Exercise: Exercising has its physical benefits, but most importantly it helps fight anxiety. It also improves your concentration and overall cognitive functioning. Exercising releases endorphins a chemical in the brain that reduces anxiety.
Meditation: Meditation helps by silencing the overactive mind for a while by focusing on a single point. For example, your breathing, sensations throughout the body and focusing on a key word. If you don’t know who to meditate you can use meditation apps or watch YouTube videos that can guide you through it.
Yoga: Yoga helps my moderating our body’s response to anxiety. Not only that, but it lowers blood pressure and chronic pain.
Kiss Someone You Love: Yep! This does alleviate anxiety, by releasing happy chemicals.
Sing: It doesn’t matter if you can’t sing, just blast your favorite song, and sing like crazy. I enjoy going for a car ride and singing like no one is watching.
Talk it out: Talking to a trustful friend, family member, teacher or therapist helps immensely. This also is beneficial because other people can tell you their points of views.
Notice colors — I push myself to notice the color of the sky; the contrast between the orange cone and the gray sidewalk.
Look in a mirror — things look different in a mirror.
Look at a picture of an object. Jamaica Kincaid wrote “Why is a picture of something real eventually more exciting than the thing itself?” A question that haunts me. Related…
Look at an object alongside a picture of it. I heard about this strategy as a way of appreciating art more. Buy a postcard of an artwork, then study the artwork while you hold up the postcard. I’m dying to try this.
Pretend to be a journalist — journalists notice things in a different way. Similarly…
Pretend to be a tourist. Look at the shop windows! How people line up for the bus! What are people wearing?
Draw — this one doesn’t appeal to me, but many people swear by it.
Go someplace new — I’ve lived in my New York City neighborhood for more than a decade, and still I sometimes stumble onto a street I swear I’ve never walked before.
Return to a familiar place after a long time away — go back to your old school; stop into the grocery store where you shopped when you lived in your old house. Fascinating.
Imagine that you have guests coming to stay for the weekend — a great way to see your home in a new way. Along the same lines…
Imagine that you will sell your house — you see it through the eyes of a judgmental stranger
Notice contrasts, when two worlds are juxtaposed –school-children on a sidewalk in front of a business; a horse-and-buggy clopping down the highway
Look with a child — it’s such a sentimental cliche to say it, but children really do see the world with fresh eyes.
If you wanted to give someone some constructive criticism, how would you do it? You’d first want to make sure you’re coming from a place of good intentions and not a place of frustration. This is something we can implement for ourselves as well. Taking regular actions to create a safe place in your mind increases your likelihood of maintaining a positive outlook. Think about what centers you and makes you feel safe. Some examples are meditation, going for a walk, yoga, and journaling. Let your mind be a safe space infused with positive thinking and self-love.
Increase your awareness
An important step in dealing with your inner critic is simply to create more self-awareness when it’s happening. This allows us to understand where our beliefs and thoughts about ourselves come from. If you’re able to recognize the moments when your inner critic is telling you something, you give yourself a chance to question it and therefore reduce the likelihood that you’ll believe it. Lastly, try to identify thoughts as nothing more than thoughts. Thoughts are not facts or realities. They do not define you.
Reframe the role of the inner critic
There’s a lot of advice out there for silencing or conquering your inner critic. I personally think it’s impossible to get rid of the inner critic once and for all, simply because this will always be part of our journey through life. Instead, we have to figure out how we can use the inner critic to motivate us and keep moving us forward.
We have a choice in how we respond to criticism from ourselves and others, and the key is to respond to it productively and wisely. If we look at the inner critic as a challenge that encourages us to take action and prove it wrong, we are constantly given a challenge to overcome. In my opinion, this keeps life more interesting anyway.
Bring in positive reinforcement
The thing about negative self-talk is that you need to make sure you’re balancing it out (and going above and beyond) with positive self-talk. If we return to the example of giving someone else constructive criticism, you’d probably want to first tell them what they’re doing a good job at before you tell them what they need to improve on. The same goes for yourself. Remind yourself often of your accomplishments. Keep an accomplishment log or journal, take pictures to remind yourself, or tell someone else what you did. For goodness sake, tell yourself you’re proud! Self-love is a vital factor in increasing your self-worth.
