What’s your favorite positive affirmation, right now?
Mine is, “I have everything I need.”
I tend to feel like I need MORE (belongings, money, approval from others, etc.) and it can create anxiety and tension. I don’t actually need any of these things. When I practice living in the moment and tell myself that I have everything that I need RIGHT NOW, HERE in the present, I feel less anxious.
This article is about four simple, yet powerful ways to manage worry and anxiety. Are you worried about how things are going to go for you? Do you fear that you won’t be able to handle potential problems? How can you make a tough decision not having all of the details? Here’s what you CAN do. You can take control of your mind by shifting what you focus on. You can choose to focus on your strengths and the things that you have control over. You can also challenge irrational thoughts of uncertainty and worry.
Handling being worried over how things are going to go for you.
Who do I want to be?
What quality of presence do I want to bring to any challenges I face?
Note the shift that occurs when you go from focusing on what will go wrong today to the person you want to be.
Challenge your fear that you won’t be able to handle potential problems.
One way to address this fear is to imagine yourself coping. Whenever you are worried about a problem that could happen, envision yourself skillfully coping with it.
What does that look like?
Recall a strength that you have demonstrated multiple times when you’ve risen to meet a challenge. Then, expect yourself to rise, bringing that same strength, resourcefulness, and determination to the problem that might challenge you today.
Pause & notice whether this time is different.
When a familiar worry or fear crosses your mind, this can be about failing or that something horrible will happen, notice that it has never actually happened.
It’s likely that your mind is ignoring all of the times that those worries and fears didn’t come true and that this time is different.
If this sounds like your experiences, then consider that the worry or fear is a false alarm, like the other times.
Make decisions even when there is uncertainty.
When you’re making a tough decision, all you can do is make the best choice for what you know right then and there.
Embrace the reality of not having all of the information and details today, not knowing exactly what the outcome will be.
Allow yourself to be free from the assumption that you’re responsible for knowing the unknown.
By choosing to focus on what is helpful, you can better manage your worries and anxiety. Always draw from your strengths and know that you will overcome any stressful situations that lay ahead because you have overcome things in the past. Challenge irrational and distorted thoughts, acknowledging and then reframing them. Notice the shift in thinking and how you feel afterwards. Practice these tips so that they stick to your mind and alter how your mind works. Have power over worry and anxiety.
IMPROVE the Moment is the next skill. The acronym IMPROVE makes life a little bit better when it is not going so well.
During a crisis, you have two options. You can sink into the distress or invest in behaviors that might improve how you feel in the moment.
I: Imagery M: Meaning P: Prayer R: Relaxation O: One thing (or moment) at a time V: Vacation E: Encouragement
Imagery is powerful because your mind can convince your body that you are elsewhere. A good example is being at the beach. When you’re actually sitting on the beach, your muscles are relaxed. When you imagine yourself at the beach (and you’re elsewhere), you can still get your muscles to relax, you convince your body that you are sitting there.
Ideas for imagery
Use an app or purchase a recorded guided imagery. You can also just use your own mind and create a guided imagery.
• Forest path • Walk on the beach • Favorite place • Safe place • Sunflower field • Stroll by a stream • Waterfall • Garden of butterflies • Sunset • Star gazing • Mountain summit hike • Sitting by a campfire
Practice and enjoy the benefits! Also, imagine yourself doing well and practicing your skills.
Viktor Frankl (1905-1997), one of the founders of existential therapy, once said “If there is a why, then a person can figure out the how.” [Look him up, his life was remarkable. He wrote the book “A Man’s Search for Meaning,” which is about being a psychologist in a concentration camp. He is well-known for this book, but he has several other accomplishments.]
List and contemplate your “whys” for working on any problem.
Examples: Why stay safe?; why practice your skills?; why improve your self-care?
Having meaning motivates you; your whys will motivate you to act.
Prayer is a calming ritual, it also provides connection, guidance, and peace.
Pray where you are at, or go to your place of connectedness or worship. This skill is useful anywhere and at anytime. Connect to your spirituality.
Everyone needs relaxation. What do you do to relax? What do you think could be relaxing that you would like to try?
Schedule in some of those relaxing behaviors every day. Keep in mind that relaxing also takes practice.
Tips for practice: Be mindful of your breathing; be mindful of tense muscles and release the tension; sit in a quiet place.
One thing (or moment) at a time
Take on only one thing in the moment. When we try to juggle or do too many things at once, we become overwhelmed and or shut down completely.
Example: You don’t know how to make it through your day, but you know that you can make it through the next hour, or through the next 5 minutes. Focus on what is manageable.
Take a break from your stressors or crisis. These breaks need to be planned, like scheduling a walk in the park in the evening, or watching your favorite movie before bedtime. Taking quiet time to reflect, meditate, or do deep breathing exercises are also good ideas.
Allow yourself to take a break when you feel that you need it.
You need encouragement during those tough times. The things that you say to yourself matter, they influence how you feel.
During your self-talk, say affirmations, coach, and cheer for yourself.
Write down 10 affirmations you can repeat to yourself throughout difficult times.
• This crisis will pass. • I can do this! • I have everything that I need to get through this.
The ACCEPTS acronym has skills that helps keep you busy and distracted when you would typically be preoccupied by a crisis. It is easy to dwell on what is going wrong, by focusing on the ACCEPTS behaviors, you can get yourself through hard times.
