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4 ways to mindfully manage anxiety while working on an assignment

I’m noticing that a lot of my student clients are experiencing a lot of anxiety around the final papers and projects due in the last weeks of school. So today I wanted to share a few tips to help you manage those feelings so you can get the work done!

This week, you might be putting the final touches on a major yearlong project or writing one last essay your teacher decided to squeeze in before the end of the year … or maybe even madly trying to compete an overdue assignment so that you can pass the class. And as you’re working, you might suddenly feel a little dizzy or short of breath or like there are cats doing somersaults in your stomach. Your anxious, ADHD brain might start sending fearful mental messages like:

  • “I’ll never be able to finish this on time.”

  • “Why didn’t I start this sooner?”

  • “I’m sooooo stressed! I can’t think!!!”

  • “Omigod, omigod, omigod!”

… And all you want to do is run and hide from what you’re working on. Maybe you start playing Candy Crush or watching TV. Anything mindless that seems to quell that miserable anxiety.

That doesn’t do much for helping you get the work done, though, does it? In fact, it just puts it off further, and puts you further and further behind. That said, I’m all for you getting out of your head for a few minutes to reset. Just in a way that helps you rather than hurts you.

So instead of doing something mind-LESS, what if you tried something mind-FUL instead?

Specifically, mindfully paying attention to something that is going on in your body, rather than to the negative chatter going on in your head. I have 4 ideas for you:

1. I usually recommend starting with and most basic mindfulness technique of them all … breathing.

It’s free and incredibly portable — you can do it anywhere, anytime. And when you focus attention on your breathing, rather than on your thoughts, see what you notice. Just 3-5 deep breaths (slowly filling up your belly, and letting the air out slowly, with sound) can leave you feeling calmer, more grounded, and more clear … which will allow you to get back to work and be more effective.

But that’s just one way. Since there’s no one magic mindfulness activity that works for everyone, consider these other anxiety-escaping ideas:

2. Yoga poses: Another calming, centering activity. Just pick your favorite pose — maybe a graceful tree — and ease your body into position. Spend a few moments there, and, when you’re relaxed and ready, gently bring yourself out of the pose and gently move back into work position.

3. Jumping jacks! If your body craves more active movement, try jumping jacks or push-ups or sit-ups. Do 10 to 20 of whatever you choose, and come back to your paper feeling clear and energized.

4. Simply noticing the sensations: A personal favorite for me and some of my clients is to notice what you’re feeling in your body (rather than what you’re feeling in your head). When emotions are getting the best of you, ask yourself: Where do I feel this in my body? What is that physical sensation? Maybe it’s tight or tingly. Maybe it’s heavy. Keep paying attention to the sensation. Does it change? How? After a few moments, notice whether you feel calmer and ready to return to your project.

Which one is best for you? It all depends. Pick one that appeals to you and try it. Make up your own. See how it feels. See how much better you’ll feel.

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