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8 ways to calm an anxious mind

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8 ways to calm an anxious mind

An anxious mind can be hard to deal with. Your mind spins a mile a minute and you can feel paralyzed by possibilities and options and worries. I’ve been working on identifying moments where my mind feels like a runaway train and working to learn how to pump the brakes of my brain. I’ve been working on taking back control and I’ve found 8 ways to calm an anxious mind that have been helping me a lot, so I thought I’d share.

These ideas aren’t about crippling, debilitating anxiety disorders. If what you’re experiencing is beyond the realm of having some anxious thoughts, and is recurring and scary, please see your doctor. I live with obsessive-compulsive disorder and as a result have understood the true weight of a brain out of control, and I don’t ever want you to think that these suggestions replace a professional diagnosis and treatment.

Here are 8 ways to calm an anxious mind.

1. Cut the caffeine
The moment I start to identify that I’m starting to lose it (for me, an inability to sit still or think of something else and feeling like I can’t figure out what to do next), I will immediately cut off any and all caffeine. Coffee is my most favorite drink in the world, but coffee + anxiety is a terrible combination, so it’s good to stop right away. Drink some water (you can always heat it up and add lemon).

2. Make a (realistic) list of things you need/want to do
I find that when anxiety hits me, I cannot begin to figure out what I need/want to do so I will just sit staring blankly for hours if left to my own devices. Instead, I make a list of what I’d like to accomplish to feel like I’ve done something. Sometimes I’ll write “get dressed,” because little victories are still victories. You can also reverse this and make a list of what you’ve ALREADY done, so that you’ll be able to see quickly that you were able to (get out of bed, wipe down a counter, put something away, read, etc).

3. Diffuse some essential oils
I first tried essential oils to help with my emotional wellness, and in the past few months dōTerra has released an essential oil that has given me a lot of support with my anxiety. The Magnolia touch roller is my current go to – I apply it on my neck, wrists and behind my ears when I’m feeling anxious. Some other good ones are lavender, basil, bergamot and frankincense. Smells send molecules to the limbic system, which is emotional control center. Smells are powerful. I choose mine plant based.

4. Listen to familiar comforting noises
John Mayer, Ernie Halter + a playlist I made called “Peace” are all incredibly comforting sounds to me. This + the aforementioned things all combined is a powerful PAUSE to my system. I breathe deeper, feel a little more grounded and I honestly think that music can change the atmosphere. It’s one of the easiest, quickest ways to calm an anxious mind. You can find the Spotify playlist here or play it from this page 🙂 You are very welcome.

5. Journal

An open journal with comforting sounds and smells with a warm decaf tea can help you flush out what you’re feeling. Journals don’t tell you to get over it, give you advice, or glance at text messages. Much like we throw away expired and smelly foods, sometimes just the act of getting something out can be enough. While writing what’s bothering us, what we want to happen, and why we’re stuck, we can sometimes even identify more of our own personal ways to calm an anxious mind.

6. Pray
This one is here for me more than anyone else. The past year has been hard for me, spiritually. Justen’s asked me point blank if my current state of insecurity, unease, anxiety, etc. has anything to do with the same reasons I’ve not been going to church. and since then, I’ve not been able to shake the reality that they’re connected. So now I’m trying to retrain my faith muscle and pray and remember the ways God has spoken to me about the #1 of all ways to calm an anxious mind (spoiler: really digging in and trusting Him).

7. Go for a walk
Fresh air + sights and sounds + exercise can all help, even if the walk is down the street and back. Sometimes you just need to get out of the space that’s closing in on you for a minute. Exercise gives you endorphins, which trigger a positive response in your body that last for a few hours. Find some encouraging, uplifting podcasts and walk around while you listen. When looking for ways to calm an anxious mind, this is a lot of bang for your buck. 🙂

8. Take a nap
Put that stuff to bed, literally! Set an alarm, but allow yourself to sleep some things off. Often the things that make it hard to fall asleep because I worry about them look so much different in the morning. Sleep can be miraculous, even for 45 minutes.

