Nicole Owen

Written by Nicole Owen - Tuesday, 31st March 2020

Tackling anxiety by taking control of thoughts.

I have always been an anxious person but this past year, my anxiety has shot through the roof. I think my anxiety as of late is as a result of being under constant chronic stress for a prolonged period of time (More on chronic stress here). Life in the 21st century has become so stressful and overwhelming. Our minds are constantly thinking about something… what to wear, what to read next, what to cook for dinner, what ingredients to buy from the shop, what work email needs responding to, what holiday to book next, what house work needs to be done, what financial strategies need to be set and the list goes on. As a result of this constant thinking we are hardly ever able to ‘just be’. For me to ‘just be’ is to sit on the couch with a delicious mug of rooibos tea and listen to the birds chirp and think about absolutely nothing. How often do we have these moments? It is in these moments our minds are recharged. If we don’t have enough of these moments, we start getting brain fog which affects concentration.

The below methods have helped me to tackle my anxiety and depressive thoughts:-

  1. Instead of judging the intense emotion or depressed thought, just acknowledge it. Say to yourself out loud: ‘Okay, I am having an intense feeling/thought right now’. Try and see the thought from a ‘birds eye view’ to prevent yourself from getting emotional about it.

    It’s the judgement you have of the thought or feeling that spirals the depressed thoughts into a perpetual ongoing cycle; NOT the thought or feeling itself.

    For example, I get anxious thoughts about having to use the tube system in London on a daily basis for work. I like my own space and so being squashed up against people whom I don’t know makes me frazzle. Thoughts start coming into my mind like "this guy may be sick and so he might make me sick and I will make my husband sick. I will be off work and my boss will regret hiring me because I am sick all the time".

    What I do in these circumstances is acknowledge that I am having the thought and tell myself the following "I am okay, I am healthy, I am safe, I am at peace". I find once I reinforce these positive thoughts I do not judge the negative thoughts and I feel much better. Go on, try it for yourself!

  2. Instead of pushing thoughts or emotions away, Honour them. If we don’t honour our emotions, they will keep coming back.

    I know that the tube makes me anxious so I honour my tube anxiety by reinforcing positive mantra’s before I step on the tube. "I am okay, I am healthy, I am blessed, I am safe".

  3. Instead of labelling yourself as depressed or anxious, ask yourself a series of questions.

Question 1: Is this anxiety or intense emotion even mine?

  • Many of our thoughts, beliefs and emotions aren’t truly ours. They have been adopted from others or projected onto us by others. We are like satellites, we can feel and pick up emotions from people all around us.

    The news is a perfect example of how intense feelings or emotions aren’t our own. They have been projected on us by the media and because the media portrays a sense a panic it causes us to panic also.

    Another example is feeling anxious for a loved one. Perhaps your spouse is having a tough time at work or your child is being bullied at school. My immediate response is to feel the anxiety that my loved ones are feeling. However, it is in these situations that we should not be anxious because the anxious thoughts are not ours. We should aim to be strong and supportive for our loved ones, encouraging them along the way.

    One anxious person leads to another anxious person and before you know it you could have a whole household of anxious frazzled people. This is a recipe for disaster. It is so important to acknowledge whether the anxiety is ours or not.

Question 2: If the anxiety is ours, what would it take to shift the intense emotion?

These are some examples of things I find helpful when I am feeling anxious:-

  • Walk in nature. There is something about the quiet calm of nature that is contagious, leaving a quiet calm in my mind.
  • Ask for a hug from a friend or loved one. Hugging someone releases the ‘love hormone’, oxytocin which releases feelings of happiness.
  • Journal. Writing down my thoughts on paper allows me to deal with my feelings and ‘let them go’.