On my shelf sits a tattered and worn copy of one of my favorite books: The Foot Book by Dr. Seuss. As a child, I loved the rhythm of the opposites, “Left foot, left foot, right foot, right. Feet in the morning, feet at night.” It just rolls off of your tongue. I almost sing it when I read aloud.
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve used this exact copy as part of presentations and lessons, each time receiving quizzical stares from the audience as I stepped to the front of the room with this well-loved children’s book.
“What is Tammy doing with that book?”
“Um, I’m a grown-up. Why is there a children’s book here?”
“Please tell me she isn’t going to read to me.”
Today, you are spared. I won’t be reading Dr. Seuss to you (though I do recommend curling up with a good children’s book every now and then to help you refocus on what’s important in life). But I will be sharing with you how this book on opposites can actually help your anxiety.
Let me set it up for you:
Emily nervously fiddled with her hair. Her insides were twisting and her legs were squirming in the chair at work. It was hard to focus. She didn’t want to be there. Her mind was 30 miles away and she just wanted to be home, in her yoga pants, where she could pace, cry, text, or do whatever to try to make the anxiety stop.
Can you relate to Emily at all? Why is it that when you are one place, your mind and body want to be somewhere else? Often, when you feel one way at such an in-depth level, you crave doing the exact opposite as a way to relieve what you are experiencing.
This is especially true when it comes to anxiety. When your body tenses, you crave being at ease and relaxed.
When you think that there is no hope, all you want is one glimmer, however tiny it may be, to help encourage you.
When your mind jumps to one particular conclusion (one that is usually inaccurate), you would do anything for something factual to relieve that painful thought.
When you don’t hear back from someone, all you want is some form of communication- from a like on Facebook, to a text, or better yet, a hug.
When You are Feeling Anxious- Do the Opposite
Anxiety is actually a powerful tool that can help guide you towards the things that will help you. Often, feeling nervous and on edge just makes you want to retreat or to keep doing things that don’t lead to relaxation and comfort. So the next time you’re feeling anxious, I want you to do the opposite:
- Not getting a reply back? Think of someone you haven’t replied to, and reply back to them. This will help you to see that often, not replying back has nothing to do with them not liking you, but with the time demands in your life. You can’t do it all. So reflect on the reasons why you forgot to hit “send” and feel some relief that it’s not personal.
- Unable to concentrate on what’s in front of you? Then stop sitting and move! If you’re at work, go to the bathroom. Go refill your water bottle. If you’re at home, take a walk outside to the trash can or go put away that laundry. Moving helps to get different parts of your brain activated and awakened, helping to quiet down those worry regions that aren’t grounded in anything but fear.
- Feeling a tad bit nauseous? Anxiety can often give you a weird feeling in the back of your throat or in your stomach, making you avoid eating. Try nibbling on something that’s salty or that has protein for starters. It’s amazing what an empty digestive system can do throughout your body.
- Doubting what you know to be true? That’s one of anxiety’s most powerful and crippling devices. Make a list of what you know is real. It doesn’t matter how simple or nitty gritty the list is. Remember: in the dead of winter, everyone wonders if it will ever get warm again. So it’s OK to list “summer will come and it will get warm eventually.” Nothing is too trivial to put on the list.
As simple as these ideas may sound, you’ll be amazed at how much of an impact they can make on your anxiety. So the next time worry takes over, try doing something a little different to feel completely opposite of how you’re feeling!
If you’d like to learn more techniques to help soothe your worries, sign up for the live, virtual program “No More Stinking Thinking: Eliminating the Doubt & Fear to Let Anxiety Work for You” that starts this week!