Anxiety Ambush : 9 Tactics I Use to Combat Anxiousness

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This April is a crazy month for me, with the next couple of weeks being particularly action-packed. Tomorrow I'm giving a presentation that I've been working on for weeks, and a week after that I'm having (another, ugh!) surgery. Needless to say, anxiety levels are all over the place. To combat them, I'm pulling out some of my favorite anxiety-fighting tips, and I thought I might share them with you, too, in case you're facing some anxiety yourself! 

 

GO OUTSIDE

I'm not much of an "outdoorsy" person, but there's something about getting outside that can be really calming when you're feeling anxious or stressed. When my anxiety rears its ugly head, I try to remind myself to get outside, even if it's just for a few minutes, to get some fresh air and a fresh perspective. 

 

ASK FOR HELP

As someone who enjoys being in control, this can be a tough one for me, but it's always so helpful whenever I reach out to others and ask for help. No matter what you're going through, you don't have to go it alone. If you're lucky to have friends and family who can help you out (even if it's just as emotional support), ask! And, if not, seek out resources online to help you feel less alone. 

 

CREATE SOMETHING

Even if you don't consider yourself a "creative" person, creating something is a great way to get your mind off of your anxiety and into something new. Recently I've been focused a lot on creating my presentation, but I also take breaks from that to do a little bit a of drawing (which I share nearly every day on Instagram!). If art isn't your thing, consider creating a meal! 

 

DRINK WATER

Making sure you're hydrated is a good trick for combating anxiety, even if it might seem a bit odd. Personally, whenever I don't drink enough water, I get headaches and just generally don't feel right, so whenever I feel my anxiety level getting high, I check in to make sure I'm hydrated. (Eating healthy is also a good idea, but I'm not always so great at it, particularly when stressed!)

 

WRITE ABOUT IT

Whether or not you consider yourself a writer, taking the time to jot down your anxious thoughts can be a great way to alleviate some of the stress you're experiencing. If that ends up causing more anxiety, consider writing a list of things you can do to make yourself feel a bit better or write a list of things you're grateful for. 

 

TAKE A DEEP BREATH

Deep breaths sound cliche, but paying attention to your breathing really can make a difference when it comes to combating anxiety. Your breath is something you have access to at all times so it's a useful tool for soothing yourself no matter what the situation. I personally find the 4-7-8 Breathing Method to be really helpful when I'm extra anxious! 

 

LISTEN TO SOOTHING SONGS

Music can have such a big impact on your mood, and you can use that to your advantage when it comes to your emotional state. Create a playlist with soothing (or uplifting!) songs and put it on when you're having difficulty staying calm. It's a quick way to shift your focus. (And, if you're like me, you can also through a little dancing in there!) For some playlist ideas, follow me on Spotify

 

STAY PRESENT

Staying present might feel like the opposite of what you want to do when you're anxious, but it's important to remember that anxious thoughts come not from what's happening now, but from ruminating on what has happened or worrying about what will happen. Do your best to ground yourself in the moment to ease some of your anxious feelings. 

 

FIND A POSITIVE DISTRACTION

When my anxiety really starts to get to me, I do what I can to find a positive distraction (usually in the form of a really good book or a funny film). Avoiding your feelings isn't something I'd generally recommend, but distraction can be a useful tactic when feelings get out of control and turn unproductive (as anxiety almost always does!). 

 

If you're feeling anxious or struggle with anxiety, I hope some of these tips will help you out. I'd also love to know what tactics have worked for you when it comes to battling anxiety or stress. Let me know your top tips in the comments section below! 

 

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6 Things Open-Minded People Do

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Recently I've been working on a (very exciting!) presentation on open-mindedness, and it occurred to me that it's been awhile since I've written about it here. (Though 7 Benefits of Being Open-Minded is still one of my most popular posts!) To me, this is one of the most important topics in our culture right now (so much so that I'm even thinking of writing a book about it!), so I'll probably be sharing a lot of that here, but first, let's start out with what it means to be open-minded.

The dictionary defines "open-minded" as "willing to consider new ideas; unprejudiced," but to me it's so much more than that. Open-mindedness is like positivity: it requires self-knowledge, patience, and, depending on your culture and temperament, lots and lots of practice. It's much more complex that just being open to new ideas. Here are the six traits I consider essential for open-mindedness. 

OPEN-MINDED PEOPLE... 

  1. Consider different perspectives + beliefs

    Those with open minds are open to considering different points of view, perspectives, beliefs, ideas, etc. This might seem incredibly obvious, but it's trickier than you might think. Consider, for a moment, something you believe strongly in (a religion, the rights of a certain group of people, someone you love) and then think about the last time you openly thought about a different perspective. It's easier to do when encountering a new idea, but it's something truly open-minded people do even when it comes to deeply held beliefs.  

  2. Recognize + fight against desires for generality + closure

    As humans, we have strong desires to label things clearly so we can understand them. We want to put things into neat little boxes so that we can identify them. Likewise, we have a desire to get answers that are clear and final. We love closure. Those with open minds recognize that concepts like generalization and closure are alluring, but they aren't always useful. Open-minded people see these built in human desires and fight against them to seek truth rather than answers.  

  3. Accept + embrace the concept of ambivalence

    The concept of ambivalence, or having mixed feelings or contradictory ideas about something or someone, isn't always an easy one for people to grasp. As stated in #2, we want answers and clarity. We want to know that there is a conclusion or at least an explanation. Open-minded people realize that this isn't always the case, that there are often many situations in which feelings will be mixed, in which they might hold two contradicting ideas about something. Rather than resist this, open-minded people accept it and strive to embrace it. 