Ask for help when you need it
When we get overwhelmed with our never-ending to-do lists, self-care becomes less and less of a priority. When this happens, our minds and bodies feel drained of energy. We run ourselves into the ground which means we’re less likely to focus on positive self-talk. That’s when the inner critic gets its chance to take over again. If we make sure we’re asking for help when we need it (asking others AND ourselves), we reduce overwhelm, get some time to nourish ourselves, and let our positive inner voice take control again.
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My advice is to think about how your mind, body, and soul are being utilized (or not utilized) at work and experiment to see what you can do to find more balance in those areas.
Perhaps you could spend the morning using your mind for learning and more creative tasks, use the afternoon to do something for your body like talking a walk or stretching, and spend the afternoon tapping into something that brings you joy such as listening to music.
Overwhelm can feel like a constant battle. Especially when life is always go-go-go. I cannot even begin to tell you how many nights I’ve spent (and still do on occasion) tossing and turning begging my brain to quiet down.
Overwhelm doesn’t just happen with thoughts, however.
It happens when we get upset.
It happens when we feel super emotional.
And it happens when we feel like we’re experiencing we “shouldn’t have to” or weren’t expecting.
And, ranting when you are overwhelmed is good sometimes, if,
Make you feel better // empower you
Bring awareness to the situation that can lead to a solution
Inspire others to take action
Or help you solve a problem. Aka ranting and then asking for guidance
When faced with an overwhelming and/or irritating moment, take pause and consider the following questions.
Will it matter a year from now? (or a week or a month?)
The disappointment will feel permanent because we think that how we perceive things is fixed. We can change our mind and ultimately our perspective about something, whenever we feel like it. It’s that willingness to let go of thinking that doesn’t truly serve us because it ultimately limits and stifles us.
Letting go is a decision. Thinking something else is a decision. We have to choose and keep choosing.
In accepting my disappointment, I acknowledged how I felt, what I thought and what I’d been doing. These disappointments felt bad because I was reopening old wounds and telling me all sorts of bad things about myself that just weren’t true. I was attached to feeling bad about me. Disappointment gave me a purpose. I learned a lot about me by accepting the disappointment. It wasn’t pretty at times but you know what? It was better than the torment of giving myself a hard time over not being able to control the uncontrollable or even worse, doing the equivalent of throwing tantrums.
Disappointment is a very real feeling but don’t let it claim you. Some disappointments you learn to live with and they gradually stop dominating your thoughts and conversations. Others just fade out because in treating you well, that balm soothes the hurt and you become open to better days and things ahead.
I was feeling content at one point in time, then a wave of dread came rolling in. Just as quickly as it came, it went away. The fact that I could clearly see that this wasn’t a permanent state was huge for me.
Often when I’m anxious, it’s because I’m thinking too far ahead in the future. I’m assuming that whatever situation I’m in right now is going to last forever. There’s this air of urgency. Like everything needs to be figured out right now.
Sometimes I have to remind myself that emotions, thoughts, and situations aren’t permanent. When I actually let this sink in, I realized that even if I experience anxiety in the future (which was undoubtedly going to happen), it wouldn’t be a permanent thing.
I began to feel free knowing that this feeling wasn’t going to stay with me forever.
Try this mindset shift:
The next time you’re feeling anxious, try to remember that you don’t have to do anything about your feelings and/or negative thoughts. You don’t actually have to fight anything or make it go away. Simply recognize this feeling as nothing more than a feeling and that you don’t have to attach any meaning to it. Trust that it will eventually quiet itself.
Now, this mindset shift isn’t going to solve your problems or help you overcome anxiety for good, but it might make your next anxious experience easier to handle.
Because I know it can be extremely difficult to shift your mindset when all you want to do is react, I have a suggestion for making this process a little simpler.
Keep a log of your feelings + thoughts
The next time you’re feeling anxious, worried, or uncertain, I encourage you to keep a log of your feelings and thoughts. Before you start attacking yourself or another person, write down what you’re feeling and why you think you’re feeling this way. Don’t go into it thinking you need to solve your problem or feel better about the situation. Just treat it as an experiment.
