Anxiety Spiral

Embracing the Spiral: How to Calm Your Anxiety When Working from Home

In Blogby thewriteharleLeave a Comment

I’m struggling. I’m trying to write a truly awesome blog post about content and the power of language. Struggling to think about who even cares about content right now with the craziness of the world (a wee bit of COVID-19 here, some market crashes there, and a few more layoffs to boot)…Seriously, a complete and total existential crisis on this side of the screen as my mind spiralled out of control. I’m talking SPIRALS – like fusilli spirals! 

Then I stopped and asked myself, “what can I actually do to help people today?” 

After all, in this world of “social distancing,” people are discovering new heights of anxiety. Having had my own complete and total anxiety breakdown in the middle of Calgary’s Banker’s Hall in 2011, it’s my lessons and experience in learning how to slow an anxiety spiral before the complete and total brain clog happens that might be of some support. 

So, let’s have a looksy at a few of my all-time favourite techniques that save my sanity time and again. Hopefully, these will help slow anxiety spirals should you find yourself getting a wee bit dizzy.

5-4-3-2-1 Technique

Quick! Your mind is going a thousand miles a minute. Your heart is beating so loudly, you think a drum and bass dance party is going on inside your chest. The future has never looked so bleak. 

STOP!!! You are way too in your mind. You need to slow down and become present in the moment, aware of the tangible things around you, allowing you to redirect your energy away from the anxiety.

The 5-4-3-2-1 Technique was taught to me by my dear friend and colleague, Andrea Jones, and has literally saved me way more than 10 fingers-worth of times. When you’re in the spiral, take a moment and do the following to observe your surroundings, specifically

  • What are 5 things you can see
  • What are 4 things you can touch
  • What are 3 things you can hear
  • What are 2 things you can smell
  • What is 1 thing you can taste

This helps you focus on what’s directly in front of you, bringing you back to the present. From there, you can focus on one small thing you can control – like writing that very next email – rather than the cacophony of garble previously happening in your head. 

Go on. Try it. I’ll wait…I mean…where am I going to go right now?

Gratitude Journal

Gratitude journaling is nothing new and even a recent study suggests that gratitude isn’t a be-all and end-all for mental health. However, this, I believe, has to do with two things in particular. The first, gratitude is merely ONE PART of your mental health strategy. The second is the intent and purpose in which one is putting into their gratitude. Having kept a gratitude journal from 2013 – 2017, then again from 2019 on, I can say in all certainty that this technique works. 

Every single night, right before I fall asleep, I write 10 things I am grateful…and this includes if I’ve fallen asleep on the couch and am dragging my butt to bed at 2:30 am. No REM sleep until I’m grateful. This way, I fall asleep filling my heart and mind with love, lessons, and growth. 

What’s key is this next part. While I could write a flighty: I am grateful for:

  • Puppy kisses, 
  • Sunshine, and 
  • My husband

These don’t actually have any real purpose behind WHY I’m grateful for them. In fact, these are superficial things that anyone could quickly whip out when needed. Rather, when I focus on WHY I’m grateful for something, my list looks more like this: I am grateful for: 

  • Puppy kisses because they remind me that, no matter how I’m feeling or who I am, I am still worth being unconditionally loved; 
  • Sunshine as it lifts my spirits and helps to keep my depression low, anxiety at a minimum, and enhances my cute freckles; and 
  • My husband because he stands beside me and is my knight when I need him to be and he allows me to be his knight when he needs me to be.

Yes, this takes a smidge more time to write out, but it gets to the core of why one is grateful, which filters into your mindset more. 

The reason for my own two-year gap? I hadn’t understood this lesson yet of true gratitude. Subsequently, both my health and my gratitude suffered. Let’s just say…lesson learned. 

Check-in With Your “Self”

We’re all being called to step up as a global community and sit at home (come on, team! We got this!). However, it’s important to understand how YOU SPECIFICALLY ARE feeling these days. In other words, what emotions are you actually trying to sort through? 

You could be putting on a brave face for your kidlets, but inside you’re feeling panicked about so many “what ifs” with this new future. What about your mortgage? What about your job security? What about the investments? What about this; what about that; what about, what about, what about?

Gosh – what about YOU?! While we must come together and check in with each other, we must also make sure we take care of ourselves by checking in with our own “self.” 

There are a number of apps that help you do this on a daily basis. I personally use an app called Woebot. This app runs you through a series of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) techniques to help focus you on the present. What I love about it is that it sends me a note every day just checking in to see how I’m doing. A little 2-minute check in once a day helps me understand where I’m mentally at (distressed, okay, happy, etc.), why I’m there, and how I can move myself forward if there are any mental blockages. It’s a quick reminder that how I’m feeling matters. 

A few other apps that provide similar supports and both family and colleagues have had success with include:

  • MindShiftTM: offering CBT tools for you to feel actively in control 
  • Headspace: using guided meditation to support a healthier mental flow
  • Calm: providing tools for you to meditate, relax and sleep. 

Each app connects with different audiences, so keep trying one until you find an app that works for you. 

Walk Out the Spiral

Jammy days are WONDERFUL! Do not think for a minute that I have not had many a day where I’ve worked in my stretchy pants, hair thrown atop my head in a messy bun, with the thought, “did I put deodorant today” echoing through my mind.  

However, more than one of these days and stir-crazy doesn’t even some up the energy and unfocused mind that set in.

This is where exercise is crucial. I’m not talking about the world’s longest sweat session, either. Rather, I’m talking about scheduling a 5 – 15 minute walk a couple of times a day (if you are not quarantined, of course, and are merely social distancing). Fresh air has a multitude of benefits for the body and mind while moving your body helps to keep you creative. Just make sure you practice safe social distancing (e.g. do not get together and go for a run with your regular running buddy).

Hopefully the above help you work out your own spirals. After all, there’s no doubt that all the craziness in the world may have you feeling uncertain, on edge, and on the brink of a very teary anxiety explosion. Know that I am here to help, whether that’s listening, sharing puns and work from home tips, or with communicating effectively through content with your clients. Feel free to connect today.

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