  4. Understand thoughts are warped + distorted

    All the thoughts we think are distorted in some way. We are influenced not only by our moods, cultures, stress-levels, surroundings, etc., but we're also limited by what we can humanly observe with our five senses. Open-minded people seek to recognize the ways in which their own thoughts (or the thoughts of others) might be warped, and factor those distortions into account when making decisions, taking action, or aligning themselves with a belief. 

  5. View open-mindedness as a skill requiring practice

    Open-minded people recognize that open-mindedness, like any worthwhile skill, requires practice. It's something that comes more easily to some (depending on how they were raised, what culture they come from, what kind of personality they have, etc.), but regardless of what skill level they started with, open-minded people know that they need to keep practicing to keep their open-mindedness ability sharp.  

  6. Create opportunities to rethink assumptions

    Finally, and perhaps most importantly, those with open minds give themselves opportunities to rethink assumptions and consider new perspectives. They recognize the limitations of their own minds and cultures, and they actively seek out sources that will help them explore new ways of thinking. They know that what they believed at one point might not still be true today, so they work to rethink about assumptions. In a world that makes it easy to surround yourself with what's familiar, open-minded people create opportunities for themselves to learn new ways of thinking and explore a variety of points of view. 

Staying open-minded is a skill, and a particularly challenging one to cultivate in an age when we're all being fed information, advertisements, articles, etc. that align with what we've already said we like. We're all in individual bubbles, tailored just for us, which is why we have to work even harder to keep our minds (and hearts!) open. 

If you consider yourself an open-minded person, what would you add to this list? If you struggle to keep an open mind, what would you like to learn more about to enhance that skill? Also, if you have any great stories about being (or struggling to be) open-minded, I'd love to hear them in the comments below! 

 

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You Are Somebody: Lessons from #MarchForOurLives


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Over the weekend, I (and over 800,000 others!) attended the #MarchForOurLives protest in DC, which is now being called the biggest single-day protest in DC's history. Though I wasn't there long (good ol' anxiety and post-surgery troubles kept me from making it all the way to center of the action), I was present long enough to feel awed and inspired by the sheer magnitude of people, the enthusiasm and determination of those marching, and the fact that all of this was taking place because those who went through a horrific, unimaginable experience decided to take action. 

Whether or not you support the cause, #MarchForOurLives is a powerful movement, a shining example of what can be done when people come together for a common goal. I saw people of all ages, races, genders, and orientations. I saw those with disabilities. I saw little babies and old ladies. I saw people loudly chanting with colorful signs, and people quietly standing on the sidelines in support. There are very few times in life that I've seen so many different kinds of people come together in one place, and that alone is uplifting. But there were a few other important life lessons that I picked up while in the city. Here are just a few of the things was inspired by at the March: 

 

COLLECTIVE CONNECTION

As I wrote above, one of the most inspiring aspects of the event was the astounding number of people, many of which had traveled much further than my 20 minute drive, gathered in one place for one cause. No matter how different these people were, all of them believed enough in one issue to make the effort to attend. And DC was just one of the many cities and towns around the world holding an event. I'm not one for group activities (I generally avoid them all costs), but there truly is something amazing about so many people supporting one single cause. Even I, the most anti-group person I know, was in awe of how it felt to be connected collectively to all of these strangers, both the ones standing around me and those standing up across the globe. 

 

INFORMED INSPIRATION

Of course, it's no surprise that the event was inspiring. The posters alone could keep me motivated for ages! And those speeches...wow. But the coolest part about it, for me, was taking in inspiration in the form of various types of information. From the statistics shown on the big screens to the personal stories bravely shared on stage to the hand-written signs held aloft, every aspect held a bit of information that led me to feel even more passionate and inspired by the cause. More people doesn't always mean more information (and it's important to remember that all information isn't accurate), but something about the way everything came together for the event made me feel not only more inspired, but also more informed as well. 

 

UNITED UNCERTAINTY

One of the most fascinating and aspirational aspects of the March was that, even with all of the voices and all of the people standing side by side, there's no guarantee that change will come. Everyone participating was, and still is, united in the uncertainty of potential change. We don't know if what we did will matter. We don't know what kind of difference it will make. And being united in that uncertainty is oddly life-affirming and powerful. Generally speaking, most of us don't know what will happen for sure in our lives. Part of being human is being uncertain. But to see so many people face an uncertainty head-on, to know they're facing an uphill battle and still choosing to fight, was such a poignant reminder that, when it comes down to it, we're all united in the uncertainty of what's to come. 

 

POSITIVE PARTICIPATION

While I'm sure the event wasn't without some issues, for the most part, it was hundreds of thousands of people coming together to take a positive, proactive action. The words spoken, the signs created, and even the songs played on the loudspeaker provided feelings of hope and optimism. Yes, there was pain and anger, too, but most of what I heard and saw was focused on motivation, inspiration, and a cultivate of ambition and hope. I've never before seen so many people, all in one place, participating in the same activity with the same goal in mind. Positive participation on this level is rare, and seeing it in real life is something I'll forever be inspired by. 

 

There were moments, over the past few weeks, when I thought I wouldn't go to the March. I wondered, as many others probably did, if it was really going to do anything. I wondered, selfishly, if it was worth the time and energy. But I'm so thankful I pushed my selfishness and doubts aside and went. There's something truly unforgettable about being surrounded by thousands of complete strangers who believe in a cause passionately. There's something truly magical about standing among all of those people and knowing that you're not the only one who, despite everything that's happened in the past, believes that change is possible. There is something powerful about being surrounded by people and realizing that, though you're unsure of if and when the change will come, you are somebody and you are standing up for something. 

 

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