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4 Principles for Calming an Anxious Mind You Should Try Today.

Calming an Anxious Mind Introduction

Calming an anxious mind is an important skill to learn in our hyper-active world. We give you four principles to use in your life.

Anxiety is a common emotion that everyone experiences at some point in their lives. Stress, fear, and uncertainty often trigger anxiety. Often, as in the case of my sister, the trigger remains hidden behind her general sense of anxiety.

When anxiety becomes overwhelming, it can interfere with daily life and lead to negative consequences. However, there are ways to manage anxiety and prevent it from taking over.

In this article I’ll cover 4 general principles for calming an anxious mind.

Those principles are:

  • Cognitive distancing
  • Labeling
  • Mindfulness
  • Journaling.

Under each principle we will show you how the principle helps in calming an anxious mind, and simple and practical exercises for you to use.

Before we start considering this question and take a moment to reflect on the question before reading on.

Journaling question for helping calm an anxious mind.

What are three things I am grateful for right now

 

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Principle 1: Cognitive Distance to Calm and Anxious Mind.

Calming an Anxious Mind tip on thrid person distancesAnxiety can be a cyclical nightmare. Your thoughts overwhelm you, and this produces physical and mental stress. Too much stress regularly can be a ticking time bomb that threatens your health.

Your anxious mind makes it tough to deal with what is happening. To escape this anxiety, your mind tries to predict what terrible things could happen.

This is called catastrophizing. It is akin to going down a rabbit hole like Alice in Wonderland. I have a simple trick when I notice I am doing this. It’s simple. I say to myself, “Nick, stop catastrophizing.” That helps me realize what I am doing.

 Instead of helping you, imagining terrible things, makes you more anxious, and a cycle of stress and anxiety continues to feed off each other. This leads to more overthinking and needless worry.

Some people attempt to ignore anxiety. They push their thoughts down without dealing with them. We go into suppress and deny mode. In many cases, this only strengthens the negative “what if” power of your brain to imagine terrible outcomes.

Fortunately, there are diverse ways of dealing with anxious thoughts. One way is to employ a method called cognitive distancing.

Think like an Ancient Greek Philosopher

Cognitive distancing puts a  space between yourself and what’s bothering you. It teaches you to look at anxiety differently. It’s something the stoic philosopher Epictetus understood rather well. He stated:

“It’s not things that upset us but rather our opinion about things.”

A thing, event, or situation doesn’t make us feel good or bad. It is simply something that is happening. It’s when we decide to attach a particular emotion to an event or circumstance that our judgment can get us into trouble. Cognitive distancing keeps this from happening because it reminds us that our thoughts are only a prediction of what our reality is going to be. They aren’t reality itself.

Our thoughts are often negative because our mind is trying to prepare us for the worst possible outcome. This is based on our old operating system. We need to be ready at any moment for the worse to happen. It as a survival instinct back then, but now it leads us into prolonged stress and anxiety.   

Use these three techniques to help calm an anxious mind.

1 – Take on a third-person perspective.

Imagine that your feelings are those of someone else. How could you help that person handle the situation in the best way?

2 – Remember that you can only control how you react to the world.

You can’t control everything that happens. That doesn’t stop us from trying. In every instance, you have control over the thoughts, beliefs, and feelings you apply to an event or circumstance. You can distance yourself from something emotionally rather than let it have power over you.

3 – Remember the quote from Epictetus.

 

“It’s not things that upset us but rather our opinion about things.”

This reminds us that our thoughts are the issue when we become anxious. It’s not what happened but how we decide to process that information.

Use these three ways to use cognitive distancing to calm an anxious mind. Try them the next time you can’t seem to get anxiety under control. Left to its own devices, anxious thinking can cause health problems that can be avoided by addressing the problem like the ancient Greek stoics did.

 

Journaling question for calming an anxious mind.
 

Is my safety being threatened, or am I safe and sound right now?

Except in very unusual or rare circumstances, you’re probably enjoying a sense of wellness. Your existence isn’t being threatened. Embrace that and appreciate the fact that you are alive and well.

Principle 2 Labeling Your Thoughts

Calming an anxious mind tip about Labeling ThougtsThe more time you spend breaking down your thoughts, the less power they have over you. You can choose which thoughts you want to spend more time with. This gives you control over where you put your focus. You decide what thoughts you want to embrace rather than letting negative thoughts get you worked up and stressed out.

That may sound like a fantasy land to you right now, but with work and using the tips below, making that change is possible.

