Anxiety is one of the most common mental health issues faced by a vast percentage of the human population across the globe. Anxiety is defined as an overwhelming sense of fear, nervousness, or apprehension towards specific or some stimuli of the environment. Anxiety can become all-pervasive if not taken care of.
Psychology says that a little bit of anxiety is natural and necessary. It is necessary because it has survival value. Anxiety helps us sustain in the world. If you aren’t worried about getting enough food for yourself you won’t try finding a job. If you aren’t worried about doing well in an exam, you won’t try studying for the exam.
This amount of worry and anxiety is completely normal and natural. It is inevitable and escapable. Getting rid of this anxiety is easy and can be done once the person puts in the efforts to reach their goal state. This anxiety is healthy.
Anxiety becomes unhealthy when you start feeling nervous about little things that happen in the surroundings. People who face anxiety issues become hypervigilant to their environment. A neutral stimulus with no intention of causing any harm is magnified and the stimuli are appraised as threatening and hence cause anxiety.
Some people who have anxiety have no grey thinking – they equate the thought of harm with the action of harm already done. They also start paying more attention to the threatening stimuli. They become trapped in the spiral of vicious thoughts wherewith each thought, they get sucked in the spiral even more.
Apart from seeking therapy and taking medications to take care of anxiety, in this article you will find some helpful ways to tame your anxiety.
Notice that the title of this article says “taming anxiety” and not preventing or getting rid of anxiety completely. Sometimes, rather than killing the monster in your head, it is better to tame it to become an ally that helps you navigate through the puzzle of life gently, and slowly.
It is better, easier and a gentler approach to care to build a pattern of thought where all sensations and feelings are valid. Getting rid of anxiety completely is unrealistic, however, you must believe that it can become manageable and you can inculcate ways to tame anxiety in your daily routine that help you stay grounded and feel anchored in life.
Ways for taming anxiety
When people ask, “how to tame anxiety?” The first thing that comes to my mind is, “With intention of taming it.” We do not realize the importance of having the practice of intention in our daily lives. Once you start implying this practice of intentional living, you will find much more space to breathe and many more spaces filled with some much-needed pauses. Read ahead to find some intentional acts of care that are not out of textbooks, but practices that people engage in to tame their anxieties.
People who journal regularly report how it is such a grounded practice. They find the process of journaling extremely cathartic, one that allows them to sit back and process their thoughts without any judgment. It gives one space to think of the thoughts and to reflect on the actions that they did throughout the day.
Journaling becomes a safe space to meet oneself, where one can unload with any fear, discard all worries, and just be.
Mindfulness is a meditative practice that mainly revolves around the practice of staying in the present moment. In the current pace of the world, we move about our lives so fast that we do not even realize the sweet moments of everyday living.
Mindfulness practices are of different varieties and it will be good if you try more than one type of practice to check what suits best your needs. Practices like emotional labeling, deep breathing, metta practice, etc. Mindfulness invites loving-kindness and compassion into your life. It allows you to stay in the present without worrying about the future or the past.
Here’s one of the tips to tame anxiety with mindfulness: Whenever anxiety comes in with your life, don’t try suppressing it, let it come, and invite it to sit with you. While the anxiety sits beside you, put your hand on your heart, and breathe. Engage in imagination, and ask your anxiety to breathe with you.
With each breath visualize that the anxiety figure is getting smaller in size and that your body is starting to feel light. Keep a stance of curiosity and welcome all the feelings that arrive, just keep breathing through all of them gently.
Declutter your spaces:
People find activities of cleaning and decluttering extremely calming. With an intention of cleaning and decluttering your thoughts, start decluttering your own space. It can be anything of your own from your shelf to your room. One of the most helpful practices for people whom anxiety visits regularly, it is best to start your day by making your bed.
This gives you a sense of winning just at the beginning of the day which helps you get started for the day energetically. Similarly, before going to bed, you can clean your body. When in the shower, take a bath mindfully, or just wash your face by staying in the present – through cleaning your body, you clean your mind off the worrisome thoughts.
Decluttering can be a relieving and grounding activity when done with an intention of staying mindful and being kind towards oneself and their own space.
Connect with a loved one:
Western models of care have focused primarily on the act of self-care. But, how does self-care look like in the eastern world of collectivist cultures? Do the individualistic self-care model work for people existing in the different social hierarchies and the social intersections of the Indian societal milieu? People have intersectional identities that are governed by their caste, gender, sexuality, economic status, religion, etc. Individual models of care invisibilize the context of people’s identities.
To tame anxiety, one needs support. The support that is gathered by weaving people’s own communities of care. By seeking out relationships that nurture growth and offer support, by writing stories with multiple characters where all characters may not understand each other necessarily but they choose to stay and sustain each other’s existence.
Collective care by connecting with loved ones, by connecting with people with similar stories of our own lived experience makes visible stories of hope and resilience that help people in staying hopeful of a world of their preferences of being where anxiety stays too – a world where the being and the tamed anxiety co-exist.
Other than the aforementioned ways people also report therapeutic letter writing, moving their bodies in creative ways, making art, spending time in nature, playing an instrument, cooking, etc. as intentional acts of care of taming anxiety naturally that visits them often.
Stay curious and see what works for you.