What to Do When You are Stressed & Anxious

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Calm Your Body with Self-Talk

We tell our bodies how to react.

If you find yourself stressed and anxious about situations that do not merit that amount of stress or anxiety – realize that it is your thoughts informing your body on how to respond.

You are telling your body to release stress and anxiety chemicals.

This response might be helpful if we still lived in the wilderness. The “fight or flight” response was helpful in that scenario.

But my guess is, when a stress/anxiety inducing situation comes up in your life, it is not because you live in the wilderness and a wild animal is after you.

You probably do not need your cortisol levels skyrocketing.

Instead, you probably need a calm and rational mind in that moment.

So, the good news is, you have the power to calm your body with self talk.

I personally have a problem with anxiety, and it is likely because I am quick to jump to worst case scenarios. These worst case scenario thoughts send my body into a panic and have even caused me to pass out before. However, for these situations – passing out was not the most helpful thing – being alert and rational is what needed to happen instead.

Last Thursday when I woke up my husband, I found that he had had a severe allergic reaction of some sort. I didn’t know how bad it was – I just knew that he did not look okay. I will spare you the details, but he was a frightful sight. I felt my mind wanting to go into panic/worst case scenario mode.

However, I knew how unhelpful I would be to my husband if I was in this state.

So instead I told myself,

Yes, it does look pretty bad. But we will get him to Urgent Care, the swelling will go down, and he will be fine.

And by telling myself that, I actually had the ability to handle the situation. My anxiety did not get to take over.

I also did some deep breathing too. When you breathe shallow breaths you are telling your body there is a stressful situation. When you breathe deep slow breaths you are telling your body that you are calm, peaceful, and safe.

This may sound weird, but think of your body as a child. It doesn’t know how to react – it is just taking cues from you. If you make it feel there is danger then it will react that way, but if you tell it that it is safe, and everything will be okay, it will be comforted and calm.

 

Realize What is Truly Important

When we face stress, it is often because we are making everything important, when really, only some things are important.

We face stress because we are trying to reach perfect standards.

We face stress because we don’t let ourselves believe that there are other options.

We face stress because we don’t ask for help.

Let me give you another example from last weekend, as it was very anxious/stressful weekend.

I am someone who needs a lot of downtime in order to not feel stressed. My husband and I had planned a busy Thursday evening, Friday evening, and Sunday (which we were hosting a Mother’s Day cookout at our house). Therefore, I knew in order for me not to be stressed, I needed to protect my Saturday and make sure I had plenty of downtime.

Friday morning I received a call from a good friend of mine who had found out some bad news and asked if I would drive the 1.5 hour to her house to spend the day with her on Saturday.

This is not a friend who is needy or usually asks for much, so the fact that she was asking me this meant she really needed it.

I knew that seeing my friend was so important. And I also knew that self care and downtime was so important. And I felt the walls of stress closing in on me.

I began to think,

What do I do if EVERYTHING is important?!?

And that’s when I stopped in my tracks. Self care and downtime was important. Seeing my friend was important. But was everything else really that important?

I realized one of the other things that was stressing me out was hosting the Mother’s Day cookout. Cleaning the house..preparing the food..

I texted my sister and asked if she was would be willing to host. She said yes. And I felt the stress dissipate.

Yes, in my perfect standards, I would have done it all. I wouldn’t have had to ask for help.

But, if we give ourselves a minute to realize that we do have options, and we can prioritize what is important and what is not, we save ourselves a lot of unnecessary stress.

 

Spend Time in Nature

It is really hard to be stressed or anxious while in nature. I am not saying it is impossible, just hard.

If you want to take a natural anti-anxiety medication/stress reliever – take a walk in nature.

Be mindful about it. Direct your thoughts to the present moment – what you see, hear, and feel.

Feel the wind on your skin. Hear the birds sing their songs. Notice the green of the leaves. Smell the scent of the flowers.

Nature also has this strange way of bringing us to a place of clarity and peace. Time often feels like it has slowed down.

During my stressful weekend, I spent a little time in nature and was surprised how my cares and woes began to fade into the background.

Enjoy the free gift that the earth has given us.

 

Journal Questions:

I know that I have gained a lot from reading blog entries and I also know if I took the time and journaled about them for a few minutes they would affect me in an even deeper way and bring me to some truths I may have not come to otherwise.

So if you have a few extra minutes and your journal handy…here you go!

  1. Think of a time you were recently stressed or anxious. What were the thoughts that were going through your mind? What kind of self-talk were you telling your body? What would have been better thoughts / self talk to have in this moment? What kind of self talk would have calmed you down?
  2. In reflection, which of these points causes you the most stress? Are you not prioritizing what is truly important? Have you given yourself standards of perfection? Are you unwilling to explore or acknowledge that there are other options? Are you unwilling to ask for help? Take some time to think about which of these may be causing you stress and how you can let go.
  3. This final question is less a question, and more an action step. Make a plan to go into nature – today or tomorrow if possible. Take a mindful walk in which you notice and have gratitude for the beauty around you. Once you have finished the walk, find a spot to sit down and journal about what clarity or insight that may have come to you. Nature has a way of clearing our minds and bringing forth clarity -you just might be surprised!

Wishing you many days of peace.

Yours,

signaturesmaller

4 thoughts on “What to Do When You are Stressed & Anxious

  1. Hey Nicole!

    I just wanted to say that I loved this article! I would have never thought of the “think of your body like a child” idea, but it reminds me of what my mom used to tell me, about how sometimes you need to let your brain settle.

    I’ve felt really overwhelmed lately, and this was sooo good to read. I hope your husband is ok!

    I did have one question – even if I think about things, sometimes I have a hard time knowing what’s important and what isn’t. My mind goes to the worst-case, and I start to think that everything might fall apart if I don’t work with it. Maybe my friend really needs to talk with me, but said she could leave it until later to be kind. How do you know what’s really important and what isn’t?

    Thanks again!

    Like

    1. Hi Amy!

      So glad you enjoyed the article.

      I totally know what you mean about struggling to know what is important and what isn’t. For me, it has been about trusting my intuition more. With the friend example – if this is a friend I know well – usually my intuition has an idea of whether she is just being nice or does actually really need to talk. We can never know anything for sure, but our intuition is pretty good at noticing the subtleties of situations and helping us make good decisions – we just need to learn to trust it.

      Also, there are some situations that require some anxiety, because it is anxiety that helps us take appropriate action. For me, if I don’t use the positive self talk and deep breathing then I spiral into an intense anxiety that is not helpful, where as when I have the positive self talk and deep breathing it gets me to a more “normal” state of anxiety, where anxiety is actually helpful.

      Because I know I struggle with anxiety, I always try to find a middle ground. I know the anxiety level that I naturally have is too extreme, but that doesn’t mean we don’t still take precautions. It’s just about keeping yourself in a balanced place.

      Again, glad you enjoyed the article & thank you for reading! Also, my husband is doing fine now – thank you for your concern! 🙂

      Nicole

      Like

  2. I really needed to read something like this, Nicole! It’s been a few months since I walked in nature, and I forgot how calming it could be – even just being in a park for part of the day. Thanks for the entry and the questions!

    P.S. I hope your husband doesn’t have any more bad allergies!

    Like

    1. Hi Andi!

      So glad the post was helpful for you! And that’s wonderful you have gotten back in nature! It’s amazing how calming it can be, isn’t it?

      Also, I appreciate your concern about my husband – hopefully that was a one time occurrence!! 🙂

      As always, thanks for sharing your comments…I always enjoy hearing your feedback!

      Best,

      Nicole

      Like

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