4 ways to Unwind Your Anxious Mind

The Prepped Team

June 10, 2020

5 minutes

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This is part two of our four-part mindfulness webinar series. Prepped partnered with The WiseMind Co. to empower job seekers to remain resourceful and to be mentally prepared during these challenging times in the job market. This webinar teaches you simple techniques that can help calm your mind when entering or immersed in stressful situations or prolonged bouts of negative thinking. Check out the recap of part two of our series below, and watch the full webinar to learn how simple it can be to unwind your anxious mind.

What is an anxious mind?

It makes sense that if we’re going to speak about untangling an anxious mind that we give you a description of an anxious mind that you can identify with. While your anxiety will uniquely present itself with who you are, there are some indicators that are common for everyone. The thing about anxiety is that it’s often future-facing. That means our minds get caught up on possible events and situations that haven’t happened yet. The uncertainty of that future is what makes us uncomfortable, and one of the triggers of an anxious mind. Another trait of an anxious mind is when you get stuck on a single, recurring negative thought. That thought replays itself over and over, weighing on your mind until it starts feeling like a physical weight on your shoulders. In this session, we help you understand how to train your brain to accept those thoughts and rework them instead of fighting them.It might surprise you that accepting negative thoughts is part of unwinding your anxiety. But Eckart Tolle has a saying that Ashleigh Frankel from The WiseMind Co. shared with the group as part of this session. Tolle says, “Whatever you fight, you strengthen, and what you resist, persists.” It’s a very straightforward way of saying that fighting too hard against something only gives that thing power. In the case of anxiety, when you accept those thoughts and work to shift your perspective, it creates a profound adjustment in how your mind perceives those triggers.

Try these 4 practices to unwind your mind

Once you understand how your mind works and what causes your anxiety, you can apply techniques to help overcome those emotions. These four techniques are what is described by The WiseMind Co. as on-the-go practices. That just means that you can make use of these techniques as you live your daily life. You don’t need to be alone in a corner or a room doing traditional meditation to implement any of these mindfulness tactics. As you’ll also notice, all of these techniques are simple and can be done in a minute or less. They are tailor-made for when you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation or right before you enter into a situation, and you can’t seem to get a hold of your thoughts.

1. Come to your senses

As we mentioned, anxiety’s nature is to be future-focused. When we allow ourselves to come into the present, we take away anxiety’s power and the grip it has on our emotions. The “come to your senses” technique requires you to do a 3 by 3 practice where you name three things you see and hear. Anything in your immediate environment is fair game. Do this when you first feel yourself getting too focused on the future and being pulled away from the present moment. You can say these things silently or out loud.  

2. Vagus breathing or deep breathing

Vagus refers to the vagus nerve, which is the nerve connected with your emotions. This nerve sends signals from your brain down to your gut and is how you’re able to calm yourself down. There are two ways to activate this nerve: laughter and then deep breathing. Either works just as well, but laughter is more difficult to initiate on your own, which is why deep breathing is likely your best option. Take a full breath in for five seconds till your stomach gets round and then breathe out for five seconds. Do this for one full minute or at least five rounds of inhaling and exhaling.

3. Name it to tame it  

In this technique, you name the thoughts that you’re having at the moment. You don’t need to say them out loud. Simply make a mental note. According to Frankel, studies have shown that this can reduce the “intensity of emotion” by up to 50%. What’s crucial to this technique’s effectiveness is that you’re calm when making these mental notes. Don’t be critical of the thoughts you’re having. Call out the sadness or fear or anger, but don’t get upset with yourself for having these thoughts. Identifying your thoughts in a non-judgemental way helps distance yourself from your anxiety.

4. Don’t believe everything you think  

Too often, we take all of our thoughts as facts. Don’t do this. There are many reasons you think the things you do, some of which you have no control over. When you find yourself entering or stuck in a destructive thought, ask yourself one question: “Is this true?” If that one question isn’t enough, ask yourself if there’s another possibility to what you’re thinking or ask yourself, “Is this thought helpful?” Either of these questions will help get your mind to the right place.

Sign up for our remaining webinars

We have two more webinars left in our mindfulness series. Sign up for whichever one speaks to you most or for both. You can also sign up for Prepped and watch the full recording of this webinar or check out our recap on the power of positive emotions.

Sign up for Prepped to gain access to recordings of all our webinars, and to our tools and templates that can help improve your chances of getting a job up to 6X*.

*Songqi Liu, Jason L. Huang, & Mo Wang (2014). Effectiveness of Job Search Interventions: A Meta-Analytic Review. Psychological Bulletin, 140, 1009-1041.