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How to calm anxious thoughts and stop rumination: 6 ways

anxious
Photo by boram kim on Unsplash

I used to wake up every morning feeling anxious. Rather than hope, I’d experience a sense of dread and even impending doom about the day ahead.

I’d force myself out of bed and put on a suit of armor to start the day. Instead of enjoying life, I plodded through, fearfully guarded against imagined threats and dangers.

Thankfully, I’ve recovered from the constant oppression of anxious thoughts and perceived peril. Now I get to enjoy life and approach it with a sense of wonder and curiosity.

It turned out those feelings of hyperarousal came from a history of unresolved childhood trauma. Perhaps you can relate.

Even without a traumatic childhood to overcome, many of us experience anxious thoughts from time to time. That sense of nagging worry about things over which we have little to no control.

Even without a traumatic childhood to overcome, many of us experience anxious thoughts from time to time. That sense of nagging worry about things over which we have little to no control. Click To Tweet

The worry might be over nothing in particular. A general sense of unease and mild panic that sucks the joy out of life.

If you do feel gripped by anxious thoughts from time to time, here are six things you can do to relieve your pain.

1. Get a good enough sleep.

This is not always possible, especially when babies wake us up during the night.

But, if you can give up that late night TV show and get to bed at a decent hour, a full night’s sleep works wonders.

Sleep deprivation makes us feel nervous and on edge at the best of times. So, take it out of the running as one of your enemies against a peaceful state of mind.

2. Give thanks upon waking.

Rather than waking up with a sense of dread over having to face another day, whisper a thank you.

Each morning when I open my eyes, I give thanks to God for a new day. It’s made a world of difference in my attitude when it comes time to get out of bed.

No longer do I moan and shuffle my way to the bathroom. I feel genuine gratitude for a new day and its opportunities.

If you knew me ten years ago, you’d call this shift a miracle. And it is.

3. Eliminate unhealthy coping mechanisms.

This might be the hardest thing you’ve ever done. For me, eliminating alcohol meant a complete change in my life.

I had to enter a recovery program and learn how to think and live a different way. Most of all, I had to lean on God rather than trying to prop myself up all the time.

Examine whether you need to make a radical change in your life. Do you need support to stop overeating, drinking too much, or other unhealthy coping mechanisms?

These short-term solutions help us feel better in the moment. But they cause long-term grief which prevents us from living a full and satisfying life.

Short-term solutions to ease pain help us feel better in the moment. But they cause long-term grief which prevents us from living a full and satisfying life. Click To Tweet

4. Move your body to calm anxious thoughts.

Rather than a workout, this means simply moving from one place to another. Take a walk, kneel in prayer, wash the dishes.

Anything to interrupt the hamster wheel of rumination going on in your brain.

anxious

5. Call someone and tell them you’re feeling anxious.

I’ve had to force myself to call someone to share my anxious thoughts. So I understand how compelling it can be not to do so.

This might be the last thing you want to do, but do it anyway. Talking to someone else, especially one of those chatty, optimistic types, will get you outside of your own head.

Talking to someone else, especially one of those chatty, optimistic types, will get you outside of your own head. You'll feel better, like you've had a reset. Click To Tweet

Chances are you’ll feel better at the end of the conversation, like you’ve had a reset.

6. Breathe or listen to a meditation.

I love the Pause app by John Eldredge, which walks you through 1, 3, 5 or 10-minute meditations.

I’m not sure how it works, but breathing deeply and listening to a soothing voice helps me feel more calm and relaxed every time.

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