You woke up an hour late, just when you have that important business meeting this morning. In the bathroom you discover that you’ve run out of toothpaste and your only clean shirt has a bad crease in it running right through the middle. You burn the toast, drop the sugar container and burn your tongue on the boiling hot coffee. All your alarm bells are ringing and anxiety rushes through your veins like a mad, unstoppable current. With all the ingredients for a disastrous recipe at hand, how to stay cool in the midst of an erupting volcano of worries and anxieties? Here are eight tips.
1. Use common sense.
Ask yourself just one question: is worry going to help you even one bit in sorting out the chaos you’ve just landed into? No. An unmistakable no. On the contrary, worrying about the situation will only make things worse. And you thought it couldn’t possible get worse? Wrong again. So don’t worry. Be happy.
2. Take a few deep breaths.
When anxiety hits you your breathing becomes shallow, irregular and restless. You’ll be amazed how breathing in deeply, fully and calmly will restore your peace of mind. It may come as no surprise that during our deep sleep our breathing is always deep and completely relaxed. Practise belly-breathing as often as possible, also during stress-free hours.
3. Better stay away from that cup of coffee!
Too much caffeine overstimulates the nerves, making you more susceptible to anxiety. Green and black tea also contains caffeine. Go for a tasty fruit juice or herbal tea instead. Your nervous system will be grateful.
4. Think of the ocean.
Strange as this piece of advice may sound, when you think of something vast and limitless, like a vast body of water, your mind becomes relaxed and peaceful. Anxiety traps your mind in a tiny little room and binds it there. That’s why you feel like you’re suffocating. Free your mind again. Make it wide, broad and vast. Like Mark Twain said, “Drag your thoughts away from your troubles… by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it.”
5. Throw Out Worries
Make a special ‘worry-box’ for your long-term worries and anxieties – just a plain old shoebox on which you write the word ‘WORRIES’. Write down all those worries and anxieties of yours on pieces of paper and drop them in the worry-box. Then don’t think about them again for a full two weeks. At the end of those two weeks collect all your worries again and read them over. To your wide surprise you’ll find that most, if not all of them, will have disappeared. Magic? Nah, just goes to show that worries are the flimsy products of your mind and don’t last very long if you don’t feed them with your attention. Or as somebody once said: “Troubles are a lot like people – they grow bigger if you nurse them.”
6. Structure your days.
Often worry assails us when we don’t have a sense of direction or feel that we are wasting time. You can have a constant sense of direction if early in the morning you write down your goals for the day. Then start working on them one by one. Don’t feel upset if you cannot finish all of them – there’s always another day for that. At the end of the day if you see you have fulfilled one or two or three or four of those goals you will be the happiest person. And you stayed worry-free!
7. Don’t Feel Indispensable
As an anonymous wise person once said, “For peace of mind, resign as general manager of the universe.” There is often too much self-styled responsibility in our lives, so we start worrying about things we are not really responsible for. Let God figure those ones out. You just take care of your own natural duties (you probably know what they are) and don’t make up too many new ones. Sri Chinmoy sums it up quite nicely: “We can get peace of mind if we can consciously feel that we are not important, we are not indispensable. The moment we can sincerely feel that we are not indispensable, we will not have to go anywhere to get peace, for peace will immediately come to us.”
This is probably the best piece of advice if you really want to throw worry out of your life once and for all. Silence your mind and illumine your worries with the light from within. Through regular meditation practice you can transform your anxiety into peace of mind. Then it will never come back to taunt you again. I promise.
Abhinabha Tangerman is a freelance writer and meditation instructor from The Netherlands. He studies meditation with spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy and gives regular meditation classes in his home town of The Hague.