 

Every day I’m trying to be a little bit better than I was the day before. Learning how to identify and figure out ways to calm an anxious mind (mine!) is great preventative maintenance before a massive breakdown occurs. Also, share your successes! Drop some things that work for you in the comments. Tell your best friend, parent, spouse or pet when you’ve quieted your mind. It’s a big deal. <3

 

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Water your grass.

Social media is hard.

I’m not talking about the ever changing algorithms, shadow bans, relevant hashtags etc. (though those things are HARD). I’m talking about the whole comparison thing.

There are a few bloggers I hate follow. That’s what I call it. Hate following. These bloggers make my eyes roll from here all around the world. I look at their pictures and judge them and screenshot pictures and text other people judge-y things about them. A few months ago I admitted something about the #1 girl I hate follow. If she said “Stephanie! I’ll be in Portland! Come be my tour guide for the weekend!” I’d drop everything and go hang out with her.

The driving part of my hate following? Envy. Jealousy. Insecurity. I think this girl isn’t anything special, I think I’m nothing special, and yet somehow she is making money by being not special and I’m stuck staring at an “Add New Post” screen, trying to convince myself that any of my blog ideas are worth typing out.

Her income continues to grow. Her following and influence continues to grow.

and I’m sitting here sipping my iced coffee all alone, watching judging her Instagram stories and dreaming about one day making a consistent profit it off my blog. Healthy, right?

I made a goal to read a book of the Bible this month and since I have less than a week later, I decided I should do it. Like right now at this moment. Which meant it had to be a quick “easy” read. Easy in that there weren’t a lot of words, not that it was a light beach read. I decided… eh, how about 1 Peter. Just because I’ve read it but I can’t think of anything it says so that means it will be new to me.

This literally jumped out of the pages at me:

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander of every kind. (1 Peter 2:1)

I stopped to think about it. That envy word. I thought of this blog post. I typed in the title and then felt convicted to not get distracted from finishing the book. Then I got to this part, the words of Psalms repeated in the letter from Peter:

“Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech.
He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it.”

U.G.H.

Those two parts weighed so heavy on my heart. As I sat thinking about them, all I could think of was the idea of watering my grass. Not literal, but you know. When I sit and sip my iced coffee, cynicism leaking out of my heart, hate following the landscaping on someone else’s yard, you know what happens to mine? IT. DIES. It gets neglected and ugly and looks even less like what I’m wishing it was.

I was reminded of a Bob Goff quote I saved on my phone a few weeks ago:

Bob Goff Quote // stephanieorefice.net

The way to battle this really ugly envy I have growing inside of me is to, like Bob Goff says, be captivated with purpose. Or, as one of my favorite musicians, Jonny Lang, sings:

Jonny Lang Lyric // stephanieorefice.net

Instead of spending all of my energy hate following other people and then finding my creative energy tank run dry when it’s time for me to pour into my own stuff, I need to just patch the hate follow holes in my heart and my soul. It’s crazy how envy can really be the poison of your soul – it’s hard to be excited about anything you do, because you’re always comparing it or wondering if it’s as good or deciding it’s better and then trying to figure out why it has less appeal than someone else’s.

Y’all it feels so good to get this off of my chest. It’s been like a quiet, secret, invisible poison that’s been stifling my creativity and my joy.

Anyway. Social media is hard because I just see all the things and it makes me feel all the things, and a lot of those things aren’t good. I’m going to scroll less and blog more. Double click less and post pics more. Just work on my own thing without worrying about what other people are doing for awhile.

Have you ever felt this? Help me out with ideas of how you’ve combatted it.

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The rearview.

Last year I shared that one of my friends was sick. Before I left for Nashville, she was finally relieved of the cancer. My friend Donna, who has been so important to me, is gone.

I’ve been praying for her to have a baby for 8 years. I have physically (and awkardly tbh) put my hands on her stomach and prayed for her insides. All I can wonder is if the cancer was already growing in her brain at that time, and why would the Holy Spirit lead me to put my hands on her stomach and pray for her if this is what was going to happen.

All of those tears. and prayers. and this is where we’re at. Well, where I’m at.