Changing your mindset from negative to a positive is one of the most important things you can do. At Beautiful Summer Morning we spend a lot of time with people to help them make that transition. Get our free report on How to Write and Use Powerful I AM Affirmations

There is an anxiety-relieving method called labeling your thoughts. When one of the thousands of random daily thoughts pops up in your mind, please don’t give it energy right away. Ask yourself what type of thought it is. You’re not paying attention to the actual content of the thought. Instead, put it in one of the following groups.

  • Criticizing Thoughts

Do you ever find yourself in critical mode? Silly question? Pay attention for the next week of the people around you. What for the ways they criticize themselves.  They question how successful they are, how they look, or some other aspect of their life. Now how about you. What do you hear yourself saying about yourself? We all do this from time to time. 

Sometimes, we buy into the thought and believe it to be true, even when it’s not close to reality. These are critical thoughts. Learn to give them labels. This is a technique often used in meditation as well.

  • Judging Thoughts

When you place judgment on something, these thoughts get the judging label. A judging thought happens when you decide to assign a value to how bad or good something is.

What are your most common judging thoughts?

 
  • Worrying Thoughts

A Lot of our worry is unnecessary. Most of it is, actually. We worry about things that haven’t happened yet and probably never will happen. These are worrying thoughts, and they can cause so much needless anxiety and stress. If you obsess over a loss or think about how you might fail in the future, those are worrying thoughts.

 

Labeling Your Thoughts Gives You Some Time to Notice Them

Not all thoughts are negative. You may have happy thoughts and memories that make you smile. There are motivating thoughts that you can use to drive yourself to bigger and better achievements. You have thoughts of positive anticipation, like looking forward to an upcoming vacation.

Whatever thoughts you experience, good or bad, stepping away from them is important. Label them. This gives you a little distance from them. It keeps you from getting swept up in your thoughts and emotions. Then, you can decide which thoughts you will embrace and spend time with.

Journal Question for calming an anxious mind.

 

Will this matter tomorrow (or next week, next year, in five years)?

We often find that our worries are needless. Our fears are overblown and exaggerated. Is this really something you need to be wasting your time worrying about?

Principle 3: Living In the Present Moment

Calming an Anxious mind tip on focus on the present. Anxiety is related to a natural stress response that wants to let you know that something bad might be happening. Anxious and stressful thoughts come and go all of the time. In most cases, we don’t latch onto one of them and give it any significant power over our lives.

This is how the fight and flight response was designed. When a saber tooth tiger rattles the tall grasses, our ancestors would respond immediately by running away or turning to fight. Once the perceive threat was gone, our ancestors turn their focus back to gathering food and hunting and didn’t continue to produce the stress hormones of adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol.

Today we are haunted by very different animals that are the result of our over simulated society. They are tigers stalking our minds, hiding in the shadows of our fears.

 So, we never really let our guard down. Thus, we continue to produce adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol, over long periods of time.

Many of the illnesses we suffer today come from maintaining dangerous high levers of these chemicals.

For short durations these chemicals enhance our survival. Over the long haul they do serious damage to our bodies normal functioning. 

When we can’t stop obsessing over a thought. That is the basic definition of anxiety. We focus on a thought or a belief so intensely that we become anxious.

From the above description you begin to understand the value of Mindfulness and living in the Present Moment. 

 

What Are You Experiencing Right Here, Right Now?

It’s strange, sometimes, our minds wander even when we are otherwise very focused on what we’re doing. Our thoughts might wander to something negative that happened in our past. We might be preparing for something that we hope will turn out well in the future. In both cases, focusing on our thoughts can cause a lot of anxiety.

Your best performances will never come from an anxious mind. Obsessive thoughts can cause us to wreck our relationships, finances, health, and other areas of our lives. If you’d like to keep this from happening, embrace the present moment the next time you can’t seem to quiet your anxious mind.

You do this by answering the following question.

What do you see, feel, hear, taste, smell, and experience?

You can only answer that question by paying attention to your present moment. This is where your life is lived. It’s what’s happening rather than letting your mind think about what might happen in the future or what may have happened in the past.

Your mind might look at possibilities and reality as the same things, which can cause anxiety.

Another exercise that I found in Way of the Peaceful Warrior is equally as simple.

Ask:

Where am I?  (here)

What time is it? (now)

Repeat until you begin to see the real world all around and not the nightmarish image conjured by our minds.

We also have a Card Deck for calming the anxious mind with 30 tips. You can grab a copy at our online store. Click this highlighted link.

Using mindfulness to tame an anxious mind is a huge subject which we’ve covered here briefly.

