This is Your Brain on Anxiety

Anybody who suffers from anxiety knows that this image is the perfect analogy for their brain coping with runaway thoughts:

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Your mind spins in a continuous loop going over the same thoughts again and again. Like a train on a collision course, sometimes there’s no way to stop it:

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For those with anxiety, it can take years to learn how to fully calm the racing railway that is your mind. If you cope with panic attacks, you know how real the struggle can be. When you’re mind begins to race and you feel the tightness of anxious thoughts constricting your chest, remember these words of wisdom:

1. Anxiety is in you, not in the world

It can be hard to imagine, but anxiety exists solely in your mind (actually everything exists solely in your mind, but that’s a listicle for another day). If you think about it, your pulse, your racing thoughts, and your hampered breaths are all interior issues. The rest of the world might not even pick up on what you’re going through.

Anxiety is also a form of narcissism. You fall into the trap of believing that your own issues are all that exists in the world. I know it’s almost impossible, but take a deep breath and let it go. And when that doesn’t work (because I already know it won’t)…

2. Go for a walk

Van Wilder once said,

Worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.

Walking, on the other hand, gives you an outlet for the anxiety. Mulling over your racing thoughts while physically accomplishing something allows you to feel productive. Because your mind has a tendency to race, it helps when your actions match (and if walking doesn’t work you could always try running, biking, or swimming the English Channel based on how serious the anxiety is).

3. Keep a journal

This probably won’t help when you’re actually dealing with the anxiety in the moment, but it helps you organize your thoughts in all walks of life. Anxiety has often been described as “worrying about the infinite.”
Journaling is really important because thoughts are abstract ideas and it’s sometimes difficult to sort though them clearly. However, if you manage to write out your thought process, you’ll make it more finite and better understand them without getting so worked up.

4. Embrace Somebody

A good way to deal with anxiety is by countering the amount of cortisol (the stress hormone) in your brain by adding oxytocin and dopamine (the feel good hormones). You can release these hormones by hugging a friend or connecting with somebody through conversation.
Or, if you really want to overload your brain with feel good hormones, you can have sex (although this isn’t usually a viable option while you’re in the middle of a marketing final or on a deadline at work).

[Featured Image Credit: David Goehring via Flickr]