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Over-thinking and constant worry both play a role in the development of an anxiety disorder and contribute greatly to symptoms.
This list of activities is for those of us with anxiety disorders who have a hard time getting out of our head and away from our own thoughts, fears, and feelings. We are very centered on our internal world, especially the negative side of it, and its important that we take ourselves out of the spotlight from time to time, and let it shine on something else. Too much time focused on our thoughts causes distorted sensations, distorted thinking, and it has a tendency to make everything in our lives seem more dramatic and “important” than it really is.
Bring yourself out of that mind cave we like to go to, where we analyze our thoughts and ponder and “What if?” ourselves like a dog gnawing on a bone, and spend your time on something a little “lighter”. Remember, the mind cave is supposed to be a place we go hang out from time to time, not a place we move all our stuff into and start thinking of as “home”.
Try to incorporate some of these ideas into your life on a regular basis so your brain can use some different muscles, and so that you can bring a little fun and freedom into your world.
1. Get Outside
Being outside fills the senses, helping to push unwanted thoughts out of your mind. Breathe in the fresh air while paying attention to the details of what is around you – a great way to practice mindfulness and distract yourself from your worries.
2. Find a Cause
The best way to forget your own troubles is to focus on somebody else’s. Use the empathy and passionate caring that those of us with anxiety disorders were born with, to support a cause that you believe in. Visit VolunteerMatch.org to help guide you in your search for a non-profit that is a good fit for you.
Our minds are constantly seeking information to ponder and analyze. This is one of those personality traits that tends to get us into trouble because in the absence of something to “healthy” to analyze, we start “junk thinking” – and we all know where that can lead us. Encourage your urge to analyze in a positive way by taking a class or two, learning a new language, joining a book club, or researching interesting topics on-line just for fun.
Give your brain time to quiet itself and let go of what it doesn’t need through meditation. Meditation is a practice that has been used for thousands of years, in many different forms. According to Dr. Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School, those who practice meditation on a regular basis, have increased gray matter in their brain, and smaller amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for fear and stress. Read more about meditation, including some basic tips on how to get started at Chopra.com.
Music is a great way to distract yourself from your anxiety and there is a scientific reason for it. According to TheBestBrainPossible.com, listening to or performing music is one of the few things you can do that simulates your entire brain. It becomes quite a party inside your head with your brain releasing “feel good” dopamine, while the different parts of your brain process notes, rhythm, and lyrics. With all that fun going on, it’s no wonder there isn’t much room left for feeling anxious!
Music that you enjoy sends the message to your brain that all is right with your world. The more of that message your brain gets, the less anxiety you will feel.
6. Pamper Yourself
Give your mind a break from stress and constant analyzing by allowing yourself to indulge in a massage, hot bath, or pedicure at least once a week. Pampering your body also pampers your brain because when you are relaxed, your brain sees you are “okay” and that it can finally let its guard down and relax. It’s a feel good session for both of you.
Writing helps our brains in more than one way. For example, journaling is a great way to organize cluttered thoughts and help us make sense of what is going on in our minds. The Dragontree Apothecary has a journal that is perfect for that purpose. Then there is creative writing which is an amazing, healthy way to put those big imaginations of ours to use. There is also blogging that we can invest our time in, to put our voices out there and be heard. WordPress.com offers free blogs that are very easy to set up.
If you have an anxiety disorder, I don’t think I have to tell you that your mind gravitates toward imaginary places. Achieve this in a healthier way by reading. Most of us with anxiety disorders are introverts who have a great love of reading, but quite often our anxiety symptoms prevent us from feeling like we can relax and enjoy a good book. However, this is exactly what we should be doing to calm our minds and “get away from ourselves.” It may not be as easy to lose yourself in a good book as it used to be, but at least give it your best try. Even just the physical act of trying will send a positive message to your brain and the more you try, the more relaxed you will become as the “habit” of it starts kicking in.
Nobody can create like those of us with anxiety disorders can. Rather than creating imaginary disaster scenarios in your mind, put that energy into art.
Not feeling as though you are an “artsy” type? I understand. Neither am I. But remember that your art doesn’t have to involve any special talent or skill. It can be simple drawing or even using crayons or markers and a coloring book which is my favorite way to relax and express my creativity. Coloring books for grownups have become quite popular in the last few years. Barnes and Noble has a great selection and Amazon does as well.
Explore different mediums until you find one that speaks to you. You will know when you find it.
What is your favorite way to give your brain a break? Let me know in the comments below, and remember, no worries.
All images courtesy of Pixabay.