Your heart races. Your body temperature rises. Your hands may shake. Your stomach may churn.
Your thoughts start spiraling to the worst could that happen, and suddenly you feel so unequipped—like everything’s going to fall apart, and you won’t be able to handle it.
It can feel so powerless when anxiety takes over, almost like your brain and body are being hijacked, and there’s little you can do to feel safe or in control.
Except that’s not actually true. Though anxiety can have both physical and mental symptoms, and we can’t just will it away, there are things we can do to calm ourselves.
I know because, like most of us, I’ve been there many times before, and I’ve coped both poorly and well.
I’ve panicked about panicking, believed every anxious thought, judged myself as weak, and tried to numb my feelings.
I’ve also breathed deeply, observed my thoughts, treated myself with compassion, and chosen to embrace my feelings—more and more often as I’ve gotten older.
Anxiety is common. It’s natural. It’s human. But we don’t have to let it control us.
These are some of the thoughts were and also because this reminded me just how common anxiety is.
Next time you’re feeling anxious, remember these comforting thoughts:
1. This will pass, and more quickly if you don’t resist it.
It’s a wave I must let hit me and ride until it passes. Fighting it prolongs it and turns it into a riptide.
If you just let the current carry you to where it will for a little while, the river will eventually spit you out. Just go with it and it’s going to be okay.
2. You can and will get through this—and this can make you stronger.
I verbally acknowledge and remind my inner child that it’s okay, and “Adult Ria” will take care of it. That’s where the anxiety arises from. I know as an adult that my success rate of surviving any crises I’ve faced is 100%. My little inner “Ria” gets scared and feels anxious, afraid, and insecure, so I just tell him that I have it in control.
I can handle whatever happens. I always have, one way or another. If things don’t work out the way I expect then that’s okay too. The anxiety will pass and I will be stronger afterward.
3. You are safe.
I breathe and repeat to myself: “I’m safe. I’m okay. I can take care of myself. I am powerful. I am significant.” Repeating it helps me refocus.
The situation isn’t life or death. I’ll live to see another day despite the outcome.
My mantra: “It’s just adrenaline. It can’t hurt you. It will pass.”
4. Your body is trying to protect you.
I’m not a dying zebra! I watched a Discovery programme that said stress is a natural part of our fight or flight response, which is helpful if you’re on the savanna running from a hungry lion.
Anxiety is my body’s way of trying to protect me. My body has good intentions. It’s just a little misguided. I’m grateful for my body’s protection.
5. The past and future cannot hurt you in the present.
I try to think about what is causing me anxiety, and it is typically a thought or thoughts about the past or future. I remind myself that I am okay in this moment, and all we ever have is this moment. It helps me.
6. Thoughts can only hurt you if you give them power.
Since mine stems from thoughts that then spiral, I remind myself that thoughts are just that. They do not have to have meaning attached to them if I do not let them. Let them come in and out and give them no power, no meaning. Do not fuel them but let them come and go. They do not have to be reality, and most times they are not a reflection of reality or my true self, just plain old thoughts, and I do not have to react to every single one.
7. Worrying will not change the outcome.
I remind myself that my worrying will not change the outcome—never has and never will. Then I focus on what I’m grateful for, things that are beautiful and wonderful in my life right now. And lastly I repeat this: “I let go and I trust that I am being taken care of.”
8. What’s worrying you is temporary.
I try to remind myself that whatever is causing my anxiety is temporary and if I’m patient, it will be resolved.
I try very hard to remember that for most situations, they will pass whether I get all stressed out or not.
9. You have everything you need.
I try to remind myself that I have what I need: air, water, food, clothing, shelter. Then I remind myself to keep things in perspective and that I can choose how I am.
10. You’re stronger than you think.
I get anxiety over little things and I have to remind myself of how much I have overcome. I can get through the little stuff. Sometimes you just have to push through the discomfort of the situation and see it will be fine.
11. There’s a lot going right.
I concentrate on what positive is going on right now this minute. I am safe, I have a good job, a family that loves me, and the ability to help people. I keep going until I feel the tension fading. Then slowly but surely I can clear my head enough to take on what lies ahead of me.
Things could be worse. I have my health. I try to count my blessings.
12. You are loved and supported.
I think of all the people who love me. I picture their faces and I imagine myself surrounded by a bubble of love, and as I’m breathing deeply I’m breathing that love in and out.
13. Things often aren’t as bad as they seem.
Four by four, how will I feel about this? Will it still seem huge and overwhelming looking back in four days, four weeks, four months, four years? It helps me to put things in perspective .
I ask myself: What are the most important things in my life, and then focus on that. What I am stressing about usually isn’t one of the important things.
14. You can calm yourself by focusing on your breath.
Give your brain a simple task. Sit and breathe. Stare at a wall. Put yourself in time out and inhale slowly. You are not wasting your time. Thoughts will float into your mind. Let them keep floating. Re-align your spine as you sit. And breathe. Take ten minutes if you can. If you can’t, even a minute is better than nothing.
Inhale for four counts, hold for seven counts, exhale for eight counts.
Breathe. If that doesn’t work I run. It forces me to regulate my breathing. This will calm my body down forcing my mind to calm down as well.
15. Trust can sometimes be the antidote to anxiety.
Trust and anxiety are mutually exclusive so focus on trust, whatever you can trust at the moment, and anxiety moves out.
16. It helps to focus on what you can control.
“One step at a time.” I tend to become anxious because I worry and overthink things that I can’t control and may or may not happen in the future. So I started to think this in my head whenever I notice the feeling creeping up. To take action one step at a time on something that I can control and let the rest run its course.
17. You don’t need to have everything figured out right now.
Sometimes it’s not enough to take it day by day. Sometimes, it’s hour by hour, or even minute by minute. And if I breathe and stay calm, I can make better decisions to effect positive change with the situation with which I’m dealing.
18. Getting it out can help you let it go.
Write it down, get it off your chest, relax, make a plan of attack. Do something instead of worrying. Don’t let it take away today’s peace. Nothing stays the same!
19. You deserve your own love and compassion.
Anxiety can often come from a place of judgment of the self. Stop, breathe, and surrender to self-compassion.
20. You are not alone.
Know you’re not alone. Others are struggling with something as well. We’re all in this together!