When I think about how to do life well, I look at examples of women before me who I think have gone above and beyond the call of duty. People like Corrie Ten Boom or Mother Teresa, who gave up their lives for others. In a day and age where everywhere I turn most people are filled with anxiety, I think my heroes might be onto something. Life has never been easy. There have always been reasons to be anxious. But my heroes served others. They were hard workers. And they had a purpose. So, what do we do when we are faced with anxieties in our own lives that seem to overwhelm us? We serve others, we work hard, and we focus on our purpose.
Each of us has a different story and some brains are built with a bent towards more anxious thinking. Most people have what I call common anxiety or basic worry, but we allow them to rule us instead of ruling them. So, what do we do when we are anxious about the coronavirus, our finances, our children, the health of our loved ones, making wise decisions, and the myriad of worries that we face? Well, here are a few tips that I have found to be most beneficial for my clients, my friends, my family, and myself.
1) Center on your purpose: What has God uniquely placed me and only me on this earth to do?
2) How am I using my gifts to serve others?
3) Am I using my time wisely while incorporating time for rest, play, and renewal?
And on a very practical level how do I cope with my anxious, intrusive thoughts?
1) Breathe deeply. This seems simple, but we cut off airflow to the brain when we have anxious thoughts which in turn creates more anxiety. Take 10 slow deep breaths. Think yoga.
2) Distract yourself. Count backwards from 100 by 6s, pray, find 5 things you see, 4 things you can touch, and then one thing you taste, one thing you smell, and one thing you hear. Go to your favorite place in your mind such as the beach or the mountains.
3) Think about your thinking. Your thoughts affect your emotion and your emotion affects your behavior. What are you thinking about? Are these thoughts healthy? How are these thoughts affecting your anxiety?
4) Move your body on a regular basis (every other day minimally). Anything…yoga, cycle, walk, run, play soccer or basketball with the kids, do jumping jacks. Just move.
5) Connect with a friend or someone who can listen and hear you out. Confessing what is going on in your mind and releasing those thoughts can be the most freeing for your brain and your heart.
6) And last but not least, ask God for the peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7). He has it. He wants to give you good gifts. He cares about your every thought.
Leah Vernon, M.A., L.P.C.