Waving anxiety on from the sidelines

Waving anxiety on from the sidelines 150 150 Jane Evans

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When we are trapped in a cycle of feeling OK for a bit, then anxious, then obsessively, repetitively thinking about things over and over, it can seem as if there is no way out. We become convinced that the ‘thoughts’ are valid, in fact we make it our business to seek evidence that they are, which often proves to be easier than doing anything else with them.

People I know and support with anxiety tell me they ‘are anxious’ and seem resigned to it as a life-long state. However, having worked so hard on reducing my anxiety, I am less sure of this now. The improvements I have experienced bear sharing, and closer examination.

Here then are a few ideas, and practices, from my extensive anxiety expedition to my current destination on ‘planet less-anxious!’

1. reducing anxiety takes hard work – Taming anxiety is for life and not just for Christmas!!!
2. there is always hope as brains and bodies can be re-trained
3. Ruby Wax has some excellent exercises and observations in her book, Sane New World
4. repetitive thoughts need us to stop observing them from the sidelines as they then get to run the show
5. simple works best especially in times of stress – learn to belly breathe
6. being a ‘curious observer’ means stepping in to your thoughts
7. create a conversation with your repetitive thoughts as it will distract them…and you,
“Hello can I help you?
Did you want something in particular as I am quite busy right now doing the best I can.
In fact I need to go get a coffee/remember how comfortable my bed feels/imagine my safe place/notice how air comes in and goes out of my body”
8. take it to the max!
“Yes you are sooooo right I am such a failure and I expect I will end up alone, penniless, and die young. I would imagine I will live in a shack in the woods, eat berries, never shower and be shunned by all of humanity. That’s got that sorted then!”
9. stop categorizing thoughts as good, bad, positive, negative, anxious, not anxious
10. Repeat “thoughts are….thoughts not facts”
11. focus on your body – daily practices which settle the nervous system work wonders for our busy brains
12. be around others
13. go outside, sit on a bench, under a tree, walk on grass and notice 4 things before you back inside again
14. have something you can immediately fling from the sidelines in to the repetitive thought pathway – “pink fluffy bunnies/I hate cheese/what’s 39998 – 57?”
15. look for proof of any changes you have made in our life – how did you start, what did you do to keep them going? Can you apply them to repetitive thinking?

To educate yourself and others, watch a TED Talk on tackling it from a different angle – Kelly McGonigal How to make stress you friendNeil Hughes A new plan for anxious feelings: escape the custard! – Jane Evans Taming and Tending your Meerkat brain

“Thoughts are not who you are, they’re habitual patterns in the mind, nothing more and as soon as you see them that way, they lose their sting.”

Ruby Wax

For support services:

Young minds

Mind UK


Search online – ‘mental health support or anxiety support helpline’

Jane Evans

Jane is a ‘learn the hard way’ person. She has learnt from her personal experiences and her direct work with people who have often been in really bad places emotionally, relationally, practically and sometimes professionally.

All stories by: Jane Evans

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