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5 Tips to 'Think Positive' When You Are Anxious
Do you ever worry about what is going to happen in the future? It’s not anything specific, or maybe it’s many specific challenges that are all adding up. You might even know your anxiety is ‘irrational’ but that doesn’t help!
Here are two approaches you can use to ‘think positive’ and get back into a state where you have ease and can concentrate.
- Focus on the specific physical feeling you are having in your body, not on your thoughts. For example, say to yourself slowly, “I feel tension in my shoulders; I have a sinking feeling in my stomach.” Don’t focus on thoughts like, “What if I lose my job” or “I have so much to do”. Before 7 seconds have passed, you will notice a shift in the feeling in your body and breathing will come easier. Keep doing this a few times until the feeling of anxiety has passed.
- Focus on what you CAN control in the moment. Your thoughts tend to run wild towards worst case scenarios and what you can’t control. Try to pinpoint something specific you are worried about, and determine specifically what worries you about the situation. Ask yourself, “What can I do right now to have more control over the outcome of this situation?” Action replaces fear.
- Train your body to get rid of fear. Do this exercise: Bring together the tips of the thumb and index finger and bring your hands up so they are in front of your chest facing away from you. You will breathe in through your nose, and out through your mouth. Each time you breathe out, forcefully push your hands away from you like you are pushing away something you don’t want and blow out through your mouth. Then breathe in through your nose and bring your hands back towards your chest, with your elbows by your side. Do this exercise for 1-3 minutes and you will train your body to get rid of fear.
Take yourself out of the moment – Sometimes overfocusing on the moment keeps you stressed. Instead:
- Project yourself into the future. Picture yourself in the distant future, when this particular moment is insignificant and you have worked out your current problems. This ‘future’ version of your self has more perspective on your overall life than you do right now – ask it what the best way is to proceed in the current situation.
- Use distraction. Make the distraction productive: connect with other people, go outside in a natural environment that is soothing for your senses, do a breathing exercise, listen to music or a motivating talk. Don’t just numb out with an unmemorable surfing session on the internet or putter around at your desk. Probably the best distraction you can do is to be grateful for the problems that you have. Though it sounds trite, there are many people in the world whose problems are much worse than yours. I immediately think of a child I support in Africa barely living with running water, or a man I often see in the subway station who has no arms. It immediately gives me renewed appreciation for all that I have and then energizes me to do something with it. This works for a lot of people and may work for you too!
Here’s a link to a recording that previews the Success under Stress for Women program.
Here’s to you being positive when you are anxious!
Sharon Melnick, Ph.D. is an executive coach and trainer who works with high potential and senior executives to rapidly remove any blocks to their leadership effectiveness. She combines ‘best practices’ executive coaching approaches with behavior change methods she developed over 10 years as a psychologist at Harvard Medical School.