Updated: Apr 24, 2021
Do you struggle with change-related anxiety?
Things feel like they are moving incredibly quickly and impossibly slowly at the same time. With a new mind-boggling headline splayed across the news every day, it feels like the best and worst are concurrently yet to come.
I don't know about you, but six months ago change "back to normal" was all that I craved. Already half a year into the pandemic, I had gotten used to the initial change of everything coming to a halt. Out of a job and living in my parents' home in the suburbs, I juggled a busy schedule of restlessness, frustration, and existential despair. Then, the lack of change and my inability to do anything "productive" ate away at me like none other.
Fast forward to the present, where things are changing more rapidly. Though we are certainly not out of the woods yet, the change that I craved is far closer now than it was six months ago. And yet I still feel anxiety creeping up on me. Now, my internal monologue chatters away about all of the what ifs and the hypotheticals of re-crafting a life for myself in this post-pandemic world. What will it look like? Where will I be? Who will I be?
Ten minutes into my anxious spiral and I realize that all of my worries have been pointless. I can't do anything about the future; you would think that this past year has taught me not to try and grasp for control, but old habits die hard. So what to do instead?
"Stop worrying" is as pointless of a piece of advice as the actual act of worrying is, so let's dive in to some actionable tips to reframe your perspective and get out of your own head. I'm right there with you. Let's get through this together.
Write It and Reframe It
Write down everything that's making you anxious. What's the worst thing that could happen? Then, for every fear, write an affirming statement. This doesn't need to be falsely positive. Reframe the situation to one that serves you.
Ex. I'm going to do terribly at my new job => I don't know what my new job will be like yet, but I'm going to do my best at it.
How Much Control Do You Actually Have?
We often grab for control in moments when we are least likely to have it. Ask yourself how much control you actually have over the situation. If the answer is "not much" or "none," resolve to let it go and set your mind on things you actually have control over.
During moments where you feel like you can't get away from your own thoughts and fears, try an audible or vibrational breath. Inhale deeply, and exhale on a hum, a lip buzz, or a "haaa" sound. Hearing the rhythm and pulse of your own breath can help bring you back into the present.
Doubt Your Doubts
The anxieties we have in moments of change are often definitive - we are so sure that the worst will happen. Practice catching yourself in these moments. Remind yourself that just because you're feeling that it's true doesn't make it true. Come up with a few empowering statements to question your doubts. Ex. Why are you so sure that I can't do it? Where's your proof that I'm not good enough?
Create Daily Rituals
Create touchstone habits where you can feel in control of your life. In the morning and right before you go to bed are great times for habitual activities, but come up with a couple for the middle of the day, too.
Be Consistent With Sleep
Yes, even on the weekends. Use a sleep tracking app or keep a sleep diary to help yourself stay consistent with rest. Big changes often come with sleep disruptions, so help yourself out and avoid technology and working in bed so that your body and mind can wind down more easily.
Cut Down on Stimulants
Cut down on caffeine, energy drinks, and excess amounts of sugar. These will give you those spikes and crashes in energy that make you feel even more out of control.
Past Positive Experiences
Come up with a couple past experiences where you thought the worst was going to happen, but it didn't. Negative experiences will often stick out to us much more than the positive ones, so make a concerted effort to bring these "wins" to the front of your mind. Remind yourself of these memories when mind dredges up that one time that that one thing didn't go your way and tries to use it as ammunition to prove that change will never bring about anything good.