To Reduce Anxiety, Listen to Anxiety with a Quiet Mind
Anxiety is loud and obnoxious; to reduce anxiety, shut up and listen with a quiet mind. Listen? Why on earth would we want to listen to anxiety? After all, it's a bully that messes with our minds, bodies, and very lives. As true as that may be and as much as we want anxiety to leave us alone, arguing back or even agreeing with it doesn't make it disappear. Instead, when you shut up and listen with a quiet mind, you can reduce anxiety.
Think of a time when you witnessed an argument or were involved in one yourself. When arguments get heated, people feel an increasing need to be heard. Often, they shout. So the other person shouts. So they each shout louder. The result is that no one listens, and often nothing changes in a positive way.
If We Don't Shut Up and Listen with a Quiet Mind, We Can't Reduce Anxiety
Anxiety is far from quiet. It shouts at us, seemingly without stopping. Some common themes that anxiety screams, be it generalized anxiety, social anxiety, panic disorder, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, include:
- You can't do this;
- You're going to fail;
- What if ____(fill in the blank with pretty much any disaster imaginable);
- People are judging you, and they don't like you;
- Be afraid and live in fear and anxiety because dangers lurk;
- Any number of obsessive thoughts that bounce forcefully around your mind;
- You can't go out because you're going to have an embarrassing panic attack that traps you.
When anxiety screams such statements at us, frequently our natural reaction is not to shut up and listen with a quiet mind but to shout back--in agreement. The louder anxiety grows, the louder our response becomes. When anxiety shouts, "You can't do this," for example, we shout back countless reasons why we indeed cannot do this. However, shouting back in agreement does not reduce anxiety.
Whom Do We Listen to With a Quiet Mind When We Shut Up to Reduce Anxiety?
With all of the shouting going on, between anxiety shouting horrible things at us and us shouting back (whether we're agreeing with it or telling anxiety to knock it off), there's not much listening going on. We can't hear reality.
What is the reality, anyway, and to whom can we listen to discover it? The reality is that anxiety is lying in order to maintain control. To reduce our anxiety, we need to stop shouting back, to just shut up and listen with a quiet mind to ourselves and to others who know us well.
It's common for people living with anxiety to turn against themselves by shouting in agreement with anxiety. Whenever a flicker of hope flashes or a spark of self-belief ignites, anxiety and the person's own inner critic speak up and shout right over the top of the healthy beliefs. Instead of adding to the commotion, reduce the power of anxiety by listening to that small voice of hope deep within. Rather than shouting with the anxiety, whisper along with the voices of hope deep inside you.
Listen, too, to what others in your life tell you. "Yes-butting" is a common phenomenon among people experiencing anxiety. Anytime someone gives a compliment or words of encouragement, those of us living with anxiety shouting at us often have a difficult time listening to the positive talk from a friend or family member. They might say, "You are a fun person to be around, and people will be glad you're at the party." We say, "Yes, but I'm not fun enough and people will be disappointed," and other such things affirming that we're listening more to our anxiety than we are to others.
An Important Step in Reducing Anxiety Is to Shut Up and Listen with a Quiet Mind
Anxiety tries to shout over reality, making it so the only thing we hear is what anxiety is telling us. While not easy at first, it is possible to shut up, quiet our mind, and listen.
- Become still. Find a comfortable position to relax into. Alternately, if sitting or lying still is difficult, find a place where you can walk slowly and pay attention to what you see, hear, feel, smell, and perhaps taste.
- Allow anxious thoughts to come, but remain still and quiet. Don't attend to them. Agreeing with them and arguing with them both make them louder and stronger. Instead, let them float by without focusing on them.
- Softly think of positive things while you remain still with a quiet mind. Think of things big and small that you love, things for which you are grateful, happy memories, dreams for the future, things you love about right now. Over time, doing this becomes a gag over anxiety's loud mouth.
When we refuse to engage with our anxiety, when we become still and have a quiet mind, when we simply shut up, we begin to reduce anxiety.
Peterson, T. (2015, July 16). To Reduce Anxiety, Listen to Anxiety with a Quiet Mind, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, September 27 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2015/07/to-reduce-anxiety-shut-up-and-listen-with-a-quiet-mind
Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC
I want to share this page with others but my own feelings (aka anxiety) prohibit it me so due to the amazing amount of ads on this page.
However, the entire article has easily been the most informative thing I have read. I plan on doing what was stated and try and turn it into a personal "power". Thank you putting anxiety in such great words.
Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I'm glad that this is something you will use!
Yoga, even the most simple Yoga poses and exercises, can help quiet the mind. Another way is through the practice of Zen meditation. It takes discipline, of course, but that is what one really needs to silence the mind form all sorts of noise; Discipline.
Thank you for sharing more ways to quiet the mind. These are indeed very effective!