Use ‘Mental Models’ to Reduce Anxiety

For those who experience chronic tension, depression or anxiety, relaxing the mind and body might sound like an impossible task. However, using mental models on a regular basis can help relaxation become an obtainable goal and one that’s easily sustainable.

Using mental models helps us cope with overwhelm from information overload and distractions that leave us feeling pressured. It’s a method in which we tell ourselves stories to prepare the mind to distinguish what’s important from what isn’t.

Essentially, they are thinking tools to guide your perception and behavior, to help you understand life, make decisions, and solve problems.

Visualize your day before it begins. Start with 10 minutes every morning building your mental model for the day.

Ask yourself these questions: what do I expect to happen today? What kind of distractions and emergencies could pop up and how do I plan to deal with these?

Allow yourself to envision each scenario. For example, your phone ringing whilst you’re writing or studying, or daydreaming during meetings, or colleagues interrupting your focus during working hours, or your favourite tv show coming on just before you leave the house to go to the gym.

In all of these scenarios or any other distractions you can relate to, try to evaluate and understand the multiple elements of these situations through the processes of pattern recognition, interpretation, and evaluation. Use this information to determine how your reactivity will effect your goals. Use this information to think ahead and determine how you could best handle each distraction with the most ease.

A good mental model will help you to stay focused on the most important task at hand. It’s a strategy you can employ throughout the rest of your day as needs arise. Stop and take a moment before an important meeting, before heading into traffic, or before transitioning from work back into home life with the family. Preemptively walking yourself through the types of scenarios that most commonly overwhelm you should help you feel more mentally prepared and confident when those situations do arise.

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