You're on the subway, late for a job interview, checking the time on your phone obsessively, anxiety bubbling up like a pot of boiling water. You're pissed at the TTC driver, at yourself, for not leaving sooner, and the guy standing beside you who won't take his backpack off and give you an inch of space. What to do in this situation?
… It’s the only thing you can do. You can't change the public transit schedule, the people around you, the decisions you’ve already made. The only thing to do is accept it. This is the bittersweet reality of being a human in the world – there is very about any of this we can control. There's one major thing you do have control over, though – your thinking! And this is where acceptance can turn your stressful experience around.
Shakespeare said, nothing is either good or bad but thinking makes it so. Our brains play a huge role in our general disposition at any given time. Overthinking is, without fail, the best way to go straight to crazy town in any stressful situation. Once you've gotten completely in your head, worked yourself into a full on sweat about how much this situation sucks, and the consequences it's going to have on your day, your reputation, your opportunities, your whole entire life! It's impossible to get back. So, when you find yourself in a stressful situation and feel crazy town thoughts coming on, go easy on yourself.
Take a minute to just get present and notice your thought patterns. Then make an executive life decision to stop torturing yourself with your thoughts. Accepting the situation and your feelings can help you get real and calm down. If you try to deny the fact that you're totally distressed, frazzled, helpless, pissed off – you create stress.
If you're on the subway, for example, focusing on your breathing can really help reduce anxiety. Deep breathing gets you back in your body and out of your head, and the act of breathing in and out deeply – breathing all the air out of your lungs, can feel like a metaphor for "out with the old stuff, in with the new stuff" and if you visualize your breath on the exhalation like black smoke, and your inward breath as light, it's helpful for feeling renewed. Not working for you? Try these other pro tips for getting zen on the go.
Another way to reduce anxiety through being present and accepting the moment is to feel gratitude. A stressful situation might be the last place you want to start writing a gratitude list in your head, but chances are, there's something to be found in this situation that you can feel good about. Maybe it's that you're wearing your favourite outfit and feel super confident, or the fact that you went to bed early last night and actually feel great. What are you glad you did before you left the house this morning? Glad you did at work the other day? Glad that someone did for you?
A little gratitude can be a game changer for a shit mood. Refer to this list of 20 things to be happy about now for more ideas. Or better yet, fold it up and put it in your purse for the next time you're in a tight jam.