How to Settle the Mind


If you experience anxiety, this one insight could help you to overcome it: When you experience anxiety and cannot seem to settle your mind, it’s not because of the object of your fear. In moments of anxiety and panic, what you fear most is your own anxiety. President Roosevelt nailed it in his inaugural speech:

“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

Like FDR said, fear is paralyzing. Here’s how: Picture yourself mid-anxiety attack. What are you most afraid of? You’re most afraid of your own anxiety — that it will never end, that it will kill you … whatever the trigger of the attack was stops mattering because you can’t even deal with it until you settle your mind. You get stuck in your own anxiety and can’t do anything at all.

But how to settle the mind when you are in the midst of an anxiety attack? These five tips point to how to settle the mind. Let’s explore the idea using the the example of a date who doesn’t call back.

1. Pre-empt anxiety by diversifying your options.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Options are the antidote to anxiety. If black choice and white choice provoke anxiety, look for the gray choice. Always look for the third option and beyond. You can preempt and prevent the attack of an unsettled mind by diversifying your options. For instance: You are dating someone and he doesn’t call when he says he will. Option one is to be distraught: If this guy doesn’t like you, nobody ever will, so you might as well crawl under your covers with a pint of ice cream. Option two is to be angry: Delete his number from your phone and block him on Facebook and plan your choice words for him should you ever run into him. What about option three? Option three is where you can preempt anxiety: Option three means that all your eggs aren’t in this guy’s basket. You have a good group of friends and many interests, and you’re trying to get a promotion at work. This guy is just one piece of your life. If he disappears, you’ll be sad for a minute but you’ll direct your attention to other things in your life.

2. Focus on something positive and upbeat.

Do not focus on your anxiety. After you have acknowledged it, focus on something else. Think of a funny joke. Plan a dinner party for all of the most positive people you know.  For example: The man you’re dating is supposed to call, but he hasn’t called. You can become a nervous wreck and narrate all of the reasons why you think you’re not good enough for him; or you can think about something else. Treat yourself to a different emotional experience. Go see a horror movie. Read a funny book. Look at cute baby animals. Just give yourself the gift of an emotional experience other than nervous anxiety.

3. Call a friend.

Asking for help is a key piece of how to settle the mind. Get a perspective on the situation different from your own. It is crucial that you call a friend or mentor who has a broad view of life and who can help you to see the big picture. Don’t call someone who will condemn you or tell you pessimistic things. For instance: You’re waiting for the guy to call and he doesn’t call; so you call a friend. You tell the friend that’s you’re getting anxious because the guy hasn’t called. Your friend distracts you, helps you to find alternative emotional experiences to have at that moment, reminds you of your goodness and the scope of your wonderful life, and helps you to learn from the experience. You come away from the phone call with clarity. You’re still sad that he hasn’t called, but you’ve learned from the experience and are ready to move on.

4. Get some physical exercise.

Move some furniture. Scrub your floors. Go for a run. Exercise is effective at settling the mind. If you are not able to exercise, or just can’t bring yourself to, then have another immersive physical experience. Taking a hot shower works well. When the guy doesn’t call and you’re getting anxious, get outside and sweat and then take a hot shower. It will settle your mind.

5. Do something where you have to survive.

It is impossible to be anxious when you are focused on survival. This is why many people find outdoor adventure and adrenaline sports to be emotionally healing. If you cannot figure out how to settle your mind, switch from neurosis mode to survival mode. Not in the mood for deep sea diving? No problem. You can simulate the experience by taking an exhilarating cold shower, or standing on your hands, or going to a cultural event where you don’t speak the language.

Exercise: Recall a time when you were anxious. Review how you coud have used steps one through five to settle your mind. Record your answer in MyMLC.

Go deeper into this subject: Shortcut to Overcome Anxiety

Join the Soul Gym to Unlock Your Trapped Potential
Get free exercises to your inbox for self-mastery and growth.

Live with Rabbi Simon Jacobson
How to Cope with Mental Health Challenges
Wednesday, May 10, 2023 @8:30pm
Live Stream | Podcast

Add to Calendar  


Did you enjoy this? Get personalized content delivered to your own MLC profile page by joining the MLC community. It's free! Click here to find out more.

Notify of
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
1 year ago

Amen and excellent! Moshiach now and this one is so important. Very blessed to have you all and all you do. Thank you!

1 year ago

Good day Rabbi This is the first time I try the exercises. I think that in a state of anxiety, sadness and fear, I drown in my feelings and perhaps my tears until I gradually recover. This takes a long time, but I think it is done without inhibition.

kathleen m koblensky
10 months ago

i am working hard at overcoming the damage i have in my brain i try to envision it surround it with tenderness sometimes its tough it seems that internal scare tissue expands sadly i will never ever give up

kathleen m koblensky
10 months ago


The Meaningful Life Center