Limit the time you’re exposed to the situation. Be informed, but limit the amount of news, media, social media, that you take in. For social media, you can choose to follow and unfollow certain accounts and channels. Use social media to build yourself up, promote positivity, and connect with non-toxic people. Social media is a fantastic tool when used this way.
Practice reframing thoughts
Reframe your negative and distorted thoughts. Read about cognitive reframing here. To begin dealing with negative thoughts, we must recognize when we have one. Next, is to identify what triggered the emotion. Our thoughts and emotions are linked. Notice whether you are ignoring, minimizing, or exaggerating the situation. Challenge your thoughts, be curious about them. Keep in mind that thoughts are just thoughts and not fact. The final step is to reframe. Rewrite the thought so that it is no longer negative, personal, permanent, and pervasive. With the practice of reframing our thoughts, over time, positive thinking becomes a biproduct.
Allow yourself to feel peace
Let peace begin with you. What can you do or think that makes you feel peaceful? A few ways to begin feeling peaceful may include, guided meditation, going for a hike or walk, drawing, working on a puzzle, journaling, etc. Allow yourself to feel peace and notice what it feels like.
Limiting exposure to news and social media, reframing thoughts, and finding peace are 3 mindful ways to increase positivity, but there are other paths out there, as well. Participate in 2 to 3 mindful activities for a few weeks or a month to see what you enjoy. Build a mindfulness skillset to use during hard times.
If you would like to work on this with someone, reach out to a professional counselor who can help.
Information from the CDC on taking care of your emotional health during a disaster. A few steps that you can follow:
Take care of your body.
Connect with others.
Avoid too much exposure to the news.
Seek help when needed.
Common signs of distress to look for:
Feelings of numbness, disbelief, anxiety or fear.
Changes in appetite, energy and activity levels.
Difficulty sleeping or nightmares and upsetting thoughts and images.
Physical reactions, such as headaches, body pains, stomach problems, and skin rashes.
Worsening of chronic health problems.
Anger or short-temper.
Increased use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs.
* If you are experiencing these feelings or behaviors for several days in a row and are unable to carry out normal responsibilities because of them seek professional help. * There is further information and additional resources on CDC’s website, here.
You can find the right outpatient private practice counselor for you at an affordable rate, you just need to know how to go about doing so.
Almost everyone shops around looking for the right counselor who either accepts their insurance or that they can afford to see if they pay out-of-pocket. A breakdown in the process of seeking help occurs when someone finds out that the counselor doesn’t accept their insurance or their rate isn’t within their out-of-pocket budget, the person tends to cutoff the conversation right there. They hang up the phone or don’t reply to the email. Unfortunately, people will fully end their search because they aren’t sure what else there is to do.
There are alternative and proactive ways to maintaining the conversation when you find out that the counselor doesn’t accept insurance or the rate isn’t within budget. Ask questions.
Ask the counselor these questions
* Even if you want to use your insurance, keep your options open by considering out-of-pocket because part of your goal is to find a counselor who is the right fit to work with. Therapy can be a great experience with the right professional… laughter is allowed in therapy. When someone closes off the out-of-pocket option, they’re also possibly preventing finding the person who they feel comfortable talking to. *
• Do you offer a lower rate?
• Do you offer a sliding scale?
• Do you offer pro-bono?
• Can you recommend anyone who may be able to help?
• Do you offer other services that might be able to help me?
Counselors are open and willing to talk about fees and other services. They aim to be non-judgmental and want to meet people where they are at. It doesn’t hurt to find out if they are able to meet you where you’re at financially.
Keep on the lookout for free resources and tips that the counselor may offer. This could be an educational social media page, YouTube channel, blog that you could subscribe to, or ebook. Don’t pass up free resources, take advantage.
Tip: stay organized
Keep track of who you talked to, how to contact them, the questions you have, and their answers all in a notebook. Doing this will manage stress and remembering who said or offered what. Be mindful of where you keep your notebook to protect your confidentiality.
Today, I’m diving into my positive affirmations, as negative and distorted thoughts have crept in. This is completely normal and something everyone goes through. I like to write my positive affirmations, which include quotes and Bible verses, on index cards. Today, I wrote one about being a business owner. The affirmations are kept on a shelf next to my work desk. As I read through my cards, I reflected on them, noticing that I’m feeling pretty good about them and have not needed to use certain affirmations for a few months! I take them to heart, I know that they are true.
When I’m going through my day and notice physical symptoms of worry and anxiety, I know that a helpful strategy is to visit my cards. Having three to four mental coping strategies on hand, that aren’t going on a run, is key. Addressing anxiety by going on a run is my top way to manage symptoms, but I can’t always go out when I want, so I take deep breaths and incorporate mindfulness to create a different reaction. I read my affirmations as many times as I feel appropriate. There are tougher days where I keep them on my desk and will intentionally be more aware of my breathing throughout the day, as I know that an unhelpful habit is to hold my breath.
