Peaceful Sleep Meditation by Nic & Sam (Aluna Moon)
- Deep Trance Sleep Healing by Lisa Hubler
- Full Body Relaxation for Sleep by Memory Lane
- Deep Sleep Guided Meditation by PowerThoughts Meditation Club
I also love meditating while laying on my acupressure mat for bonus relaxation points! (Affiliate link FYI)
9) Learn to say no.
First and foremost, it is ok to say no. Actually, it’s more than ok! Setting boundaries are a GOOD THING. It means you are good to yourself, kind to others and allows for growth. Boundaries will help you focus more on what you want in your life and will help to you to be more effective with your time and energy. It can feel awkward at first but practice makes perfect. Boundaries increase self-respect, self-esteem, respect from others, and alleviate pain and worry. By setting boundaries you have more time to focus on you, healing and be better able to contribute to your healthy life and the lives of your friends and family.
10) Do a self-reflection worksheet
Last week, I released my Accepting Chronic Illness: A Self-Reflection Worksheet. This exercise takes about an hour total but can be broken down into smaller chunks of time. Once completed, it’s a good tool to have on hand to help remind you of all the positive forces in your life when you are feeling anxious. Sometimes, all it takes is reconnecting with those positive thoughts. You can also print off multiple copies to have on hand and do shorter versions if you’re feeling anxious and need to download your feelings. The more you do it, the easier it will be to see the positive and disconnect from the negative.