Lately, I’ve been stuck in my head.
It’s been a busy time for me both professionally and personally. We’re on-boarding a bunch of new people to the GAN team. We’re in the midst of our first global Momentum Tour. And I’m about to be out of the office because my family and I are going on our first true vacation of the year.
It’s a lot of moving parts to juggle and I’m relatively anxious about it all. As a result, the inevitable issues that pop up have bothered me far more than they normally would.
For instance, today I’m traveling from Barcelona to Bahrain. I arrived at the airport over an hour early, but as it turns out, that wasn’t nearly enough time to get through security and customs. The lines were excruciatingly long, and I made it to my gate five minutes after my plane’s departure time. Fortunately, they held the plane for me and a few others stuck in the horrendous lines (huge appreciations to Turkish Airlines!).
With everything else going on at work and with my family, that experience on top of it all had me reeling and I found myself focusing on it all day.
The Reset I Needed
After that frustrating start to the day, I had a layover in Istanbul and spent some time in the airport lounge seated in front a giant window. As I sat there staring out at the Turkish landscape, the sun began setting behind the expansive, rolling mountain range.
It was stunningly beautiful. And for the first time that day, I smiled.
In that moment, I was thankful. I was thankful that I was watching this amazing sunset in Turkey. And then, more gratitude flowed in.
I was thankful that I have the privilege to travel.
That I am at this cool new airport in Istanbul (which is truly remarkable).
That I have had incredible service with Turkish Airlines.
That the food I ate today was actually really good.
That the beer I was enjoying was seriously delicious.
Suddenly all of that stress from earlier in the day disappeared. I went from focusing on what was wrong (i.e., my “almost missed” flight, stress from work, etc.) to a place of peace. All because of a sunset. Being present in that moment and feeling gratitude was a great reset.
The Five Senses Check
A few months ago, my wife Ashley and I were visiting New York City. I was preoccupied and feeling anxious, so Ashley (who happens to be a mental health therapist) led me through an exercise she uses with her clients. We stopped and did a “five senses” check. Basically, you pause, take a deep breathe, and focus on what each of your five senses are experiencing in that moment. What this practice does is threefold:
- It forces your brain to think about something else other than the things you’re anxious about.
- But, more importantly, you focus on the present.
- This reflection usually spurs gratitude for what is happening at that very moment.
As we ran through the exercise, I vividly remember smelling the crisp spring air of the city, hearing kids playing at the nearby school, looking up and seeing trees bud and loving the touch of my wife’s hand. It made me so thankful to be there, in that moment, with my wife.
Practicing Gratitude to Ease Anxiety
While I may not have realized I was doing it, that sunset in Turkey had the same effect on me mentally as the Five Senses Check. It was so stunning that it stopped me in my tracks and made me be present in that moment. And that mental pause pulled me out of my head and brought on a feeling of gratitude for what I was experiencing.
While I don’t always remember to do it, practicing gratitude is a great tool for easing anxiety. If you’ve not tried it before and are stuck in your head like I was earlier today, give it a shot. I bet it will help.