If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that things can change in a heartbeat. Having our lives being abruptly flipped upside down – as many of us have – can trigger some serious anxiety, but it’s also a valuable lesson. We need to take care of ourselves mentally, emotionally and physically regardless of the changes happening around us. So if things have been feeling a little uncertain and stressful lately, try this writing exercise for anxiety. It might just help you gain some perspective.
We’re often going to encounter things we cannot change – like deadly pandemics, for example – and so LeNaya Smith Crawford, an adolescent, marriage, and family therapist specialising in trauma therapy, is urging people to change their mindsets instead. According to Popsugar, Crawford states that instead of desperately believing life will revert “back to normal” in 2021, we begin to embrace the fact that what we considered normal is no longer attainable. The normalcy we remember is an unrealistic expectation, which sets us up for disappointment as long as we wait for it.
Crawford believes that the areas in our lives which we have the least control over are the ones that cause us the most anxiety, but that writing can be a useful tool in addressing those areas. The act of writing allows us to analyse and compartmentalise the roots of our anxiety – and it’s not even that hard to do!
Crawford’s advice is to grab a piece of paper and a pen, and jot down all the things that are causing you anxiety, stress, or fear. Nothing is too big or too small to make it on to the list! Then, look over everything you’ve written and separate it into the things you can control – like the messy kitchen or a packed social calendar – and those you cant – like lockdown.
Look over your list again, paying close attention to all the things you can’t control. Honour and accept them, and let them go – stressing about them isn’t going to make them go away. Rather than putting energy into worrying about that which can’t be changed, divert that energy into addressing the things you can change, and formulate a few ways to take action.
9 times out of 10, says Crawford, the things that are causing us the most anxiety are things we have no control over. Actively channeling our energy into fixing the things we can control is guaranteed to reduce our anxiety – far more than dwelling on what we can’t control would! Of course, letting go of the anxiety triggers we can’t control is easier said than done, identifying them is the first step on that journey.
Another way to find perspective in trying times is to write a daily gratitude list. We’ve mentioned this practice on the Essential Millennial before, but it warrants a second shout out because it really does work. We as human beings have the tendency to see the darkness before we do the light. The pull of the negative is so strong, and so contagious, that it’s often much easier to feel bogged down by a situation than to see the silver linings it brings.
In writing a list of things we’re grateful for every day, we can reprogram our brains to identify the positive in every situation a lot faster, and in so doing, we become that much stronger in our fight against anxiety and worry. Like any exercise, it takes practice to get stronger – don’t feel discouraged!
This year has been a heavy one, and it’s unlikely to miraculously get better as we creep towards the end of 2020 and the start of 2021. Rather than sulking and waiting for things to turn around on their own, putting in a little effort to change our perspectives can take us a long way on our journey to wellbeing and happiness in general.
We challenge all our readers who’ve been struggling with negative thoughts and worry through this difficult period to try one of these writing activities for anxiety. Leave us a comment and let us know how they work for you!