In my experience it is way, way too easy to get way too serious when we’re fighting anxiety. No big surprise here – when you’re constantly holding worry and fear at arm’s length the world can get kinda grey around the edges. We’re tired, and we’re grumpy, and we’re testy, and we just want it to STOP!

And, of course, Flight or Fight is nipping at our heels – we really SHOULD do something about this fear RIGHT NOW, or… something will happen – something bad – vague, unclear, but scary, therefore bad.

How does a body go about getting a break from that?

One Break, Comin’ Up…

1) Practice the deep breathing/full-body stretching I’ve advocated at other points in this blog. (References HERE) NOTHING is so serious (unless the house really is on fire or you really are about to drive off a bridge) that you can’t take 5 minutes and deliberately relax your body. I wonder some days how much better off we’d be as a race if did only this one thing.

Tension builds up in the body. It is completely natural. The chemicals that get us prepped for Flight or Fight are toxic in the long term – we need to get that stuff flushed out of our system. Deep breathing, full-body stretching, pilates, yoga – anything that gets us both stretching muscles and slowing down can only help us.

These won’t banish anxiety by themselves, not usually -but they are a great way to get a break –

2) Physical movement – yes, that dreaded word, EXERCISE. Too many of us see this word and envision a 4-hour run or lifting our body weight in iron at the gym. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about TAKING A WALK.

One of the challenges of the modern age is that we spend an enormous amount of time (many of us) sitting on our butts staring at computers or working at a desk. This just in: we didn’t evolve for computers or desks. We evolved for MOVEMENT. This may sound odd, but there were no computers until about 70 years ago. I know – shocking, right? 🙂

Physical movement does a couple of things – it gets our blood flowing (like stretching, but even better), and pulls us into the present moment – where we are now, as opposed to up in the hypothetical, scary future. Both these results help us get a break from the constant worrying and fretting and being afraid.

You’re not limited to walks. Ride a bike. Go for a hike. Go swimming. Dance in your living room (after you pull the blinds – neighbors get SO weird sometimes when they see people trying to be healthy.) DON’T think you have to set any records. DON’T worry if you don’t look like a fitness model. Just MOVE.

And there’s no limit to how often you can do this, not really. Take a 5-minute walk every hour if you’re stuck at a desk. Take a 15-minute walk at lunch. It can only do you good. One break, comin’ up… it won’t by itself usually break the power of anxiety over our thinking – but it can give us some breathing room.

3) Occupy your thinking/distract yourself. Distraction gets a bad name sometimes, and it certainly isn’t a way to overcome anxiety by itself. Distraction taken too far becomes “medicating” – i.e., seeking a way to avoid all the time the anxiety and fear we carry around, rather than take it on.

But distraction can be a great way to get a breather. Lose yourself in a book, movie, project, hobby, meal-making, painting, you name it – but pull your focus from your obsessive thinking. This isn’t a fix – it’s a mini-vacation from anxiety and worry.

4) Find reasons to laugh! Sometimes nothing works better than something funny, silly, light, to pull us out of everything-is-serious-I-can’t-ever-ease-up mode. TV Comedy, YouTube videos, movies, whatever works for you. Play silly group games. Have some fun with your kids, even when your worries are SCREAMING at you that you need to sit and worry about stuff.

Your worries are not going anyplace. They’ll be there when you get back. But that’s precisely the point: WORRYING about them isn’t taking you anywhere. Take a small worry vacation, then, when you come back, start UNPACKING your fears, rather than worrying about them.