Learning to rewire your anxious brain can bring so much more quality to your next 40 years.
Living with anxiety for 30 years has had a huge impact on the quality of my life. Thankfully, I have learned some incredibly powerful tools that have helped me to rewire my anxious brain. Today I want to share those with you.
Anxiety is a bitch and I have been living with that bitch for 30 years. The first time that I ever had a panic attack, I was 10 years old. I will never forget it.
And from that moment until two years ago, I have been living with anxiety. Trying to muddle my way through every day without having a panic attack. Thankfully in the last two years, I have done a deep dive into my personal anxiety.
Being able to rewire your anxious brain and process stress differently is a game-changer.
I have learned so much about how to not only manage it but to rise above it. Today I want to share with you some of the tools that have helped me tremendously in hopes that they can help you too.
These methods are not related to any kind of book or any kind of specific program or anything else. These are just methods that I have learned that I have tried and have helped me. So I know they are tried and true.
They really have made an impact on my anxiety and helped me a lot. And I’m really hoping that they will help you.
Quick disclaimer: I don’t have any kind of physiological condition that contributes to my anxiety. So my anxiety is really a result of how I process stress and my mindset. I just want to make sure it’s clear that there are all different types of anxiety, There are all different mitigating factors and things that contribute to anxiety.
For me and my personal anxiety, these tips have helped me to rewire my brain to help me think differently. I process my stress differently. I exist in my day to day life differently. My hope is that they help you to rewire your anxious brain.
So the first tip that I have for you is what’s called an anchor thought. And anchor thoughts are really helpful if you feel yourself kind of going into a panic attack. Or, if you just notice that you’re feeling super anxious about a certain situation that you’re in.
Anchor thoughts essentially are a happy place. Visualizing a happy place somewhere that you feel safe and calm and feel like everything is a-okay.
And really diving into the details of that place. Really thinking about that time or that situation or that place that helps you to feel anchored and grounded.
And basically what this does is it moves your brain away from overthinking whatever it is that’s worrying you. And you move into thinking about this place that brings you some peace and some calm. This will reduce the amount of anxiety that you’re feeling in that moment.
My anchor thought is the beach.
When I notice that I’m starting to get stressed, my shoulders will begin to creep up closer to my ears. My body will tense up and I will get butterflies in my stomach and my chest.
That is the time that I just visualize the beach and that’s my anchor thought. And I think about the waves and I think about listening to the waves coming in and crashing.
When I do that, it snaps me out of those stressful feelings as they’re kind of rising. See, the trouble with anxiety is that you are worried about something and it’s starting to make your body feel differently. And then you start worrying about the fact that your body’s feeling differently.
Then it kind of snowballs from there. So having an anchor thought really helps to just ground you. Once you do this over and over again, your brain starts to become conditioned.
Eventually, those feelings of stress and anxiety will trigger your brain to start thinking of your anchor thought. Your brain will create a story about anything, whether it’s true or not.
So, if you give your brain positive information to create the story about, things will move towards happiness, positivity, and peace.
Give your brain a good, happy, peaceful anchor thought to associate with those physical feelings of stress.
Anchor thoughts are also great for when you’re feeling angry.
When something has just really pissed me off and I’ve got all of that anger kind of inside of me. I visualize that all of the anger is a red cloud of smoke. And I breathe all of this smoke out of my mouth.
My anchor thought is the red smoke leaving my body.
I will do the deep breathing with the anchor thought for a few cycles until I start to feel calmer and the anger has moved out of my body.
It can also be helpful to pair your anchor thought with an affirmation. An affirmation is an I statement. I am strong, I am smart, I am capable, I am calm, I am grounded.
If there is something that you’re afraid of doing but you have to do it, then pairing your anchor thought with a statement like, “this is exciting or this is fun” can be very powerful.
It may not necessarily be true at the moment. But, if you repeat it, as you’re visualizing your anchor thought, pretty soon your brain will start to believe it.
