How To Rewire An Anxious Brain
Anxiety, no matter what kind or how severe or frequent it is experienced, is an unpleasant emotional state that can affect the quality of one’s day-to-day life in more ways than often realized.
It can occur out of the blue due to sudden bad news, out of apprehension for an upcoming event and its outcome, or due to something that happened recently based on what we did or how we performed.
In any case, anxiety should not be ignored. Seeking help for anxiety (professional or not) is always recommended.
But it is also possible to learn ways to handle anxiety so that it is better dealt with and/or avoided altogether.
So, if you experience anxiety on any level – especially if your anxiety is frequent or long-term – keep reading as this guide offers the most useful ways on how you can rewire an anxious brain.
Focus On The Present
Anxiety is typically linked to the nervous uncertainty of a future event or a recent event that has us nervous about something we did/said or how we performed.
Therefore, one way you can rewire your brain to eliminate feelings of anxiety is by focusing on the present as much as possible.
This is easier said than done, but whether anxiety is involved or not, it is always beneficial to let go of the past and not let things that are yet to happen affect our current quality of life.
Whenever you feel anxious, try to focus on what’s happening now – the sounds, sensations, small moments, and things that you are currently enjoying.
Find Peace Through Meditation
Practicing meditation is another method to rewire your brain and the way you acknowledge and perceive your emotions.
Meditation is versatile and can be done in any way that you find beneficial.
Either way, it is done by closing your eyes and blocking out the world around you to focus on your breathing, current sensations, and emotions/thoughts.
You can find peace from anxiety through acceptance of your emotions and thoughts, or by envisaging them as a separate entity that is not part of you, or has no control over you.
Anxiety can result from overthinking, and it is common to overthink when we are inactive and not doing anything.
Due to this, when you feel anxiety coming, take action by doing something to keep yourself busy.
This can be work, a hobby, watching a movie, or even taking a walk.
The aim is to distract yourself through activity, which can stop feelings of anxiety from taking over the brain.
The school of stoicism is an Ancient Greek philosophy made famous by philosophers Zeno and Seneca.
It is the practice of accepting the good with the bad, realizing what is in our control, and recognizing that life is a series of ups and downs that benefit one another, much like Yin and Yang.
You can rewire your brain in times of anxiety by recognizing what is in your control, as things that are physically out of your control are not worth worrying over.
On the other hand, if something is in your control to fix, then the same applies: it is not worth worrying about.
At the same time, we can only fully appreciate the good by experiencing the bad.
So, if you are feeling anxious, recognize that it is a passing phase with heightened feelings of joy waiting for you on the other side.
Recognize Your Strengths
Anxiety tends to occur with feelings of self-doubt and low confidence in relation to how we will perform and what the outcome of a certain event will be.
This makes it important to always recognize and remind ourselves of our strengths.
We all have strengths and achievements and we should never forget that.
It is worth keeping a mental list of these, or even writing them down to remind ourselves of them.
Recognizing strengths can help to build up confidence.
And remembering your past achievements are things that you can draw strength from in difficult times.
There is nothing wrong taking a break or stepping back from your responsibilities when your mental health is suffering due to anxiety.
We all need breaks and time to do what we enjoy. And if this will keep anxiety at bay, it is worth doing.
Taking a break can mean taking time off work, traveling or taking a vacation, or simply taking some time to focus on yourself and what you enjoy doing for a short period.
Incorporate these things around your responsibilities to find a balance that reduces bouts of anxiety.
Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle
It goes without saying that anxiety is a mental state, so it’s important that we nurture and take care of the mind through every way possible.
This includes leading a healthy lifestyle, which has a direct effect on mental health.
Eating healthily, maintaining an active lifestyle, socializing, and getting enough sleep can reduce feelings of anxiety and depression overall.
All of these can help to boost and balance chemical reactions in the brain, such as levels of serotonin and dopamine, which have direct effects on our mood.
So, if you struggle with frequent anxiety, try to adopt a healthy lifestyle as a means to rewire your brain and the way it functions.
Build Confidence Through Application
Oftentimes, anxiety occurs due to the fear or nervousness of something we have to do or are scared of doing.
It may be comforting to find ways to avoid a difficult task or situation, but we can also build confidence by forcing ourselves to face it head-on.
You might be feeling anxious due to an upcoming phone call, exam, date, job interview, or social situation.
Whichever it is, forcing yourself to face it can be a means to build confidence and not feel anxious about it once you have done it – successfully or not.
In fact, this is an activity that is often linked to cognitive behavioral therapy.
By simply experiencing the situation over and over, it becomes easier and less nerve-wracking than initially thought.
As a result, situations, activities, or tasks that once made us uncomfortable become comfortable.
The above are just a few methods for rewiring an anxious brain.
Whether you find that one, or several methods, work for you, we hope there was at least one method that resonated with you to reduce your anxiety and take control of your mind.
In any case, anxiety should never be dealt with alone.
If you feel you need outside help or guidance, make sure to reach out and open up to a close friend or family member, seek professional help, or discuss your experiences in safe, anonymous online forums or groups.
Author: Michelle Landeros, LMFT
Michelle Landeros is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist (LMFT). She is passionate about helping individuals, couples and families thrive.
Last updated: September 24, 2023