In Conclusion

It’s normal to be anxious about important things in your life. It’s unhealthy when you let a particularly anxious thought linger. You begin to spend a lot of mental energy with this thought. The anxiety builds, and you get stressed out. This doesn’t lead to a positive outcome if you don’t address the issue.

Returning to the present moment, you benefit from focusing on reality rather than a potential outcome that may or may not ever develop.

Journaling Question for calming an anxious mind.

What small thing can I do right now to feel better?

Positive actions will trump needless anxiety every time. What is one simple thing you can do now that gives you joy or makes you feel good?

Principle 4: Journaling

Calming an anxious mind tip on writing your thoughts down Anxiety can cripple you into indecision. It can do the opposite as well. Your panic builds until you rashly take action that doesn’t produce the greatest result. That’s why dealing with anxious thoughts is important when they pop up. It’s never the best practice to ignore them and hope they disappear. Or on the other hand ignore them or try to suppress them and pretend that everything is going perfectly in your life.

If you do that, those thoughts are liable to have  a party in your brain. Your will go from one anxious thought to another. Even uninvited relatives show up. And you know how that goes.  Fear, panic, and dread show up to support their good friend anxiety, and the odds that your thoughts lead to inappropriate actions skyrocket.

It’s best to process negative thoughts and feelings when they appear.

Don’t judge yourself. Most of the thousands of thoughts you have every day should never be acted upon. They’re your brain processing information and trying to steer you toward your best outcome.

 If you often let negative thoughts affect your quality of life, start writing them down.

I advise all my students, friends and family to do this.

Go Old School with a Pen and Paper

People use the term “old school” to refer to the way things used to be. In this case, we are talking about taking a pencil, pen, or marker in your hand and physically writing your thoughts on unlined paper.

I’m very empathic about this. I may even be a little radical on this point. I school we were enslaved to staying on the line and not straying. You lost marks for being sloppy.

Using blank paper allows you to get your thoughts out of your mind and on paper in any way that makes sense. Large maker titles, doodles, and illustrations, stick men or women, anything that allows you to express those thoughts. Use color as well.

You may even want to create an anxiety relief journal. However you decide to go about it, you want to give your anxious, fear-based thoughts life and write them down.

Don’t worry about being the greatest writer of all time. Punctuation and grammar don’t matter. Just get your thoughts out there. You’ll find that they will often lead to other thoughts. Get everything off of your mind and down on paper.

Then, walk away for a few minutes. Practice deep breathing exercises or take a walk around your neighborhood. If your anxiety returns, tell it to go away, and you will deal with it shortly.

Get a copy of our free 3 Grounding Techniques to help you with proper breathing.

Go back to what you wrote. Read it as if you are seeing it for the first time. Do you feel the same way? Can you think of another way to look at the situation that isn’t so negative? You’ll find that writing out your thoughts, much like speaking them, is often all you need to do to get them out of your head.

Some people write about their anxieties and fears and then burn the paper they wrote them on. They envision anxious feelings leaving their mind and returning to a place of peace and calm. Whether you ignite your troubling thoughts or not, this is a proven way to remove the sting of anxiety. It gives physical life to your thought process and reminds you that you can choose to think anything you like, positively or negatively.

Or you could save your journal in order to look back at your progress over time. Quite often while we do the work to reduce anxiety and live a calmer more tranquil like we fail to see our progress. Taking time to look back six months gives you a new perspective that motivates and encourages you to keep going.

 

Journaling question for calming an anxious mind:

How can I look at this anxiety as something positive?

If the story you’re telling yourself is negative, how can you make it positive? Instead of being fearful of something, you see it as a challenge you are excited to take on.

Conclusion

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Calming an anxious mind produces many benefits to health and well-being. Using these four principles:

 

  • Cognitive distancing
  • Labeling
  • Mindfulness
  •  Journaling

Gives you very powerful tools to help you cope with anxiety and stress.

We’ve also given you links to other resources and article in this blog post.

However, consulting a professional if these condition persists is advisable.

Also, further study on the subject will increase you ability to use these tools to full effectiveness.

Check out Our Rewire Positivity 10 Step Program In our Book Store

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  • Positive thinking can improve your mental health and overall well-being.
  • When you feel good about yourself and give off positivity, you can draw success and positive experiences to you.
  • Positive thinking can help you see the bright side of situations and find opportunities in setbacks.
  •  Rewiring positivity can help you establish new habits that make it easier to maintain a positive outlook.
  • Positive thinking can help you build resilience and cope with stress and adversity.
  • Positive thinking can improve your relationships with others and help you attract positive people into your life.
  • Positive thinking can increase your motivation and productivity.
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