You’ve probably heard that reinventing any area of your life comes down to visualizing what kind of life you would like to create, making a plan, and taking action. I don’t disagree. But, as simple as it sounds, reinventing your entire life from scratch is an overwhelming process.
And if you’re considering a life reinvention, you're probably not all that happy with the way your life is going right now. Translation: If you're feeling overwhelmed and desperate for a change, trying to imagine your dream life and then laying out the action steps to get there might not do a whole lot to make you feel less anxious or overwrought.
So, I'm giving you permission not to do that.
Got it? You don’t need to have a 10-year plan in order to start changing your life. Instead, how about starting with a shift in your mindset? If you spend a few minutes a day reorienting your thoughts, the clarity and direction you seek will often materialize, seemingly effortlessly.
Here are three secrets to shifting your mindset that take two minutes or less.
1. Recognize anxiety as your teacher.
As you move through your day, you may find anxiety, panic, or just stressful thoughts popping up out of nowhere. Don't let it derail you. Anxiety can be a brilliant teacher if you allow it to be.
Most of us who experience anxiety and panic on a regular basis want to get rid of it—cure ourselves of it—or, at least, find a way to ignore it. We imagine a life without anxiety—a "normal" life. In our minds, it's utopia. If only we could find the perfect drug or supplement, the best technique or therapist, then we would be "fixed." Then we would be content. I spent around 15 years of my life practically killing myself to accomplish this goal.
What we don’t realize is that by thinking this way, we often set ourselves up for frustration or failure. I'd like to offer a different approach. I recommend you embrace your anxiety. Decide to thrive with your anxiety or panic, not in spite of it.
Stick with me here. I realize this seems ridiculous. Um, who would choose to partner with their anxiety? And how do you even do that? But I've come to see this as one of the most profound acts of self-care and self-love that we can perform.
Recently, while meditating, I was struck with the idea that anxiety and panic, at some level, may be a part of my experience for the rest of my life, and I may have been looking at this "disorder" from the wrong perspective all these years. I realized my panic attacks and general anxiety have been, at times, my only guide. How many times have I felt anxiety or panic arise for what felt like no reason, only to later realize the situation I was in was not healthy for me? I needed to begin treating anxiety as a message from my higher self.
Our bodies are continually sending us signals about what we need. We just have to learn to listen. If we tune into our bodies, we will realize they can provide intuition regarding our surroundings, our situations, and our needs. The simple act of recognizing that your anxiety is here to help you will shift your relationship to it and empower you in any situation.
2. Question stressful thoughts.
Our experiences are defined by our perception. Our perspective, for better or for worse, affects all areas of our lives. Have you ever felt totally at peace only to have an unpleasant thought suddenly trigger a shift? Your environment doesn't have to change. Nothing traumatic or dramatic needs to happen in order for us to feel dejected or dissatisfied. It began with a thought. We believed that thought and then became emotionally connected to that thought. Our minds create our reality.
But how do you take back control when this happens? Sometimes, thoughts arise before you even have a chance to realize what's happening. But here's the thing—just because a thought enters your mind doesn't mean you should believe it.
So, next time you have a thought along the lines of, "I’m not good enough," "She hates me," or "They shouldn’t be doing this to me," I recommend asking yourself two questions, outlined by Byron Katie in her book Loving What Is:
- Is it true?
- Can I absolutely know it is true?
Sometimes, this is all it takes to shift your perspective and wrestle back control from your toxic thoughts.
It has taken me over a decade of personal and spiritual development to realize that the phrase "change your thinking, change your life" doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be fully in control of your mind. Most of us aren’t able to monitor or control every thought in our heads. Just remember—you don’t have to believe everything you think. Once I realized that my thoughts are not necessarily what I believe, feel, or want to take action on—and that that is perfectly OK—I felt truly liberated.
3. Move your body and your breath.
You know this, but it bears repeating—you can shift your mindset in a flash just using your body and your breath. But you don't need to hit an hourlong yoga class or spend 45 minutes in lotus pose. Those will definitely help, but just a few minutes of simple stretching and breathing can get your nervous system back to baseline.
After 14 years of practicing and studying yoga, I have found a few favorite postures for calming anxiety. The entire series will take you more than two minutes, but you can always choose one posture and set a timer for 120 seconds.
As far as breathing techniques, I recommend the 4-7-8 breath and the "breath of fire," or Kapalabhati breathing technique. Both of these breathing techniques help communicate to your body that it's safe to "rest and digest" by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system.
Once you embrace anxiety, you'll be better prepared to tackle whatever you decide to pursue. Just remember that you have the power to choose what you believe.