When someone is in a state of anxiety, it’s hard to think about anything else. Sometimes the anxious thoughts are like constant background music that a person doesn’t even notice anymore, the negative noise is a never-ending thought stream that changes a person’s outlook on the day. The end result? Low self-esteem and generally feeling stressed out and terrible. Or maybe even shrinking away from people and opportunities.
Pushing back against anxiety involves learning and practicing tools on a regular basis that help calm your nervous system. Learning alternatives to the hyper-vigilant, fretful state and putting them into daily practice is essential to healing from anxiety.
How do you do this? You’ve probably heard it before. It’s simple, but not always easy. Bring yourself back to the present moment. There are many ways to step back into the stream of now. One simple tool is to use your senses and notice the environment around you. Okay, let’s do this.
Set aside anything else you may be doing. (Yes, I know you like to multi-task, but that can contribute to your anxiety. Just one thing at a time right now.) Take a moment to look around. What do you see? Name three things, to yourself or out loud, that you see. Really see them. Notice their shape, color, volume. Would the thing or person you’re looking at be cold or warm to the touch? What would it feel like to put your cheek next to this thing? What does it smell like? Investigate what you are seeing and take in the qualities of this object.
Next, notice two things that you hear. Name them to yourself or out loud. Birds, a heater, the silence (what does the silence sound like?), the clicking of someone’s computer, traffic. What do you hear in this moment? Which sounds do you like? Which do you not like? Spend a few moments with the sounds around you.
Finally, notice one thing that you can touch. Say this thing out loud or to yourself: "I am touching my corduroy pants." Feel the fabric of your clothes, the hardness of a desk, the rough texture of a tree. Let your mind become your fingers, your hand, and notice what it’s like to touch something. Feel the sensations in your fingertips.
Now notice how you feel. If you are still quite anxious, do this exercise again. Take more time on each section. Let yourself linger.
This is a simple, but profound exercise that can be done anywhere at anytime. You can also include naming things that you can taste: a mint, a clementine. Or things you can smell: a rose, someone’s perfume. You can use any of the senses to bring yourself back into the present moment. The more you practice this exercise on a regular basis, the more benefits you will reap.
Let me know what results you have…
To your calm body!