One of the symptoms that I had with my anxiety was shortness of breath. If I was having a stressful week, I would perpetually be out of breath like all week long for no reason whatsoever other than the fact that I had heightened anxiety.
Using the four, seven, eight breathing has really helped me to rewire my brain. I’ve been able to retrain my body and think about breathing as something different than catching a breath.
When you can’t catch your breath, you are anxious and scared of that feeling. And so the cycle just continues. But when you use something like four, seven, eight breathing, it moves you away from being scared of not being able to catch your breath. And it moves you towards paying attention to the rhythm of breathing.
It really just changes your thinking and helps to rewire your anxious brain.
Four, seven, eight breathing is when you breathe in through your nose for four counts, hold for seven counts, and then breathe out through your mouth for eight counts.
And you can just do one-one thousand, two-one thousand, etc. This habit is great for anxiety because you can do this at any time.
Nobody really has to know that you’re doing it. You can do this standing in line, sitting at a traffic light, before you go to bed.
No matter what you’re doing, you can just do a couple of cycles of the four, seven, eight breathing. And it really just, it clears your mind and it really calms your body.
So the third tool that I have for you is meditation. And, this one might feel a little intimidating to some of you. But, you can actually just do the four, seven, eight breathing as a meditation.
Not everyone can sit and do 20 minutes of having nothing in their mind. So, the 4-7-8 breathing is great for people who are beginners to meditation.
In fact, just sitting and listening to your breathing is meditative. Even something like swimming or yoga can be a meditation.
Meditation doesn’t necessarily need to mean you’re sitting still for 20 minutes, not thinking about anything. That type of meditation is incredibly difficult without a year or more of daily practice.
So think about something meditative that you can do that is not so intimidating so that you actually do it every day.
The more that you do these things, the more that they are going to make an impact and the easier that they are going to start to become. Meditation really helps you to trust your gut instinct better too.
I personally listen to a guided meditation at night before I fall asleep and it just helps me to kind of calm down and calm my body.
This helps me to get that good restful night’s sleep. But I do have to listen to a guided meditation because sitting quietly and clearing my mind doesn’t happen easily for me. And so it’s not very relaxing for me. I do practice. I do try.
But in order to be consistent, I listen to my guided meditation and it makes a huge difference.
So pick something that doesn’t feel intimidating, something that you know you can do consistently. It doesn’t have to fit any kind of perfect mold or anything.
Affirmations are the “I am” statements that we were talking about earlier. The thought behind this is that if you say it enough times and your ear hears it, your brain is going to believe it.
This is a tool you can use to truly rewire your anxious brain. There are hundreds of morning practices that include repeating “I am” statements for five minutes. I am strong, I am capable, I am good at making money.
These are statements that when said out loud, and your ears hear them, your brain begins to believe them.
The reason is because of the Reticular Activating System (RAS) inside of your brain stem. It is responsible for processing information. By repeating “I am” affirmations, you are providing positive, supportive, empowering information to your RAS.
Your brain then uses that information to tell a story. And, your story can be “I am strong, I am confident, I am safe”.
As I’ve mentioned, my anxiety stemmed from negative thought processes and a victim story. Once I really got mindful of what I was thinking about on a daily basis, I was able to create affirmation statements that forced my brain not to think that way anymore.
So for instance, I am safe, I am strong, I am capable. These are all things that helped me to not think about those worst-case negative situations anymore. Because I don’t have to. I’m strong and I’m safe and I’m capable. So I don’t have to think about “what if” that happens.
What if it does? I’m strong, I’m safe and I’m capable. So the I am statements were really powerful and make a huge impact. Connect your affirmations to your negative thought patterns and you will notice an impact on your anxiety.
Having anxiety and not being able to have those big dreams and have those big goals and feel and live as bold and bright and magical as you want to, um, is it really takes a lot out of the quality of your life.
So if you can rewire your anxious brain and minimize the anxiety, it really creates space for you to step into your strength and living boldly.