When was the last time that you read or recited positive affirmations to yourself? If it has been a while, don’t forget that this is a simple way to redirect your thoughts. Know your distorted thoughts and unhelpful habits. Know when you need to use your positive affirmations and other coping strategies, and pay attention to the benefits.
Think of something that you’ve always dreamed of doing. Travel? Opening a business? Contacting someone you haven’t talked to in a long time or ever? Dumping an unhealthy habit that you have been clinging to? It can be anything. It is probably overwhelming to think about and you might be afraid of the process. I’m talking about really stepping outside of your comfort zone and tearing down the protective barriers. Think about how freeing accomplishing that dream could feel… YOU DID IT! Think about all of the possible benefits of that accomplishment, like further opportunities, boost in self-esteem, feelings of gratitude and happiness, and reconnection.
Fear and Anxiety Holds Us Back
Being honest with yourself, what has kept you from doing that? If it is anxiety, you’re not alone. The feelings of fear and anxiety are there to protect us on a primitive level. These emotions help us to survive and make better choices. If we didn’t have these feelings, what would be stopping us from doing something dangerous? These are normal, healthy emotions and we can’t make them go away. We don’t want them to go away.
Our thoughts that hold us back can seem to come out of nowhere at times. Thoughts are naturally occurring and will come and go. Know that thoughts are thoughts and not reality. Just because we think something, doesn’t make it true. Identify the thoughts that hold you back, reframe them to better use, and learn how to better manage your anxiety. Even though we can manage anxiety, we can’t get rid of it, but we can keep it at bay.
What was that dream accomplishment that you thought of earlier? How can you make it work? What small steps can you take to get the ball rolling?
My Real-Life Example
Here is a simple example of a long-term goal of mine and thoughts that I struggle with. This is in regards to participating in the BADWATER 135 ultramarathon (I am a seasoned ultrarunner). This is a goal that has been several years in the making and there are a few more years to come in this journey before I stand at the start line. Many doubts have popped up in my mind over the years. Doubts that I’m not good enough, and doubts that details would never come together to make this dream a reality. Anxiety comes and goes. I experience anxiety over what people might say or think if I ever bring up wanting to run The World’s Toughest Footrace, so I rarely talk about it. Anxiety over becoming injured and never being able to run ever again. These thoughts have been bothersome, coming and going, since I got started. I want this goal bad enough, and I’m going to give my best effort, so the thoughts aren’t going to keep me from doing what I am passionate about.
Reframe Fearful and Anxious Thoughts
The unhelpful thoughts are identified, now let me show you how to reframe this fearful way of thinking. The doubt that “I’m not good enough” can be reframed to, “I am hardworking and have been thoughtfully and skillfully working towards this goal for years. I have grown so much, not just as an athlete, but as a person. I’ve come so far, I’m not going to give up now.” And “things won’t ever come together for me,” to “continue to be patient, every year you are steps closer to this goal, and you are diligent in catching all of the preparation details.” As for the anxiety, “I can’t ever tell anyone without being judged,” to “who cares what people have to say about it, this is something that I love.” For anxiety over injury, “I’m worried that I’m going to get injured in a freak accident on the trail while training,” to “I’m a careful and skilled runner. I rest my body and care for it enough, so that I can do what I do. My running coach is also mindful when it comes to injury prevention.” That is how to reframe, think realistically.
More Anxiety Management
There are multiple ways to manage anxiety. Self-care should be the top priority because it is the base from which we build upon. This includes proper diet, exercise, and sleep. Use the reframing skill from above. Learn Dialectical Behavior Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy coping strategies. Talk with a licensed professional counselor to have support in sorting out the details and find what works for you. Practice yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises. Practice these things consistently overtime to create helpful habits. The process isn’t always easy, there are challenging times, stick with it, and give yourself grace. It is a true learning process. I have been using these strategies consistently for years and they work. As you do the strategies, you will find favorites and learn when to use which strategy, as one will be more helpful than another in any given scenario.
When Your Dream Becomes a Reality
When the time comes to tackle that dream, reflect on your journey. How does it feel to be where you are, today? What is the biggest thing that you learned in those smaller steps? How can you apply what you have learned in the future? Continue the helpful habits that you have established or are continuing to work on. Honestly, the work never ends, and having a healthy mind is a ton of work, but we absolutely need to nourish it.
When that dream becomes reality, be connected and in the moment with it. Take it in. What does it feel like physically, emotionally, and spiritually? What is the greatest part of the experience? How proud do you feel? What have you learned? When it’s all over, would you do it again? It is important that we acknowledge the benefits of the hard work and perseverance. There is a mountain of experience to take away from accomplishing a dream.
