Feeling anxious? You’re not alone. Everyone worries, and with the amount of general uncertainty in the air right now, it’s not surprising that you might feel more anxious than usual.
“Anxiety is future-oriented, so we're worrying about something that we don't know about yet,” says therapist Whitney Goodman in one of JanSport’s #LightenTheLoad sessions.
Staying in the moment can help by turning your attention away from future uncertainty and toward the present reality. But focusing on the present is harder than it sounds. Here are a few tips to help you keep grounded when you feel your anxiety building up.
Make a new routine
One of the best ways to combat anxiety is to have a routine—but that’s tricky now that COVID-19 has disrupted much of our day-to-day lives. Luckily, there’s a simple solution. If your normal routine is no longer possible, try making a new one. For example, you could get up at the same time Monday through Friday, schedule a weekly video chat with your friends on Saturday, and declare self-care Sunday by finding a way to treat yourself each week.
Having structure helps give your days definition so that there are fewer unknowns to worry about. As Goodman put it: “[Committing] to doing small things daily can really help you transition out of that mode of everything is kind of certain.”
Go for a walk
Keep your Fifth Avenue FX Fanny Pack by the door, loaded up with headphones, sunglasses, sunscreen, and any other outdoor essentials, such as a camera or notebook. That way, when you start feeling stressed, you can grab it and go. Walking can help you calm down by using up some of your anxious energy. Plus, it also gives you something else to focus on: the birds, your neighbors, even the weather.
Focus on what’s right in front of you
When your thoughts start to spiral, Goodman recommends you “be really present with what you’re doing.” For example, count the pins on your Mono SuperBreak, list three things you can hear, or, if you’re eating, concentrate on what your food tastes like.
“Trying to hone in on the experience you're having in that moment will help you move away from the worry,” Goodman says. “And if the worry comes up again, validate it. ‘Okay, it's there now, I'm going to try to go back to the present.’”
When your anxiety gets bad, you may find yourself taking short, shallow breaths. Doing a simple breathing exercise can help even out your breathing while giving you something else to focus on.
You’ll want to experiment until you find one that works for you. One option: You could try simply closing your eyes while breathing in through your nose, out through your mouth.
Or you could even out your breath: Breathe in and out through your nose, counting to four each time. Once you’ve mastered four counts, make it harder—elongate your breathing to six or eight counts.
One more technique? Inhale through your nose for a count of four, then hold for a count of seven before exhaling slowly for a count of eight.
Change the subject
If your thoughts keep moving round and round in circles, throw an impromptu dance party, read a book, or do a puzzle. Changing the energy in the room—and the subject on your mind—can help you stop worrying about the future.
If you’re still having trouble distracting yourself, try redirecting your energies to something you can control. Find a way to take action. Volunteer for a cause, sort out your family’s recycling, or put together a box of items to give to Goodwill. Helping others can help give you a sense of perspective. Your worries might not seem so big in comparison.
How do you stay calm when you start to feel anxious? Share your tips by using #LifeUnzipped on social media.
By: Jessen O’Brien