What a time we live in. Recently we’ve had two historic hurricanes, Harvey and Irma leaving devastation across Houston Texas and the Caribbean, while Bangladesh experiences one of its most catastrophic floods. That’s not even adding in the constant barrage of political uncertainty and threats of potential war that stream across the news feeds.
It’s no wonder that an increasing amount of people are experiencing heightened stress and anxiety.
No matter what we choose to do in the next moment, it’s almost always better when we’re emotionally regulated and balanced. Here are three simple ways to break free from negative anxious thoughts and restore feelings of calm and well-being (I go into 8 additional ways to do this here).
3 Ways to Release Negative Anxious Thoughts
1. Recognize the Thought: If the thought is, “the world is going to hell in a handbasket” or “life is never going to get better” or some form of complaining, blaming or something like that, take a moment to recognize that the thought is forming in your brain.
2. Relax the Body – When you’re experiencing negative anxious thoughts, your body is also reacting. You’re going through some form of a fight-flight-freeze response, so take a moment to relax your body.
3. Release the Thinking: You can use the out-breath to release tension in your body, as well as any negative thinking. You can even imagine negative anxious thoughts leaving your body with the out-breath.
At this point you might find yourself in a bit of a more balanced space and if you like you can even take a moment to open up to what’s good. Could it be that you’re safe, you’re body is working okay in this moment, you actually have some friends you can count on, you have a job—whatever it might be, see if you can name a few of those, recognize them, and also just linger in that a little bit.
Practice these three things of Recognize, Relax and Release – consider it the Three R’s to Breaking Negative Anxious Thoughts. You can also flip it with thinking about what’s good too. Treat it like an experiment. Remember, like anything else what you practice and repeat starts to become more automatic.
Elisha Goldstein, PhD
Adapted from Mindfulness and Psychotherapy