I hope that you found this article insightful and are perhaps examining anxious thoughts that are keeping you from achieving your dreams. Incorporate the strategies that I have discussed into your day-to-day life and notice the benefits. Keep striving towards accomplishing your dreams, soaking in that journey.
Use this distress scale to help you stay more aware of how you are doing. The scale is 0 to 10, where 0 is that you feel at peace and are completely calm, and 10 is distress that is so unbearable that you cannot function. Refer to the scale, as-needed. If you find yourself rated at 4, where negative thoughts begin to impact you, consider talking to a mental health professional because it is better to get help sooner than later. Don’t allow yourself to be in a distressful state for too long. When you feel change is needed, take action and contact someone.
Seek help from a mental health professional at any time, you do not need to be in distress to get help. A professional counselor can provide services for things such as managing stress and anxiety, examining thoughts and behaviors, support you in life transitions, and teach you how to strengthen your mind.
0: Peace and complete calm
1: No real distress, but a slight feeling of unpleasantness
2: A little bit sad or “off”
3: Worried or upset
4: Upset to the point that negative thoughts begin to impact you
5: Upset and uncomfortable
6: Discomfort to the point that you feel a change is needed
7: Discomfort dominates your thoughts and you struggle not to show it
8: Panic takes hold
9: Feeling desperate, helpless, and unable to handle it
10: Unbearably upset to the point that you cannot function and may be on the verge of a breakdown
The hunger scale chart is one way to become more in-tune with your gut feelings and also, to have a better idea on whether or not you’re hungry and how much food to eat. Taking notes of how you feel will eventually lead to increasing your awareness and improving intuitive eating habits. The scale is 1-10. One, being that you’re feeling starving, weak, or dizzy and ten, is that you feel sick because you are so full.
When to Use
While deciding whether you should eat or not. Are you reaching for food because you’re hungry or because you’re feeling a particular emotion?
After eating a snack or a meal. Check-in with yourself to see where you are. Did you eat enough or did you eat too much?
Use this tool about twice per week, on a consistent basis, for about three to five months. This amount of time presents the opportunity to increase awareness and to settle into healthier habits.
How to Use
Pair this scale with practicing eating mindfully or intuitively.
Be non-judgmental of what number you are on the scale.
Feeling five or six after eating is appropriate. Seven is alright, every now and then, like during a holiday meal. The top goal is to feel comfortable.
Jot down in a journal or notebook your hunger scale number and a few other details, like what you ate, thoughts, and feelings.
Practice consistently, becoming more in-tune can take time. Practice being non-judgmental and patient with how long it might take you. It might take multiple changes and attempts, that’s alright.
Put the scale where you will see it and remember to use it. In a journal where you track habits, on the fridge, or on the dining room table. If you want to leave it on the dining room table, some people place it in a folder or a clear page sleeve.
Share what you’re working on with your dietician or mental health counselor.
Questions to Consider
An important point to mention is to notice thoughts and feelings while eating. A lot of times, we eat and are distracted by our phones, the television, or a conversation. Is this you? Are you feeling depressed or anxious while eating? Are you being judgmental or the food or yourself while you eat?
Another thing to notice is whether you are disassociated or non-present. Are you enjoying the food? Why or why not? Are you being mindful of the meal? Did you fly through the meal, eating fast? Did you eat at an abnormally slow pace? How big were your bites?
Depression, anxiety, and panic attacks are signs that you should ask for help
It is important to be able to recognize the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and panic attacks in ourselves. When we experience these symptoms frequently, for longer than a few weeks, it is time to ask for help. Take action. We tend to go for far too long, trying to remain strong, that we become weak. The depression, anxiety, and panic attacks can begin to harm multiple areas of our lives. Social, relationships, school, work, etc. A counselor can teach you ways to cope and renew your strength.
When you feel stressed or anxious, have you been mindful of your breathing? Notice if you’re holding your breath, taking shallow breaths, or breathing too quickly.
Take control of your breathing by trying a short breathing exercise:
Lay, sit, or stand comfortably, with good posture to allow yourself to breathe easily.
If you’re laying or sitting, maybe you want to close your eyes to increase focus.
You may place your hands gently on your stomach to physically feel it move in and out as you breathe.
Take note of physical sensations and then focus on your breathe.
If you find yourself becoming distracted by anything, acknowledge the distraction (distractions occur naturally and are reminders to return to what we were working on), allow it to roll through your awareness, and then simply return your attention to your breathing.
Breathe in for 3 seconds: 1-2-3
Breathe out for 3 seconds: 1-2-3
Repeat 3 times
Notice any differences in how you physically or mentally feel.
Calmly return your focus to the environment around you.
You may want to play around with the time spent in the exercise, do what works for you.
*Tip for severe anxiety and panic: if you find yourself holding your breath for longer than the brief pause during this exercise, skip the pause all together and just focus on steady in-and-out breathes.*