Donna was my waiting person. While she desired and longed for a baby, I desired and longed for a husband. Thinking about my wedding feels really empty these days. Not my marriage. I’m looking forward to my life with Justen, but when I think about the actual day of my wedding I just feel overwhelmed with sorrow and heartache. Eight years ago, Donna and I met in this Waiting Room of our lives and she’s gone but I’m still sitting here dreading the day I walk towards Justen and turn back and see an empty chair. All in my heart, obviously, but still. There is a huge hole in my heart. and I am not the only one. Donna was so loved, because she was such a wonderful, loving person. Loving Donna and being loved by her has changed my life.

So I dread the day I walk ahead without her.

I committed to praying for Donna so often that I even wrote her name on my rearview mirror. You can imagine how hard the drive was the day I got the news of her tumor, always seeing her name each time I glanced back.

As I’ve been processing and beginning the grieving process (what an awful rollercoaster) I keep thinking about that picture and I had this realization.

Moving forward and stepping forward isn’t just about keeping your eyes glued straight ahead.

We are actually taught that we need to keep our current position in context. Sneak a peek at your side mirrors, watch where you’re going, and check your rearview mirror to see what’s behind you. The stuff behind you is literally a part of moving forward. Donna can’t physically go forward with me anymore. No more out of the blue Facebook messages at the very moment I need them the most. No more walks around camp talking about how much waiting can suck sometimes. No more tears shared between us. No more messages seeing how she’s doing as our camp friends announce the pregnancies she’ll whole-heartedly celebrate. Those things aren’t going to happen again.

But they’re never going to have not happened. They’re never going to be erased from my life, their impact never going to be undone because they’ve ceased happening. I get to glance at them and keep steering forward.

What an absolute treasure it has been to know Donna Parkinson. May all of you know someone so wonderful and cherish them (AND TELL THEM) every single day.

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Rules for Self Discovery

Desiring Egypt // stephanieorefice.net

You know what will rock your identity?
Moving from one community of people to another in a quick time, especially when the community of people are both your church family and your co-workers on both ends.

This same thing happened, a little differently,  when I left SoCal and moved back to the Northwest. It’s not that I changed or anything, but it was like I was handed a blank canvas with the same paint and given the opportunity to paint something new. Get that? Same paint. The same foundation was there, but I got to make it look different if I wanted.

Two months ago I quietly left the church I was raised in. That denomination has a really strong identity – its own language and yearly events, global community, consistent program names, matching outfits – and then just like that, I stepped away. I moved towards a new group of people who already know and love Justen and started to squirm my way in.

A new canvas for my paint, if you will.

I keep thinking of this thought from the brilliant A. W. Tozer.

Rules for Self Discovery:

  1. What we want most

  2. What we think about most

  3. How we use our money

  4. What we do with our leisure time

  5. The company we enjoy

  6. Who and what we admire

  7. What we laugh at

 

Have any of you ever “started over” in a new community? Has it given you an identity crisis at all or is it just me? ;D

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When Jesus says “No.”

You know how people say that God answers prayers with three answers: yes, no and wait? I think that saying is dumb. God’s not like a Magic 8 ball with only a few generic responses. I think sometimes in my life God has answered my prayers with “LOL OK if you really want it…..” which is neither yes, no or wait. Sometimes I think he answers prayers with complete silence, which isn’t “wait.” I understand the heart behind limiting God’s answers to our prayers, but I don’t agree with it.

The past few weeks have been a complete whirlwind, and not just for me.

One Saturday morning I woke up with a heavy heart. I was attending the worst kind of funeral and praying for one of my lifelong friends and another one of my best friends brothers. There was a lot on my heart, and I got frustrated because I sometimes feel like God isn’t actually doing anything in the lives of people around me – do you ever feel like that? Like your prayer request list is long and your praise list is full of who God is, or ways you’ve seen him work in the past, but nothing you’ve been praying for seems to turn into a praise?

I got to thinking about when Christ was on earth. One of my favorite blog posts is called When Christ Wasn’t There, and I think about that lesson often – what Jesus teaches us when he seems to be staying away from our hurt. But sometimes Jesus walks straight into our hurt, like the time Jesus was going into the town of Nain and as he was walking in, a funeral procession was walking out. A widow had lost her only son.

