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  • Writer's picturelarahammock

4 Ways to Untangle Your Anxious Thoughts

We all get stuck in our heads sometimes. If you are prone to ruminating, this happens more frequently than you would like. Here’s my visual for how that looks in your head:

What a mess. You think and think and think and yet you never seems to feel better or any closer to resolution. In fact, the more you ruminate, the more stuck you feel. This thinking is based on a mental health graphic that I saw about a year ago, which I’ll cite properly if I can figure out where I saw it!

The thing with anxiety is — it needs to MOVE to untangle. We make the mistake of going round and round and round with our thoughts rather than attempting to move them. Just like a tangled snarl of yarn, we need to pull at it to create movement and space in order to begin to untangle it. Here are 4 ways to actually move your thoughts to help pull at that anxiety snarl:

  • Move — Move your body — walk, run, do jumping jacks, dance in place, run up and down stairs — whatever it is that you like to do to get your body moving, do it! Anxiety shows up in our bodies as pent up tension and coiled energy, so start to metabolize that energy through any kind of movement. The nice thing about exercise is that even when you aren’t particularly stressed, by exercising regularly, you are creating a healthier internal environment to tolerate whatever stress comes your way.

  • Talk — The next way to move anxiety is by talking out loud. Talk to a friend, talk to your dog, talk to your therapist, talk to yourself. Say all of the things that are in your head in a way that acknowledges your anxiety and accepts that you are feeling this way. You want to move those thoughts from your head out into the ether so that they can, at least for the moment, float away. This is why talk therapy works! Saying it out loud helps to move your anxiety.

  • Write — The third way to move anxiety is by writing your thoughts down. I know that typical journaling of the “Dear, Diary” variety doesn’t work for everyone, but there are lots of ways to get your thoughts down on paper. One way is a method I learned from the YouTube channel The Crappy Childhood Fairy. Each sentence that you write begins with “I fear . . .” Or — if you have some resentments — start with “I resent ______, because I fear . . . “ This process helps to acknowledge your thoughts, accept that they are happening, and — most importantly — move them from your head to the paper. Any way that you do it, writing your thoughts moves them out of your head.

  • Imagine/Nature — The final way to move your thoughts is by visualizing them moving — literally. Imagine that each of your thoughts can be put on a cloud that floats through your mind and away into the distance. Or that you are next to a stream and can place each thought onto a leaf that then floats down the river. You can use any imagery that you want, but it has to move — so waves, rivers, cars going by, a conveyer belt — any of these can be good visualizations. This method works well when you can’t physically move, talk with someone, or write things down. All you need is your imagination to allow your thoughts to move right out of your mind. Finally, actually being in nature has the impact of releasing your thoughts even if you aren’t focusing on them, so get outside to imagine, write, chat, or walk and get double the benefit.

Each of these methods serves to use movement and space to begin to untangle a messy snarl of anxious thoughts. Let me know what you think. Comments are always appreciated!

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