This 30-Second Trick Will Do Wonders for Your Anxiety

We’ve written plenty about anxiety — the body’s physical response to a real or perceived threat — in the past. We’ve covered how you can use journalling to lessen its symptoms. Sleeping with a weighted blanket can help, too. Even holding an ice cube for as long as you can help stop pesky worrying thoughts.

But one powerful way to tackle anxiety we haven’t written about yet, which goes completely against what’s above, is to do nothing. Yep, the idea is to try to not fight its symptoms to make yourself feel better. Before you click away, let us explain.

The strategy was outlined by Michael Stein Psy.D in the Psychology Today article Anxiety and the Art of Doing Nothing. In the article, Stein explains that when you’re feeling anxious, your brain is telling you that you’re in immediate danger and therefore need to act right away. The resulting anxious feeling is uncomfortable, and so we try to do something to make ourselves feel better about it.

Related: 5 Ways to Use Journaling for Anxiety, According to a Psychotherapist

Related: I’ve Been Sober for a Year — Here’s What It Did for My Anxiety

In the long-term, though, when you keep doing something about anxiety, your brain soon learns that the thing it thought was dangerous really is dangerous. It thinks the only reason you survived ‘the attack’ was because your brain correctly released anxious feelings, forcing you to take action.

So, the next time you encounter an anxiety-provoking situation, your brain then thinks: “I know how to make it all better because what we’ve done before has worked!”.

In a nutshell: when you keep attending to the anxiety, your brain assumes the situation is important and that it should be brought to your attention. In the long run, it’ll keep bringing it to your attention.

“The best thing to do when you feel anxious is to nothing at all about the anxiety and the perceived danger,” writes Stein. “Instead, move on with whatever you are actually doing with your time right now in this moment. Don’t even give the anxiety the time of day. Be dismissive toward it.”

Related: ‘It Reduces My Anxiety’: Kmart’s Weighted Blanket Could Give You a Better Night’s Sleep

Related: Can Ear Seeds Help Your Insomnia and Anxiety?

Stein says that although he knows it’s hard to do in practice, if you can try to do it consistently, it will eventually train your brain to filter out the anxiety noise. Hey, it’s at least worth trying out for awhile to see what happens when you keep bringing yourself back to the present moment.

“Redirect your attention and mental effort towards that rather than anxiety,” he writes. “Over time, if you do this consistently, your brain will start to filter the anxious content out.”

If you or anyone you know is struggling and needs support, call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or Lifeline on 13 11 14, both of which provide trained counsellors you can talk with 24/7. You can also speak with someone confidentially at Headspace by calling 1800 650 890 or chat online here. If you are in immediate danger, call 000.

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