Social scientists have labeled our modern era “The Age of Anxiety.” Boo. We’d much rather be known as “The Age of Opportunity . . . or Prosperity . . . or Equality.”
But the fact is, there does seem to be a long list things to feel anxious about: job security, tight finances, health concerns, political unrest, and relationship uncertainty. Anxiety robs us of joy, sleep, laughter, and peace of mind. You may not be able to completely erase anxiety from your life, but you can tame it with simple but effective “time-outs”:
Take a break from the news.
The 24-hour news cycle is almost totally focused on gloom-and-doom reports–crime, corruption, and catastrophe. Try going on a “news fast” for two or three days. That is long enough to begin enjoying less negative input—and less anxiety.
Practice meditation, sitting or walking.
Maybe you have the patience and self-discipline to sit still and meditate, but many people are too antsy for that approach. If sitting isn’t for you, Zen Buddhists have for centuries practiced kinhin—“meditation on the move.” Walk at a leisurely pace, pay attention to your breathing, and experience the sights and sounds around you.
Steer clear of negative people.
You know the type—they’re sure the world is going to hell in a hand-basket and they share their cynicism with everyone within earshot. Avoid these pessimists and surround yourself with optimistic allies. Optimism is contagious, so bring together your group of positive people.
Unplug for a while.
Lots of people in our connected society would panic at the thought having no access to their smartphone, Wi-Fi, or a computer. But a little discomfort can be instructive and helpful. Set aside a day to disconnect from electronic devices, and enjoy bike riding, a hike, or reading a book.
Take an hour to de-clutter.
Having too much stuff in your home, car, or workplace adds to your sense of disorder and anxiety. Take a hard look around you and identify anything you don’t absolutely need. Then give away items that are draining your energy and demanding attention.
Intentionally slow down for a day.
In our fast-paced society, it takes concerted effort to go against the frantic flow. Refuse to get caught up in the time urgency imposed upon you. Linger over your morning coffee, allow extra time to get places, and go the speed limit.
Write in a journal or notebook.
Psychologists recognize the power of journaling to relieve stress by clarifying your thoughts, identifying what is troubling you, and getting your concerns down on paper. You don’t need to write for more than ten or fifteen minutes, but it’s essential that you record your honest thoughts and feelings.
Practice healthy habits.
No one denies the link between physical and emotional well-being. Regular exercise and good nutrition go a long way toward promoting a positive attitude.
Take a nap.
The legendary football coach Vince Lombardi said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” Put positively, “Feeling rested gives you strength to withstand adversity.” Ample sleep helps you feel more energetic and cheerful, which will reduce anxiety.
Say a prayer.
Freeing yourself from anxiety is contained in the simple and familiar Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” Saying this prayer will enable you to recognize the issues you can influence and let go of things you cannot.