Jesus saw her and his heart went out to her and he told her not to cry. Then he brought the dead son back to life and gave him back to his mom. We read that in Luke 7:11-16. It’s a really beautiful story. Especially for that woman and her son and everyone in the presence of that miracle.

idk

…but what about all of the funerals Jesus DIDN’T interrupt? What about those widows, those mourners? What about the parents whose child Jesus DIDN’T heal, or the blind man who never saw?

 

There’s a weird peace in that. You know.. it’s just Jesus doing his Jesus thing and healing some and not others. Not because one is better, one is favored, one is more loved or important… but because Jesus just does what Jesus does and that rarely actually makes sense to people. Like seriously, if I was God’s PR person I’d be requesting a meeting to discuss what appears to be the series of poor PR decisions he’s made in the lives of those I love recently.

but I am not God’s PR person. I’m not called to strategize and evaluate the decisions of God. I think if anything I’m called to just stand there in the face of all the crap of life,  wrap my arms around the people I love, weep and say “I don’t know, man. I just don’t know.”

and there we have it. One more thing not required of me – to know. I don’t think I want to know, because I think the burden of that knowledge is far too heavy for my puny little human heart, my limited human mind, to bear. Adults often spare children the hard stuff of life; we soften all the D words – divorce, disease, death… and we let them glimpse the reality of grief, but we spare them the full weight of it. and maybe that’s what God does for us. Maybe he spares us the weight of why babies die and why changing your Facebook profile picture to say “PRAY FOR THIS PERSON,” doesn’t necessarily spring Him into action.

I don’t know, man. I just don’t know.

I keep trying to tell God what would really make him look good to nonbelievers – healing, restoration, healthy babies, financial favor…. and God continues to interrupt some funerals and not others, to heal some lepers and not others, to bring eyesight to some but not all. I don’t know why, but realizing that this isn’t some new pattern of behavior for Jesus has helped me have some sort of peace. God’s will be done, and I doubt I’ll ever understand it on this side of Heaven.

I don’t know, man.

I just don’t know. 

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T R U S T the pilot

If there’s one thing in my life that I’ve kind of mastered, it’s being on airplanes.

Actually… I’m on one RIGHT NOW as I write this.

I recently found myself on an airplane, getting ready to land. It was a really bumpy flight and they made the flight attendants sit down early and there was a lot of tension in the air. It wasn’t the hugest thing – sometimes air is weird, right? It just is. It wasn’t that I was SCARED or NERVOUS, just tense.

We were getting closer and closer to the ground, and that’s when I started freaking.

I wanted to yell to the pilot “SLOW DOWN, SIR!!! YOU ARE GOING TOO FAST!!!!”

Honestly, I thought we were going to be unable to stop, speed off the end of the runway and I would die outside of the Denver airport, but then I realized I could at least check that off of my 101 list, kind of.

We hit the ground hard, and the little flappy things on the wing flew up and the plane started fighting to slow down and then… it slowed down… and soon enough I was safe and sound inside of the Denver airport as they were shutting down ALL THE FOOD PLACES (that’s a completely irrelevant point, but I just wanted to make it).

As we were pulling into the gate, I thought to myself… Stephanie, you need to take a chill pill. You are not a pilot. You actually referred to a part of the plane as the “flappy things.” I don’t know what a single button in the control panel does, I have no real idea how a plane defies gravity and flies in the air… I am actually really clueless about piloting a plane.

trust the pilot // stephanieorefice.net

I think I do that a lot with God, if I’m honest.

I’m in the back, watching stuff out the window, thinking “HOLD ON, MISTER. WAIT A MINUTE. ARE YOU SURE? REALLY?”

The things I am freaking out about are things I have absolutely no control over. Maybe that’s why it’s easy to be critical, because being critical at least makes me feel like I’m a part of something that’s actually too big for me to assist.

I guess that’s what Jesus means when he talks about not worrying. God’s the pilot, we’re the passengers, and it’s not His job to consult us for our desired landing style or to teach us what the purpose of the flappy things are; it’s our job to trust and it’s His job to pilot.

Easier said than done for sure, but when we realize how little our worrying accomplishes, we are able to heed the words of Queen Elsa and LET. IT. GO.

Here’s to embracing the turbulence and trusting the pilot.

#JESUSTAKETHEWHEEL

 

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