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Easy Brain Exercises That Lead to a Less Anxious Life

Nadia Hayes, author of the journal Choose Calm, discusses different strategies for managing anxiety and exercises for confronting stress head-on. 

By
Nadia Hayes
choose calm book cover

Nadia Hayes is a wellness coach in the Houston area. She is also the author of "One Poem a Day" and "One Drawing a Day." Here, she discusses some of the key points in her book "Choose Calm," giving readers tips for living a stress-free life. 

Anxiety is the knot of worry that we can’t seem to unravel, the fear that builds when we lose control of a situation, and the panicked sense that there is an avalanche of danger at our heels. We can tell ourselves to relax, but figuring out how to physically and mentally unwind is a whole other matter. Relaxation feels grossly at odds with a world that seems to be passing by at warp speed. Most of us are barreling through our day trying to accomplish as much as possible in the time allotted. Choose Calm is a step in a new direction. It’s a tool you can use when you’re just not sure how to begin living better; healthier; and happier. Journaling can help you work through this modern-day conflict where outer chaos is at odds with the quest for inner calm. Each page presents a thought-provoking prompt or an inspiring quote that urges you to stop, reflect, and change your approach—or at least be honest about the effectiveness of your current strategies for managing stress and anxiety.

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How do we choose calm? When we are feeling stressed, we often think we need to get rid of our anxiety or disassociate from it. We get a massage, grab a stiff drink, or tuck ourselves into bed early to escape the feeling. While that may help temporarily, most of us will find that we emerge on the other side with the same load of stress. I would encourage anyone who’s anxious to take the time to get to know their anxiety better. Therapists and mindfulness practitioners advise us to name our feelings so that we don’t confuse them for facts. Are you really going to do horribly on that presentation at work, or is your anxiety warping the fact that you are completely ready and equipped to succeed? It isn’t until we understand anxiety as a lack of confidence in ourselves that we can begin to grapple with it, pin it down, and declare victory over it.

Many of the exercises in Choose Calm ask you to confront your anxiety openly and honestly so that it no longer controls you. The whole process of journaling is about naming and accepting all of your feelings (even the bad ones) in order to work your way through to the other side. When you aren’t afraid to feel anxious and let that dark shadow of a feeling pass overhead like a storm cloud, you’re one step closer to joy.

It isn’t until we understand anxiety as a lack of confidence in ourselves that we can begin to grapple with it, pin it down, and declare victory over it.

Everyone has a different method for choosing calm. My life balance and your life balance might look very different, but each of us should be working toward creating it. Journaling lets you personalize and choose a formula or a process that works for you. Some of the strategies you can use to work through anxiety include visualization, meditation, mindful living, thinking honestly about your failures and successes, setting realistic expectations for yourself, adding positive self-talk and rituals to your daily routine, using humor to lighten your load, creating a support network of friends and family, and immersing yourself in nature and art. Be open to new approaches for confronting everyday anxiety and in time you will free yourself from its tight grip. Flag the methods that work for you and stop to use them whenever you need to address that panicked feeling. Better yet, share the exercises in this book with others who are working toward the same goal (because there are a lot of us out there fighting the same fight).

Find encouragement in knowing that people can change how they think. Over time, with small daily reminders to help them let go, anyone can lift the weight of anxiety. Feeling calm, centered, and relaxed isn’t just something to wish for; it’s a choice we can make every day.

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