I am working away on a typical Thursday when I hear the *ping* of my AIM chat ring. My work bestie copied and pasted a conversation that she was having with a guy we work with, who is also a mutual friend. “Hilarious!” she writes. Keep in mind, there is NOTHING malicious about what she is doing. We are friends, she has my back. She is part of my girl gang. Little does she know, however, that she has thrown a cantaloupe sized grenade into my anxious mind.
It starts with a pit in my stomach that makes me feel like I’m going to puke. Then my mind takes over the conversation. They are talking without you. Do they always talk without you? Probably. Is this a daily thing? Probably an hourly thing. You haven’t had your own conversation with him in days. Most likely because he’s over being your friend. Doesn’t want to talk to you anymore. Do you need to find a new job? Does everyone hate you? Are the new girls who just started much better than you? Will they take your job and your friends?
By now, the dizziness and tunnel vision sets in. As everyone continues to chatter around me in our cubes, I secretly panic, remembering that I’ve gained twenty pounds since I graduated from college 6 years ago. That’s probably why everyone is over you. Because you are fat and gross. I begin to job search. All of the best jobs in my field are in LA. You should have gone to school in LA. If you went to school in LA, you’d be rich. And skinny. I can barely move.
And that’s how – in a span of 20 seconds or less – I’ve lost complete control over my mind.
Regaining my mind is something that I have to practice on a daily basis. Some days are easier than others, and this situation was particularly difficult. I had a really bad fight with my husband the night before so my anxiety was already high by this morning. When you can’t get up and leave (like when you are sitting at your desk at work or in a meeting, for example), it can be really hard to dig yourself out of a negative mindset. But it can be done and it’s really important to do so as quickly as possible. Not everything has to be sunshine and bunnies every single day, but by wallowing in your negative thoughts you are only allowing that anxiety to grow like a weed. So what can you do?
Write it down. This blog post is currently serving as my therapeutic remedy to heal an anxious mind. As I continue to type, I can feel the weight being lifted. I am fighting my anxiety by realizing that I am in the present moment. As everyone calms down and gets back to work around me, I realize that there is no reason for me to stress if I am not involved in one short conversation. I am loved. I have a support system. I will be okay.
Practice your breath. I have found that deep, long breathing allows my body to relax and that automatically helps my mind to slow down. It’s scientifically proven that there is a connection between your body and your mind when related to anxiety and stress. The ADAA has a few resources for this that I have found to be very helpful.
Stay present. If you are in a situation like I was, at work, try to do everything you can to stay focused in the present moment. Think of it as a battle with your mind. You are not your mind and you can overcome it. Continue to answer emails, plan your calendar for the day, or anything else that allows you to focus on what tasks are at hand at that exact moment. It’s important to realize that while you can blame these anxious thoughts on your mind, it is still your responsibility to rule your own well-being.
Walk away. This needs no explanation. If you can’t get out of your anxious mind, walk away. If you are working at your desk, go for a walk. If you are in a meeting, politely excuse yourself and take the long way to the bathroom. You will feel better just by focusing on your change of scenery.
Once you start to feel better (and you will – it might take a few minutes or a few hours, but I promise that you will), you need to applaud the fact that you got through it. The fact that you able to recognize your anxious thoughts means that you are self-aware. You have self-worth. That is something worth celebrating!