Feeling anxious is a normal part of life. It can play a role in focusing our attention or alerting us to potential threats, however, experiencing it frequently and with no clear cause can painfully disrupt our lives. When your palms sweat, heart races, chest hurts or other signs of anxiety suddenly appear, you may feel powerless to control them. In these tense moments, try using some of the following techniques to help you gain control over your anxiety:
1. Focus. Try mindfulness exercises to help you concentrate on something else and reduce your anxiety, such as:
- Focusing on your senses. Bring your attention to the present by concentrating on what you see, hear, taste, smell, or touch. Try to focus on each sense individually before moving on to the next.
- Visualizing you’re somewhere relaxing. Imagine being at the beach, watching the waves crash or in the woods listening to a babbling brook. If you’re having trouble, try playing some relaxing sounds or music to help you visualize.
- Using essential oils, scented candles, or other inviting aromas to open the pleasure centers in your brain.
- Taking some deep, calming breaths. Try breathing deeply into your belly instead of your chest. Place your hand on your belly and concentrate on its rise and fall while you breathe in and out.
2. Get going. Walk, jog up and down flights of stairs, or do other activities to move your body. It can release stress-relieving brain chemicals and reduce anxious energy.
3. Play games. Use the grounding method known as 5-4-3-2-1. It involves naming five things you see, four things you feel, three things you hear, two things you smell, and one thing you taste. It can help you slow down and distract you from your anxiety. A variation on this technique is to describe things around you out loud, such as a picture on a wall (“A blue sky hangs above an ice-covered mountain top … “). Another way to keep your mind busy is to play your own game of Boggle, or similar type of word game. For example, if there’s a sign ahead, think of words you can create with any letters you see. In the process, you may forget about your anxiety.
4. Don’t hold onto it. Realize that your anxiety will pass. Don’t try to fight it, fix it or judge yourself for experiencing it. Instead, notice how you feel and use that information to become more familiar with the onset of symptoms and make them less threatening. Try separating your thoughts about yourself from your symptoms. For instance, you can say to yourself, “It’s not me, it’s my anxiety”.
5. Practice gratitude. Research has linked the expression of gratitude to the release of brain chemicals such as oxytocin and serotonin, which create feelings of love and pleasure. When you feel anxious, think of three things you’re grateful for, big or small, to help make the fear fade away.
6. Use comfort objects. Whether it’s rough, hard, soft, or smooth, the texture of something can distract you from your anxiety. Touch an item around you, such as a desk you’re sitting in front of or the arms of a chair. Note how they feel. Wear something, such as a necklace or a rubber band around your wrist to touch whenever you experience disturbing thoughts. You can also carry a “comfort object” small enough to carry around, like a lucky rabbit’s foot, a rubber ball, or something else that soothes you.
7. Create your own technique. Refuse to ‘feed the beast.’ In other words, refusing to give anxiety your attention and energy forms the foundation of all the above anxiety-reducing techniques. There are many ways to accomplish this, however, and you may find a completely different way that works well for you. Experiment with what makes you feel safe and use those methods to help reduce your anxiety.
These are just some of the tips to keep in mind for anxiety or stress management. If simple techniques don’t work, you don’t have to go it alone. Treatment through therapy and/or medication can relieve your anxiety to help you live a more fulfilling life.
To speak with a counselor, contact us today. We also offer tele-mental health services. For more immediate assistance, call our 24-hour Crisis Hotline: (518) 483-3261 or (518) 891-5535.