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5 Anxiety Busters for Difficult Times

Anxiety is the most prevalent mental health disorder in the United States. Approximately 40 million people over the age of 18 are affected by it. That is roughly 18% percent of our nation’s population. With the current COVID 19 crisis, these numbers have likely more than doubled. These are scary and uncertain times for most of us.

While it is true that we are all helpless to the humanitarian crisis that is unfolding, we do have control over our thoughts and behaviors during these difficult times. If you are struggling with anxiety right now and want to get back to feeling a little bit more at ease, I recommend the following five daily practices:

1. Breathe Deeply:

Deep breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness. It is impossible to breathe deeply and feel panicked at the same time. It would defy the way our body functions. Abdominal breathing for 20 minutes a day will reduce anxiety and stress.

2. Mindfulness Meditation:

Focusing your attention on the breath is a sure-fire way to ease tension in your body. We have a lot more free time available to us right now, and learning mindfulness meditation may be just the thing to help you through this crisis. A beginner’s practice is to close your eyes, inhaling and exhaling deeply for a couple of breaths. Then, focus all your attention on the coolness of the breath as it enters your nostrils, and on the warmth, as you exhale the breath through your nose. Focusing in this way takes your mind off any negative thoughts. As you become distracted by intruding thoughts, bring your attention back to the breath. If you practice this for 15 minutes a day, you will soon recognize that intrusive thoughts will lessen.

3. Self-Care:

Make sure you get in plenty of walks outside, eat healthy balanced meals, watch less news, and create evening rituals that will help you to drift off to sleep. Often as stress increases in our life, our self-care lessens. Ideally, the higher the stress in your life, the more diligent your self-care should be. The better we take care of ourselves, the better we can take care of our loved ones during this crisis and be a calming energy in our home.

4. Feelings are not Facts:

All too often, we believe that our thoughts and fearful predictions of the future are the truth. The truth, however, is that your degree of anxiety is a guide to letting you know just how far you have wandered from the present moment. Your emotions are a powerful system created to let you know if you are listening to fear or love. Fear will always have you believe that all is lost. Love knows that you are guided and supported by a power far greater than this crisis.

5. Change your Thoughts:

Most of our thoughts are deeply intrinsic, conditioned, and mostly subconscious. Our thoughts are rooted so deeply in our life experiences that we often have a complete blind spot to them. It is your negative thoughts that are causing your negative feelings. The next time you are feeling anxious, depressed, or fearful, ask yourself: What is the underlying thought that is feeding these painful emotions? Once you have identified the scary thought, you can then ask yourself if you know this to be the truth. Awareness is the beginning of all change. When you change your thoughts, you will change your life.

The key to making any changes permanent is to practice them daily. To make any behavior a habit, it usually takes consistent effort over a period of time. By taking just 15 or 20 minutes out of your day to practice breathing and awareness of thought, you will start noticing a lessening in your level of anxiety even during these difficult times.

If you are struggling with increased anxiety, reach out for help but commit to seeing the practices through for the duration, and you will see improvements in your ability to relax and enjoy your life even during these unprecedented times.

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