In ‘3 ways’ I mentioned deep breathing techniques as a powerful way to shut down your sympathetic nervous system which produces all those negative anxiety symptoms and turn on your parasympathetic nervous system that operates the “rest-and-digest” response. This should always be the “first” response to stress, anxiety and low mood. Other methods mentioned in that blog such as exercise and cold showers are also very practical and very helpful.
There are however some more very helpful practical ways to deal with stress, anxiety and low mood.
1. Problems or Worries?
When anxiety strikes try writing down all those troubling thoughts and asking yourself: “Is this a problem or is it a worry?” or “What can I actually do about this?” The worry is a problem if you can do something about it. It is a worry if there isn’t anything you can do about it. If you can’t actually do anything then don’t worry about it. You can’t fix it and what will be will be. If you’re a Christian, trust that “we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28 (NLT)
If the thing you are anxious about happens to be a problem then brain storm some solutions. What can you do about it? What is within your control and what is outside of your control.
2. Make a SMART Plan.
If you want to fight stress, anxiety and low mood you need to begin with a plan. SMART stands for…
Small: Start small. Do not try and change everything in your life all at once or all in a day. Choose something small and get to work on that.
Measureable: Once you have chosen something small to work at make sure you have a goal in mind. What do you want to happen? What will success look like?
Action: In the words of the Roman Emperor and Stoic Marcus Aurelius “Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.” Action requires us to do something. So do it!
Realistic: Do not expect the world or your life to change in a day. You will still have your stress, anxiety and low mood. Be realistic about what change you want to see and about what goals you set.
Timed: Be specific. I want to have done this or that by next week! Set dates and times to your goals.
3. Postpone your worries.
If you are being troubled by worries and you know they are worries and not problems (see point 1) then try setting aside some time for yourself on a daily basis to worry about those things for a few minutes (10-15 perhaps) and no longer. Then when you worry during the day you can tell yourself that you will worry about it later and then use that designated time to worry about it. When the 10 minutes are over, draw a line in the sand and get back to the things you can do.
3 real practical ways to deal with stress, anxiety and low mood are to sort out your worries from your problems. You can work on your problems and bring about change but worries are just worries. They are thoughts that’s all. Make a small, measurable, action based, realistic plan that can be timed. If you cannot do anything and you are still worrying try setting aside some time each day to worry and postpone all your worrying thoughts until that designated time.