If you are feeling anxious, you can learn how to calm your anxiety with understanding. In this post, I’ll explain why anxiety happens, but most importantly, how you can calm it and feel some relief in knowing it’s your brain’s normal response. (Watch or read.)
Understanding from the Prayer or St. Francis of Assisi
In regards to understanding, I was thinking of the prayer of St. Francis. He says:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy
O Divine Master, grant that I may
Not so much seek to be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
I want to focus on this seeking to understand part.
Understanding the Brain’s Fight or Flight
Our anxiousness comes from our brains. Well, Jackie, of course it does, you may be saying. I feel like I’m losing my mind some days.
But you have to understand how the brain works. I’m sure you’ve heard how the brain deals with danger. You’ve heard about the fight or flight actions that we take. Our amygdala tells us if there is some kind of danger and we either feel the visceral need to stand and fight it or run like heck.
This heightened state of alert is stressful. And it’s stressful because we can’t get answers to what’s happening, especially during the global pandemic – how long is this going to last? Should I go out and do things? And the whole idea of wearing a mask is just foreign. It’s a constant reminder that we aren’t in the world that we knew and what was predictable.
How the Brain Uses Memory to Calm Anxiety
And that’s where another understanding comes in. Because another part of our brain, the prefrontal cortex deals with memory. This part of the brain predicts the future based on past experience.
When we are faced with some kind of danger, we remember what we did to keep ourselves safe. We pull out that file and say – this is how I deal with this.
An Example of the Brain’s Memory to Calm Anxiety
Robert and I were on one of our many walks. I was talking away when we came to an intersection. I looked both ways, didn’t see any cars and kept walking.
Then I felt Robert yank me by the back of my shirt to stop me from crossing the street. There was a car behind me making a right turn. They weren’t stopping and I would have walked right in front of them!
Thank goodness he reached out and saved me from being run over! Now I’ve filed that little incident in my brain so that I not only look both ways, I look behind me to make sure no one is making a right turn.
But in the situation we are in now with COVID-19, we have no file. There is no reference to keep us from danger. Our brain wants to predict the future, and it can’t right now.
So this sets us up for anxious thoughts of what do we do, what if I get sick, how long will this last. What’s wrong with me that I’m so anxious?
The good news is that there’s nothing wrong with you.
But the anxiety is real and alarming, so what can you do?
Calm Your Anxiety by Being Present
Now that you are aware of what your brain is doing, you can take a pause and say, okay, I’m anxious because my brain doesn’t know what to do. There’s no manual for this on file. This is normal.
To calm yourself, focus on being in the present moment. Acknowledge that you are okay. That you are safe.
Calm Your Anxiety with this Deep Breathing Technique
Taking deep breaths are very helpful to bring you into the present moment and to calm your mind and body. There’s a very easy 4 – 7 – 8 breathing technique. You breathe in through your nose for 4 counts, hold for 7 and exhale for 8 through your mouth.
Do that 3 or 4 times and you will clear your mind and feel calmer. It will also help you to get to sleep or fall back to sleep if you wake up during the night.
Know that this is a normal response in a very not normal time. Whatever first time crisis you find yourself in, know that your brain is doing what it is supposed to do. You will learn to cope, and by doing so, you will have a record if you are faced with a similar situation.
To calm your anxiety, you may also like this post and video, 7 Tips to Boost your Mental Health and Well-Being. These are seven health and wellness fundamentals. They never change, but we may forget to do them. ; )
If you want to go deeper into calming your mind and spirit, a guided meditation is an easy and effective way to do that. These guided meditations are being used by therapists to help their patients with panic attacks and PTSD.
I hope that you can now calm your anxiety with understanding how your brain works.
Stay safe, stay well, stay calm, and stay encouraged! Now and always.