3 Simple Ways to Beat Anxiety
When we are anxious, we are likely to overthink and it can be difficult to stop
John McKenzie offers three simple ways to get control over anxious thoughts
If you are living with anxiety and need support, find a therapist here
When people come to see me about anxiety there are three activities that consistently help people to manage and reduce it. In this article I’m going to describe them so that you can use them yourself. In turn they involve one hour, two words, or three pages.
1) One hour – Active Worrying
This is setting aside time every day to worry, and to start with most people find an hour manageable. There are however three rules to follow to make this work.
Rule 1 is that you can only worry during your Active Worry time. You can only make a mental note of any worries that come to you outside of this time. This also applies to any worries left unwritten at the end of the worry time.
Rule 2 is that the worrying has to be written down, and has to follow this structure
- Ask yourself – “What am I worrying about?”
- Ask yourself – “Can I do something about it?”
- If you can’t do something about it then change focus, and let the worry go
- If you can do something about it then plan - What? When? How?
- If it’s now then do it, change focus, and let the worry go
- If it’s later then schedule it, change focus, and let the worry go
Rule 3 is that you don’t look back over worries once you’ve written them down. Most people write the worries on individual pieces of paper and keep them in a box or bag.
During Active Worrying you’re learning an effective structure for worries, and in the time outside you’re learning to let them go.
At first it may seem mechanical, but after a fortnight people notice having less anxiety, a quieter mind, and normally having difficulty in filling their worry time.
2) Two words – Anxiety Diary
If your experience of anxiety is that you have an issue that you feel you won’t get past, then this can be useful. Every day simply write down the major issue that you feel you won’t get past, in just a couple of words. We aren’t aiming to explore that anxiety – merely to record it.
After a few days most people see that not only did they get past these anxieties but that they can’t bring them to mind in the same way. This is a way of learning that anxiety of this sort may feel insurmountable but that it is consistently lived through and resolved.
3) Three Pages - Morning Pages
This is very simple. Every morning, as soon as possible after you wake up, you write three sides of A4. The subject is whatever comes into your mind, and you aren’t allowed to edit it. You can’t write less than three sides (that’s too short) or more (that’s too indulgent). After you’ve finished the three sides you destroy or delete it without re-reading it.
This gives you the benefit of ‘journaling’ – just as with the active worrying, the act of writing your worries and giving them a shape is beneficial in itself. Destroying them gives you the confidence that your Morning Pages are entirely confidential and a safe place to record and explore your thoughts. You need this confidence if you’re to get the benefit from this exercise.
All of these, used consistently, can on their own help to reduce and manage anxiety. Combining them, and using active worrying with either the two word diary, or morning pages, is possible a well – but it’s better to do one consistently than two inconsistently.