When we feel anxious or depressed, we quickly lose attract of where we are. Mentally, we can end up trapped in either the past or the future. Learning from the past and setting goals for the future can be extremely beneficial. However, if someone gets stuck in lessons and planning, complete stagnation can result.
No one owns a crystal ball (that actually works). The future is something that you can’t control, and the past has already happened. Even though it can help you to set goals for the future, it is important to remind yourself that you are in the present. If you don’t remind yourself of this, your fight-or-flight responses will take over and you will lose touch of the present. This anxious response rarely fits the situation. Our anxious responses are instinctual responses that were once linked to survival, yet we rarely are in dangerous situations that require such a response. Therefore, in an situation that you feel anxious about, it is important for you to remind yourself of the actual threat that you are facing, and the level of safety that you have.
In order to rationally remind yourself of the present level of safety, you can begin by using your senses. You can focus on a pleasant smell, you can listen to what you hear in the room, pet your cat or dog, etc. Although this sounds overly simplistic, it can naturally lower your anxiety level. This will give you some temporary relief and set the tone for long-term work to learn how to control your thinking through CBT skills.
In order to achieve this reconnection to the present, you can also use the following techniques:
Beyond these self-help strategies to dealing with anxiety, you can also achieve this reconnection to the present with techniques such as grounding or detached mindfulness. However, these are best utilized with the assistance of a therapist to train you on how to use these techniques.