Many people around me tell me that they’ve reached a point where they can no longer cope with events in today’s world: political strife, global warming, mass shootings, in addition to our own personal daily challenges. This is a huge amount to hold in our nervous systems and begs the question, ‘How can we make sure we’re not overwhelmed?’
1. Limit your access to the news and social media. We are not designed to be able to hold the volume of information that modern media gives us, especially in the way that it is delivered, which is constant, overwhelming and sensationalized. Watching the news or keeping up on social media can loop us into an addictive cycle that hijacks our nervous system. I’m not suggesting you don’t keep abreast of current events, but I’d like to invite you to experiment with seriously reducing how much of this you allow into your nervous system.
2. Look at what is IN your control and what is NOT in your control. We can burn a huge amount of anxiety worrying over and over about issues we can’t control. When we bring the focus back to what we can control, it enables us to have more efficacy in our lives. Which leads us to…
3. Put your focus on in something action-oriented or calming. One of the many things I teach in my practice is where you put your focus is what will expand. Typically when we feel anxious, we zoom in on it, making it larger. So by moving attention away from anxiety, and putting it somewhere else is a great step towards cultivating a different internal environment.
4. Come back into the present moment. Anxiety is future-focused. So tools that bring us back into the moment will help. Basic mindfulness exercises can support this goal.
5. Connect with a person or pet you love. Unconditional acceptance and love through connection with others helps to soothe us and de-escalate our sympathetic (fight, flight) response.
6. Use anxiety tools to reduce stress, and go to therapy to resolve any ‘old’ anxiety that is stuck in your nervous system. There are ways of working with our thoughts, feelings and nervous system to reduce suffering (check out the Anxiety Toolkit coming to my shop in 2019.) Situations change and crises pass, so it’s important to learn ways to tolerate intensity, knowing it ebbs and flows. Meditation helps us clear the slate of the mind and reset.
Some anxiety is normal and healthy, but when it begins to get out of hand, it’s time to take action to bring into check.