Write down or ask yourself the following questions:
How might I be causing myself to suffer?
Which thoughts do I know to be true?
What information might I be missing or overlooking?
What am I assuming?
What is my intuition telling me?
Will this matter tomorrow? In a year?
I also encourage you to write down or take note of those moments when you do feel content. Those moments are really precious, yet often go unnoticed because our brains are hardwired to remember negative experiences.
The next time your anxious mind wants to take control, try this technique and see what happens. I’m curious to know if it works for you like it worked for me!
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A few years back, as an experiment, I wrote down everything I expected me to do over the course of a week, whether it was with regards to work, home, family, time for myself. I also noted my mood, particularly my sources of frustration, and I was in for a bit of a shock: just in terms of work alone, I typically expected me to do the equivalent of 3-4 weeks work in one week.
Now think about that for a moment: If I’m maxed out by 3-4 times my capacity before I even think about anything else, including trying to be The Perfect Mother TM or Wonder Woman, I am running on empty.
Some of my personal signs:
Trying to be in control of stuff that I’m not in control of
Spending far too long on something
Tweaking and tweaking and tweaking again
Not keeping it simple
A spate of forgetfulness
Cranky because I’m not voicing where I feel frustrated or out of control somewhere else
Feeling as if I’m doing a trillion things at once
More than a handful of key things to do for the day
Not feeling energised and lit up by what I’m doing
A frenetic energy
Wanting things yesterday so that I don’t have to feel anxious about whether something will go well or badly
Feeling that I am not a success
If you’re a people pleaser and perfectionist, you will have your own signs and the more awareness you have of them, is the less they take you over because you can respond to these and take you in a different direction.
I use these times when I expect too much, to surrender, to let go of the need to be in control, the stories and the faux inner rules that show up as a protective mechanism. The latter are rules that I’ve made up or internalised for how Natalie ‘should’ live her life and all they do is leave me feeling guilty and anxious.
I’ve also learned that I don’t have to comply with these expectations and that engaging in a dialogue with myself, helps me to make sense of what I’m doing and get out of autocompliance mode.
If we keep trying to find ‘more’ without respect for what we have and without respect for our minds, bodies and time, it’s inevitable that we will burn out and we will always feel that we are not enough.
We believe that we are not being enough.
We believe that we are not doing enough.
We believe that we are inadequate because we don’t look perfect or in line with what we think are universal standards, or we don’t have the perfect background, or because we’re not in the relationship/career/business/life we desire yet.
We wait for the world to cut us some slack and to say, ‘Good job’, but in truth, it’s us that needs to recognise it because we are holding us to a standard that no else is or can.
We expect too much of ourselves.
All of this ‘stuff’ we’re doing to be pleasing and perfect, is not only a misappropriation of our time, energy and self-esteem, but aside from all of that and it being exhausting as well, when we consider the underlying motivations for doing so (catering to the past), we are expecting the impossible.
It’s your time now.
You cannot change the past or even those old expectations but you can change your present and your future. It’s yours for the changing.
You are not going to be task master coach today and serene and chill tomorrow, but small steps every day and commit to healing the baggage behind the pattern and healing the habit.
Get a piece of paper and write down any and all memories that you have about not pleasing others, not being ‘good enough’, and any messages that you’ve picked up including sayings about laziness, achieving high grades, success, being the best. Anything that springs to mind, especially anything that brings up emotion for you, contributes to your habits around people pleasing and perfectionism. Use the Unsent Letter Guide to help you with forgiveness work.
Write down your ‘rules’. Any ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’ are rules. Question all of them and turn ones that you want to keep into autonomous choices and lose any that are entirely unnecessary and draining.
Keep a ‘What I Did Today List’ so that you have a realistic concept of your time, energy and efforts. This is a shift from focusing on what you don’t do, to what you do. Also write down everything that you expect you to do in a day and ask yourself: Is this what I would expect someone who I care about and respect to do? Also, review your week so that you get in the habit of internalising what you do through acknowledgement and self-praise.