Releasing Anxiety: 5 Tips for Recentering in Times of Inner Conflict
The anxious thoughts that swirl through our heads can cause us to feel like we can’t find our footing; like we are being flooded with all of our faults and flaws. Anxiety is a powerful force that can cause us to believe things that aren’t true. It can make us believe that we’ve never been here before and that we will never fully breathe again. Anxiety shows us that we are stuck in the past or living in fear of the future, and demands to be challenged by being present.
Challenging anxiety is just that, challenging. It can feel like we are drowning while in the midst of it and our instinct is to fight to the surface, to find some relief. It seems that no matter how hard we fight and resist, our anxiety just gets bigger and bigger. What would it be like to not fight, to not resist? What would it feel like to say “I’m feeling anxious right now and that’s ok, I will survive this.”
I know it sounds scary and counterintuitive to lean into anxiety; it may feel like we will never find our way out if we lean in. However, anxiety thrives when we feed it. The more we believe the thoughts our anxiety is telling us, the more our anxiety grows. So how do we observe ourselves in our anxiety, choose to lean in, and then ultimately challenge our thoughts?
I believe that recentering in times of inner conflict requires aligning the needs of the mind, body, and soul. Here are helpful tips on how to recenter by incorporating all our needs.
1. Challenge thought patterns
Anxious thoughts can lead us to believe things that are untrue. Instead of allowing these thoughts to fester, question them and challenge them.
“Is my anxiety true?”
“What can I control right now?”
2. Introduce mantras and affirmations
Once we begin to challenge our anxious thoughts, we need to begin to replace them with truths. Although it can feel silly at times, we are rewiring our brain by introducing truths so our automatic response is not always anxious thoughts. It can be helpful to write these affirmations or mantras in a journal or on a sticky note- something easily accessible when feeling anxious. The more we practice the less we will need to read our mantras, instead they will come naturally.
“I am feeling anxious right now, but I will get through this.”
“Every breath I inhale calms me, and every breath I exhale takes away tension.”
“I am doing the best that I can.”
“I become stronger each time I move through anxiety.”
3. Listen to your body’s needs
Our anxiety can amplify when we haven’t had a good night’s sleep, or when we haven’t been fueling our body with the nutrients it needs. Anxiety can disconnect us from our needs. It can also trick us into believing we aren’t hungry or that we can’t sleep. When our basic needs aren’t met, it is incredibly hard for us to challenge anxious thoughts and work on our mental health. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a model for this. We have to fulfill the bottom of the triangle in order to climb to the top.
Helpful Exercise: Anxiety prevents us from being present and connected to our body. Grounding techniques can be extremely helpful in connecting us to the present and to our body, allowing us to better attune to our needs. Find a comfortable, seated position. Sit next to a window or outdoors if you are able. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Open your eyes and notice 5 things you can see. Now notice 4 things you can hear. Notice three things you can feel. Notice two things you can smell. Notice 1 thing you can taste.
4. Move your body
Anxiety can be debilitating and can cause us to retreat inward. Moving our body can help release what we are holding in, it can also distract from the anxious thoughts swirling in our head. Movement can be going outside and going for a walk or turning on some music and dancing. It can also be taking deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Deep breathing slows down our heart and changes the anxiety signal going to our brain from “I am in danger” to “I am safe.”
5. Seek connection
Anxiety thrives in isolation, we have to seek connection. The key to connection is vulnerability and expression. Find a space where it feels safe to express yourself and then allow yourself to show up fully. This can be expression through art or journaling, speaking your truth with a trusted loved one or therapist, or connection to a higher power. Seek what brings you joy and fosters fulfillment.
Remember: Change is gradual, it doesn’t happen overnight. We are not aiming for perfection, but acknowledging and celebrating the small steps that eventually lead to growth and change.