Activities keep you busy and your mind off of problems and behaviors. The behaviors that you are focused on are healthy and helpful.
To start practicing this skill, write a list of activities you enjoy when life feels better. If you’re unsure or need ideas, go online and search for activity lists.
Add the pleasant activities into your schedule and mindfully do them.
Choose an activity and enjoy it now!
Contribute to others. It is a way to take your mind off of your own problems, to feel connected and useful, and to create positive feelings.
Do a favor; acts of kindness; write a thank you note; bake brownies to share; volunteer locally.
Create a list of ways to contribute to others and begin right away.
Afterwards, journal about the experience, reflecting on your thoughts and feelings.
Draw healthy comparisons between yourself and others. There are people living without necessities, who have gone through tragedies, or who have tremendous obstacles to overcome. Remembering that other people are also suffering, often in worse ways, allows for you to gain perspective of what you’re going through. This perspective also increases your feelings of gratefulness.
Emotions arise from the things we do. You can change your emotion by changing your behavior.
When you’re depressed, do behaviors that lift your spirits. When you’re anxious, do ones that are relaxing. When angry, do ones that are calming.
Check-in with your emotions in the moment, and if you find that you want change, then choose to participate in a healthy behavior to change your emotion.
Pushing away means that you decide to revisit the problem at another time. Imagine putting the problem in a box, locking the box, and placing it on a shelf for later.
You cannot think about two things at once, so choose to direct your attention to the most helpful thought.
Some ideas to try, crossword puzzles, read an interesting book, have an intriguing conversation, watch an action movie.
Do something to occupy your thoughts away from depressive thoughts, worries, and problems.
Practice in the moment.
Direct yourself with healthy sensations.
Things to try, dance to loud music, eat a sour lemon slice, take a hot or cold bath, smell a strong scent, like peppermint.
These things wake up your senses in an invigorating way. Notice any changes in your experience.
Another idea, create a sensations toolkit, using your favorite ways to wake up your sensations. Use your tools.
Mindfulness is choosing to be aware of the present moment, on purpose, and in a non-judgmental way. When being mindful, our attention and focus is on whatever we choose to observe or do.In this moment, choose to focus your mind wherever you’d like it to be.
Maybe you focus on your emotions, thoughts and physical sensations as you experience the environment around you.
Hold your attention there, focusing on being in the moment.
States of mind
We have three states of mind:
• Emotion Mind • Reason Mind • Wise Mind
Wise Mind is the balance between emotion and reason. We acknowledge and validate our feelings and use reason to problem-solve, think about consequences, and choose effective behaviors.
In Wise Mind, we act in ways that reflect our goals, values, and who we want to be.
Ask yourself, in any moment, “What is my Wise Mind telling me?” Then act.
Getting into Wise Mind, Step One
• Observe and describe what and how you behave, think, feel, and your surroundings in a non-judgmental way. Stay focused one-mindfully.
To observe means just noticing how things are, without adding or taking away.
To describe means to put words to your observations.
• What you do is participate and how you do that is effectively.
• Take what you observed (step one) and choose what you want to participate in. Participate in it fully, immerse yourself in the experience.
• How to choose what to participate in: base it off of what will work or be effective.
Once you are participating effectively, you’re in Wise Mind. Notice what this feels like.
Let Go of Judgments
We all have judgments. Whenever you notice yourself judging, let the judgment pass through and drift off, don’t allow it to stick around. Judgments should come and go like clouds and ocean waves.
Practicing Mindfulness in the Moment
Be present in the “small moments.”
Take 10 minutes and clean part of your home, fully immersing yourself in the process.
When you find yourself distracted, this could be a judgmental thought, refocus on what you’re doing. Full focus and attention, non-judgmentally.
A thought on meditation. Meditation can be considered anything if you are present, being non-judgmental, and have an open heart.
Meditate on your life experiences, starting with the moment you are currently in. Stay present for some time, connecting to the moment, then, when you’re ready, shift your focus to another moment.
Let potentially stressful situations, criticisms, or anything else that might “stick” to you, causing needless suffering, roll off your mind. Allow these experiences to slide through your awareness.
Distractions, distractions, distractions
Distractions don’t go away, they are a part of this world. Do not get frustrated with distractions, they are reminders to go back to what you’re working on. They’re natural.
When you become distracted, bring yourself back to the present moment. Do this over, and over, and over again, if you need to.
Taking hold of your mind
Direct your mind where you want it. There are many thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations to direct your attention towards. Choose one of those, opening up your mind to it and closing your attention off from the other options.
If your mind drifts towards a closed off option, gently re-close it and return to the option of choice.
How to deal with negative thoughts through cognitive reframing.
The first set of sentences are examples of “all-or-nothing” and “black-and-white” negative thoughts. The second set is the reframing.
▪︎”I HAVE to have ___, ___, and ___ happen today, otherwise the day is ruined.” ▪︎”If I don’t get this job, everything that I’ve worked so hard for goes right out the window!” ▪︎”My life depends on ___.”
▪︎”I can choose to not allow my day to be ruined. Instead, I can remain hopeful and hold my head high because this isn’t the end, it’s a bump in the road. I can move on knowing that I did the best that I can.” ▪︎”I may or may not get the job that I’ve been working hard towards, but there will be other opportunities and new doors will open. I did learn more from this experience.” ▪︎”What I’m going through is temporary and in time, things change.”