I’ve been of a kick on this blog writing about worry and anxiety recently, and it’s opened my eyes to the ways I approach my anxiety disorder. Over the years I’ve developed some good strategies to cope with my anxiety and be productive despite its effects, but there’s one area where I still struggle: I can’t slow my thoughts down, and I can’t remember the last time I had that ability.
I remember in the early months of this blog I wrote a post describing what my anxiety was like to someone outside my head. Going back to that post I was a little surprised because even though things have changed so much since then, a lot of those symptoms of anxiety are persistent almost two years later. This one passage, in particular, got to me:
“For me, I typically have two thought processes going on in my head at all times. One is the regular thoughts that everyone has about life, work, stuff like that. The other ‘ticker’ is a constant stream of anxious and depressing thoughts which run in my head – constantly.” (“I’m a Little Worried. Again” – November 2017)
My anxiety is not in the same place now as it was then. And yet…those two thought processes have remained a constant. Sure, I’ve learned how to deal with this, but I would much rather have some time to, I don’t know, not have that ticker running through my brain? That sounds nice, too.
One reason this topic never came to my mind was that I’ve always equated an anxious brain with one that never stops working. It had never occurred to me that one could exist without the other because my anxiety manifests itself the most through my thoughts. But in those moments when I don’t feel completely anxious, my brain is still moving, which makes me think I’m anxious once again…and around and around we go.
Which leads me to a new personal goal! I want to calm my brain down. Not really concerned with the finer details at this point (i.e. the ‘best’ or proper way to go about this), I instead have a goal at the end of it all that I don’t want my brain to be going at the 100 miles-per-hour, simultaneous streaming, multi-tasking pace it’s usually at. So I’d love to hear from you all about how I can do this! Whether it’s some sort of technique, an activity or something else (I’m open to everything!), if you’ve found there’s something that calms you/your brain down, I’d love to hear about that experience. I don’t really know what I’ll accomplish here – truthfully, I don’t know if I’ll accomplish anything at all – but I think there are some really good lessons in trying this that could benefit me and my mental health in the future.
What do you do, think or say that helps calm your brain activity down? Let me know in the comments!
I don’t know if you’re a puzzle person, but I like doing jigsaw puzzles and “talking” my way through them. Sounds silly, but articulating my thoughts about the puzzle while I’m working on it really slows my brain down. I focus on whatever part of the puzzle I’m doing and deliberately think the words “out loud” in my mind. E.g. “OK, this piece doesn’t fit, it’s because of this wonky edge. Now I’ll look for a blue one that fits there. It needs to have three projecting sides and one cutout side.” On and on… If you like puzzles, it gets you into a flow and pretty soon you won’t be thinking about anything else!