6 steps to consciously cope with anxiety
Life is full, and it can move fast. No matter who you are, I would guess that statement is true for you too. Sometimes that fast-paced fullness can feel exhilarating, but on a consistent basis, it feels more like stress. That stress can cause pretty intense and challenging emotions like anger, anxiety, fear, and loneliness, to name a few.
While life will most likely always be fast-paced and full, it doesn’t have to be as rough as it feels when you are struggling with anxiety. The key to transcending the overwhelming emotions that fuel your anxiety is mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness enables you to calm your stress and soothe yourself in moments where you find yourself panic-stricken. And as overwhelming as it may feel, you can choose to stop playing into the fear-based stories when your mind is circulating, and instead make space to step back, reflect, and thoughtfully respond—rather than react.
Here are 6 steps to help you acknowledge, understand, and transform worrisome emotions in a mindful way.
- Accept Your Emotions
Emotions demand to be felt. Many of us try to avoid negative emotions by ignoring them. But the only way they will go away fully is if you acknowledge and accept that they were there in the first place.
Ignoring something that wants to be seen will only cause it to bubble up and explode later, creating more intense feelings or causing a complete emotional shutdown.
Extend yourself the same kindness you would to an overwhelmed friend. Learn to listen to yourself when you are afraid or upset, without the judgment or the need to “fix.”
To become more aware of the emotion you are feeling, notice where it lives in your physical body. You might feel your anxiety as a stomachache, shallow breaths, or muscle tension. Don’t ignore or push away the sensations that arise.
Your emotions are always trying to show you something that is going on inside (and perhaps outside) of you. Mindful acceptance of your anxiety allows you take an honest look at yourself and your life, with greater self-understanding and compassion.
- Name Your Emotions
A simple place to start—once you have acknowledged the initial feeling—is asking yourself questions such as, “Am I feeling sad? Ashamed? Angry or resentful?”
It’s important to remember that although you are labeling your emotion, you are not that emotion. It’s the difference between “I am angry” and “I am FEELING angry.” The first is tied to your identity, while the other is only a passing feeling.
A statement like, “I am feeling anxious and overwhelmed right now…and that’s okay. I am just going to allow myself to be with it,” can be profoundly helpful for you to remember that you are not tied to your anxiety. The emotions will pass like clouds in the sky.
Of course, our bad feelings don’t dissipate immediately—sometimes they are unavoidably quite painful and disruptive—but pinpointing and labeling our emotion allows us to take the fear out of what we may be experiencing.
- Recognize the Impermanence of Your Emotion
When you can remember and recognize the impermanence of your emotions—that you will not feel this way forever—you will begin to experience them in a more fleeting manner. They are here for a little while, then they disappear.
Maintain that observer perspective and encourage the processing of those emotions with acts of loving kindness toward yourself. By asking yourself questions like “What is the kindest thing I can do for myself right now?,” “How can I nurture myself?,” or “What do I need right now?,” you can foster a deep connection with yourself and feel less alone when these emotions flare up.
- Investigate the Origin
Investigating the root of your negative emotion will help you gain critical insight into what you are experiencing. Take the time to dive deep (as uncomfortable as it may be), and explore what happened to trigger this negative emotion in the first place.
Maybe you are feeling angry or unappreciated, or disconnected from a coworker, a friend, or a romantic partner. Get to the root cause. Ask yourself, “What is causing me to feel this way? Was it something I or someone else said, did, or didn’t do?”
Refuse to just “push through,” stuff it down, and slog it out. Instead, take time, even just a few minutes to start, to explore your anxiety and create space for authentic answers.
- Let Go of Control
Another important key to mindfully dealing with your difficult emotions is to let go of your need to over-control or immediately “fix” them. You may find yourself thinking, “But I’ll feel so much better if they go away, so why NOT get rid of them immediately?”
But you don’t need to expedite your way through negative emotions to also trust that you’re going to be okay. Sure, it can be extremely uncomfortable to tolerate the anxiety of unresolved emotions, but moving through (rather than avoiding) tough stuff also cultivates personal depth.
Do your best to be patient with your “messy” emotions. We cannot control them, no matter how hard we try, and the effort we exert in the attempt causes unnecessary stress, worry, and fear.
- Try to meditate.
Meditation is proven to be an immediate, effective, and easy way to relieve stress and calm anxiety. Regular meditation has been proven to boost your health and happiness, providing long-lasting calming effects that you can take with you all day.
Especially during moments of panic, giving yourself a moment of quietness can be a wonderful tool to help you hold onto the present moment and come back into your body.
A small practice of even 3 minutes a day, committed to sitting in silence with your emotions, will strengthen your sense of peace and connection in all areas of life.
Remember that being aware of your emotions, acknowledging them, and sitting with them is a powerful and holistic way to let go of feeling trapped in anxiety for good. If you find it difficult to acknowledge, name and understand your emotions on your own a mental health specialist can help you to do it in order to overcome and be able to deal with similar situations in future.