Nervousness always kicks in for me before trying something new.
Whether I’m starting something brand new or participating in an activity that I’ve never done before, I. get. nervous.
Recently, I drove to a new restaurant to meet up with some friends in the city. Even with all of the GPS prompts in the world, I still got lost. I made one wrong left turn and felt completely turned around. Not to mention that now I was running late in heavy, rush hour traffic, so all of my negative self-talk chimed in and my nervousness evolved into feeling full-blown anxiety.
According to the American Psychological Association, anxiety is: an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes. We feel anxious thoughts in moments of panic, when we feel out of control and when we feel we are in danger.
Anxiety can show up in our relationships with ourselves and with others. We can feel anxious thoughts before a first date, before sharing important news with our loved ones or before giving a presentation to our coworkers. Mild feelings of anxiety are pretty typical in adults that are trying and doing new and important things.
Though experiencing a mild amount of anxiety is typical in adults, it can be concerning to feel overwhelmed by worried thoughts on a daily basis. Anxiety is considered a mental health disorder when it is experienced intensely on a regular basis. Please seek professional help if you notice that anxiety is a part of your everyday life.
Yet the worrisome thoughts that come with anxiety can be burdensome. Especially as we navigate our relationships, our anxious thoughts can cause us to over-think or increase our chances of taking out our frustration on our loved ones. To calm our worried nerves, let’s check out 3 ways to organize our anxious thoughts:
Practice your go-to coping skill.
The first step in addressing worried thoughts is to get yourself to a place of feeling calm. If you’re feeling a physical feeling of anxiety, like your heart rate is speeding up or you’re starting to sweat, you may need to pull out a tried and true, on-the-go self care tool to begin regulating your emotions on the spot.
Some tried and true coping skills are:
- Taking deep and mindful breaths: focusing on inhaling and exhaling until you feel your heart rate slow down, you feel cooler, etc.
- If you are able, name 5 things you see, smell or hear around you. This can help safely distract yourself from your current feeling of anxiety and can also help you feel calmer.
Do a self-check.
As we mentioned in our blog regarding practicing patience, once you’ve reached a calm place, pause to see what’s coming up for you. Asking yourself, “What am I feeling anxious about?” is one of the most reliable ways to calm worried thoughts.
While I was driving, I asked myself why I was feeling anxious and answered honestly out loud:
“I hate not knowing where I’m going and I do not want to embarrass myself by being late to this restaurant.”
Name out loud or list the thoughts that are coming up for you. And be honest! In naming what I was truly feeling, I learned that my driving anxiety was about:
- Not knowing where I was going (Feeling out of control)
- Making a mistake while driving (Not being perfect)
- Feeling embarrassed (Experiencing shame for feeling out of control and not being perfect)
Look at that! Trust me, the more you practice truly understanding what you’re feeling, the easier it can be to manage said feelings.
Take action by getting grounded.
Now that you’re feeling calmer and you know what’s causing your anxious feelings, you are ready to take action. What can you do in this moment to feel better? What helpful, grounded thoughts can help calm your feelings of anxiety? This part can be taken literally: do what feels safe and right to take care of that anxious feeling.
For me, I like making a mentally “grounded” list of things that are in my control, that I am sure of and things that I am able to do to feel better.
In this case, my mentally grounded list needs to address my feelings of not having control, not being perfect and feeling embarrassed. So telling myself that although I was lost, I was also:
- Physically safe and able to drive
- Had plenty of gas in the car
- Knew how to take a different route to get to the restaurant
- Knew my friends would be understanding of me being late
When I was able, I even texted my friends and let them know I was turned around and would be a little late. Guess what, they were lost too! By communicating, I even managed to do something about my feelings of embarrassment not just for me, but for all of my friends.
After you’ve understood where your anxiety is coming from, let your self-compassion take over when creating a mentally grounded list . Remember that the feeling you are feeling is temporary and that you are ultimately in control.
When feeling anxious, remember that this thought will pass and there are a number of things happening at that same, exact moment that can help you feel calmer and less worried.
Y’all, having a healthy relationship with yourself, your feelings and your thoughts takes work! But with practice and reminders from safe spaces like gmichelle.com, we can do this work together.
How do you like to manage feelings of anxiety?