How Shifting Your Attention Can Be the Cure for Anxiety

“Anxiety was born in the very same moment as mankind. And since we will never be able to master it, we will have to learn to live with it—just as we have learned to live with storms.” ~Paulo Coelho

“Am I focusing too much on my anxiety?”

As I was suffering from anxiety, this very question became a heavy burden on my thoughts. I was playing professional baseball at the time, and I just couldn’t seem to free myself from the constant and unending worrisome thoughts racing through my head.

These thoughts were mainly about how I would play the next game. How my teammates thought of me and whether or not they considered me a valuable member of the team. Sometimes I thought about my reasons for playing baseball, and how I wasted my time.

These worries only led to more thoughts that centered around the same things, which in turn created a vicious cycle.

It wasn’t the first time that I was aware of the existence anxiety in my daily life. It has been something I’ve dealt with for as long as I can remember.

My college experience included working with a psychologist to help me cope with the anxiety that I experienced around baseball.

My self-talk was addressed and he created a routine for me that I could stick to the night before. His focus was also on the process. Focusing on the process rather than the result is an effective way to lower anxiety.

After completing a master’s in psychology and beginning work as a mental performance coach, I felt as though I had a solid understanding of how to cope with anxiety. It was then, that I found myself back in the grip of anxiety.

The truth is that anxiety can still sneak into your daily life, regardless of how hard you work and how strong your mind may be. Those pesky worries will eventually creep into your mind.

How long those thoughts are allowed to stay is what matters. And what’s interesting is, sometimes the more we try to rid ourselves of anxiety, the more we invite it to stay.

This is my mistake, which led to me facing great difficulties after years of learning and work.

Energy flows wherever attention goes

This saying is something you may have heard before.

I’ve heard different interpretations of its meaning, but one I really resonate with is, wherever we place our attention will be amplified.

It means that the more you focus on your anxiety, the stronger it will be.

The best way to avoid anxiety is to relax. NotFeel anxious.

After realizing that I was paying too much attention to my anxiety, I decided what I needed to do instead. The decision I made involved the same techniques I’m going to show you later in the article.

Here’s a quick overview of why so many people focus on anxiety.

Can’t I Just Will It Away?

I’m the first to admit to having fallen into this type of thinking in the past.

Every time I became anxious in the lead up to a game or experienced anxiety throughout my day, it was my natural instinct to push out my anxiety.

However, this only made matters worse. The anxiety grew within me the more I attempted to relieve it.

Why do we believe that we can get rid of our anxiety by focusing on it instead?

It is because we are anxious. Are you aware of how difficult it can be to forget about something? Particularly when the emotion that has caught your attention is anxiety.

The easiest way to deal with anxiety is to be anxious and then focus your efforts on getting rid of the anxiety. A second reason anxiety can be scary is that it’s a frightening feeling. It is difficult to control your thoughts, which can cause a feeling of fear and dizziness.

We try to eliminate it as soon as possible. It is safer to focus on the anxiety instead of focusing on the terribly painful feelings and hope that the anxiety will disappear.

As I said before, too much anxiety can only make it worse. We can do better. It all comes down to attention and shifting our attention.

You can shift your attention by using the power of shifting

A shift in our focus is a great way to improve your mental health. We know that where our attention goes will affect how our energy flows.

It became obvious to me, when I asked myself if I was too focused on my anxiety, that it was obsessing about why it happened, how it got rid of, and where I had it come from.

Then, instead of paying attention to what I want to feel, I switched to a different approach. It meant that I focused on how to feel happy, confident, and relaxed.

Is there a major difference? Understanding that everything is heightened based on how much attention we give it, you realize it’s only hurting you further to focus on what you don’t want.

Once you accept the anxiety you feel, it’s now time to turn your attention onto how you wish to feel instead. Keep your eyes on the positive, and avoid the negative. Pay attention to how you want to feel, not how you don’t want to feel.

Meditation and visualization helped me to feel more confident and relaxed.

Use meditation and visualization to train your focus

I meditate twice daily and try to just enjoy the moment.

It has been so effective in helping me focus my attention on the present moment. This practice has helped me feel calmer and more relaxed. It also taught me that the more I’m present, the less anxious I feel.

That’s because anxiety, by definition, is a child of the future. Anxiety is a feeling of worry about the future or concern over what might happen.

Follow these steps to learn how mindfulness meditation can be practiced:

1. You should be able to sit comfortably with your back straight. I prefer sitting on my knees, but feel free to sit in a chair if that’s more comfortable.

2. Set your timer. You do not want to be wondering if you’ve meditated long enough. Give yourself five to ten minutes if you’re a beginner. Choose a calming alarm, as you don’t want to be startled out of your mindful state.

3. Begin to breathe deeply, rhythmically. Keep your attention on the breath. If your thoughts wander, just return to your breathing and focus. Your thoughts will never stop coming. The goal isn’t to stop them. It’s to allow and observe them, then let them pass.

I use mindfulness throughout the day. Whenever I feel anxious, I’ll pause and take a few breaths to center myself in the present.

I usually add some count breathing into this—breathing in for a count of five and out for ten.

My mind has learned to control my worrisome thoughts by using visualization.

After my meditation is complete and I’m relaxed, I visualize myself full of confidence, calm, and relaxed in different scenarios where I typically feel anxious.

Again, I don’t see myself that way. Don’t be afraidI am not as it is, but the way that I would like to be.

Usually, I’ll decide on one situation each day and visualize it in detail—what’s going on in my environment, who’s around me, what they’re doing. This helps me mentally prepare for these scenarios.

I keep this picture in my head all day. It helps me to remember my ideal self and not my past.

These methods have helped me shift my focus away from anxiety. The less anxiety I feel, the more control it has over my life.

If you are struggling with anxiety, I encourage you to ask yourself the same question I did, “Am I focusing too much on my anxiety?” You might be surprised by how your anxiety eases when you stop giving it so much attention.

Eli Straw

Eli Straw is a coach  and writer who produces articles each week on his blog at Eli strongly believes that daily habits are the best way to develop a strong brain. Follow Eli on Instagram at @elistraw to learn more about him and his work.

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Tiny Buddha’s first article, How shifting your attention can cure anxiety appeared on Tiny Buddha.

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